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When will digital art get its due?

Digital art is easier to create. Photoshop, Prisma filters — anyone can be an artist by throwing a filter on an image. People associate handwork with hard work over hardware and software.

To quote journalist David Carr: “show me what you’ve made with your own two dirty little hands. I don’t really care what you say, I want to see what you’ve done.”

Digital art gets overlooked for a few reasons:

  1. Digital art is easier to create. Photoshop, Prisma filters — anyone can be an artist by throwing a filter on an image. People associate hand work with hard work over hardware and software. To quote journalist David Carr: “show me what you’ve made with your own two dirty little hands. I don’t really care what you say, I want to see what you’ve done.”
  2. Digital art is replicable. Anything digitized has an inventory of one. MP3s crushed the music industry because the same file could be shared a million times over. The same goes for art, which gets reshared on social media on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest. Seeing the art on a screen rather than at a museum makes it feel less palpable. People like to touch things, or at least feel so.
  3. Digital art is valueless. The auction houses put a premium on traditional art simply because it is scarce. Originals will always outsell copies. Would you rather own a piece Banksy drew with his bare hands or a copy?

Digital art is easy to assess — art is art, we first taste with our eyes — what’s hard is how much value to place on it. Says columnist Marc Spiegler in his article in Time Magazine: 

“For decades, art and tech have done an awkward, fitful dance, never fully committing to each other”

But digital art is getting a deeper appreciation. Whether it’s 3D printed buildings, Pixar animation, or an Oculus Rift virtual reality film, art and technology are coming together to redefine the interpretation of art. Art is also getting more collaborative and remixed within a community of creators.

“Artists collaborate with a rotating cast of sparring partners all over the globe, not only other artists, but also writers, coders, fashion designers, electronica musicians, etc.”

Computers minimize the barrier to entry in creating art. The tool (your hand or mouse) and the palette (software) are at your disposal. In the words of John Culkin: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” What’s going to separate the amateurs from the professionals is how deep and deliberate the artist wants to do.

Digital art is blooming because it is evolving with technology, which is changing people’s tastes. Hand painting may always be pricier, but that does not make them more superior. The value is in the eye of the beholder.

gif by Silvia Gulmaraens

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Social Media

Living Through a Virtual Reality Headset

A few years ago I saw Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann speak at a brand conference.

What he said has stuck with me since. He said that he created Pinterest is to inspire people to do things in the real world. In other words, to get people off the computer and out of the house so they would go on that excursion, try that exercise, or cook that recipe.

Not surprisingly, people have the same optimism for virtual reality but the same challenges exist.

People already live their lives through screens. Virtual reality is going to be so much better than the real world that no one’s going to want to ever take it off. Even worse, the action-packed video games could lead to violence in the real world. On the flip side, the benefits of VR outweigh the costs.

Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus Rift not just for gaming but for the educational purposes. Imagine learning whatever you want in a virtual class. Imagine standing with Jeff Staples as he teaches you how to make t-shirts in his Skillshare course. If the Internet flattened the world, virtual reality could give people the know-how and courage to actually change it.

Like Pinterest, the hope is that these VR devices inspire more real world action rather than becoming time-wasting machines.

Meanwhile, augmented reality looks rather unpleasant.