2019 Knowledge Quarter Conference: The Future of Knowledge

It was a pleasure to be asked to part of the plenary session The Future of Knowledge Sharing. Start from the premise that over the next decade we are likely to experience vast changes in how individuals and organisations engage with knowledge, I was joined by F1000’s Publishing Director Michael Markie, Maria Nelson, Head of Innovation at Digital Catapult, UK’s leading advanced digital technology innovation centre, and New York-based journalist and tech writer Clive Thompson (who recently published Coders : the making of a new tribe and the remaking of the world) in a session chaired by Wired UK’s Business Editor Katia Moskvitch.

A couple of points I shared:

Artists are pushing the boundaries of virtual reality (VR), transforming it from an escapist pursuit to a platform for expanding our understanding and knowledge of how we connect to each other and the wider world.  Some think of VR as simply a new type of screen technology, but a number of artists are combining immersive technologies with body monitoring tools to allow us to visualise ourselves in virtual spaces. A recent VR piece I experienced allowed me to see my breath and pulse in a virtual forest and view the exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide between myself and the trees. Counterintuitively, I came away with a stronger sense of my connection to the natural world, rather than less.

Artificial intelligence is being used by artists to better understand the nature of their own creativity. Many artists resist the idea that artificial intelligence can play any role in creativity, but there are artists are embracing AI tools in order to understand the nature of their own creativity better (for example, using computer vision to analyze a series of dance performances to understand the unique qualities of a dancer’s movement) and to push their creativity further. AI-enabled creativity requires open access to archives of video, sounds, and images as training data, but of course AI-enabled artistic work will raise issues of authenticity, provenance and copyright.

A new generation of technology-enabled participatory theatre is emerging that offer audiences the ability to debate and find collective solutions to challenging technological issues. Artists have always given us new insight into the world and there are many artists who are shining a light on the implications of new technologies.  A number of artists have used their work to challenge racial bias in facial recognition technology, for example.  However, there is a way in which technologies are enabling us to be more participative in arts and generate collective artworks that help us engage with challenging issues.

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