The Times Are Always Changing

Edison Midgett's picture

The cry of “Painting is dead!” after the invention of the daguerreotype might well be said of photography – or at least film – today. I tell my students print is not dying, it's already dead.

Not just the arts, but the entire field of communications is in a period of transition. In addition to the usual interactive and video based links, online periodicals like The New York Times are pioneering the use of virtual reality in journalism completely immersing the viewer in the story. These technologies are in their infancy and how they will transform the arts in the future is beyond the imagination.

Of course, art has always been influenced and shaped by technology. Just as cuneiform writing on slabs of clay was the new media of its time, we now enter the digital realm where everyone and everything is connected 24/7/365. Visual communication these days consists of instantaneous and never ending updates of databases and social networks, frequently at the expense of human interaction and engagement with real life to my mind. All of it urgent, little of it necessary. Everyone is in the cloud.

But these new technologies also bring benefits.

I have lived through the evolution of analogue to digital in how I prepare and deliver content for my classes and in my art. Coming from the days of sorting through slide carousels, I much prefer having the world's slide library at my fingertips with a Google search. Better still are things like interactive websites that have digitized manuscripts with searchable indexes and images with the ability to zoom in to show detail. All in our pockets or on our wrists along with everything else that has ever been printed or recorded.

I have ridden the tech wave beginning with the earliest rudimentary programs like Macromedia Director and Hypercard that were designed for the first greyscale Macs. It is breathtaking how far and how fast things have come since then for Motion Graphics, 3D Animation, Digital Video and Sound Production. Most film/video artists of my generation would spend a good deal of their time hustling money and cobbling together grants instead of making films or recording music because of the sheer cost of production.

All of this technology is now at the desktop level for consumers and artists leading to a flood of work in new media liberated from budget constraints. In place of film reels, local theaters now show Digital Cinema Packages that can be created on laptops. Theaters themselves are giving way to large format 4k/8k/3D home entertainment systems.

This is a heady and liberating time for media artists.

However, this explosion of technology and content also tends to saturate the culture, subverting the word viral into something that is good. It challenges how we give, receive and retain information as educators move beyond the chalkboard. In addition to the inevitable and frequent upgrades for software with vertical and infinite learning curves, artists and educators are challenged with adapting to new standards and methods for learning and communication brought about by the lost generation's present addiction to screens.

What comes after Virtual Reality?