CREATIVITY IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL REPRODUCTION
Xi’an Jiaotong – Liverpool University, Suzhou, China and hybrid
11 – 12 November 2023
External website: http://xarchsymposium.com
Technology is one of the ways humanity has manifested its intelligence by optimizing time and effort for repetitive or heavy tasks, freeing up time for the only thing we can do better than anything else in the universe: being creative. By relegating tedious processes to tools, we have been able to release creativity and explore new possibilities, aiming to improve the world or at least the surrounding space.
Technology has evolved through the millennia, improving and going through two critical breakthroughs: automation and digitalisation.
Still perceived as a natural evolution of classic technology, automation was made possible by inventions such as steam engines and electric motors. We can refer to traditional and automated technology as analogic. Digitalisation, on the other hand, represents a disruptive moment in the timeline of technology evolution. It is fascinating to notice how such breakthroughs both happened in the last two centuries, after thousands of years of analogic technologies.
With almost no requirements in terms of preparation and skills, analogic technologies made it possible to undertake heavy tasks effectively, leading to democratic and standardised processes.
The human factor consisted of two specific roles, technical and creative: it was easy to undertake technical roles, but it took specific skills and a different mindset to be creative.
Creativity became the key to innovation and competitiveness in a world of mass production and industrialisation. It was the era of rethinking the processes.
Technology shifted from the physical to the digital world in the late 20th century, and since that moment the most evident change has been how quickly technology has evolved compared to the past. However, until recent years, digital technology has only been perceived as a very sophisticated tool, bringing the technical role to a new level. In fact, working with such technologies requires a complex set of soft and hard skills.
Creativity has also been affected by the digital shift. It was easier to imagine new processes when technology was easy to understand and control, but a more advanced and complex technology also required additional creative thinking skills. Creativity has become the driver for finding new applications for the technology.
Nevertheless, the scheme has remained unaltered: human skills – technological tools.
It was the era of rethinking applications.
We are now on the verge of a third breakthrough represented by the most radical evolution of digital technology: AI.
The world is taking three positions: the enthusiasts claim that AI is expanding their creative processes; the critics predict the end of humanity; the neutrals barricade themselves behind a generic and fatalistic approach – “it is inevitable” or “there is no turning back”.
But if we maintain our discourse on the evolution of technology, it is undeniable that for the first time in the history of humankind, we are giving up our distinctive feature: creativity.
It is a century-old problem that has adjusted to a new context: from “the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction” to “creativity in the age of digital reproduction”.
Isn’t this the right moment to rethink the digital?
The xArch symposium aims to foster a critical reflection on digital technology and on the progressive shifting (or drifting) towards technology-driven applications.
Contributions focusing on digital applications with impact on real-life scenarios, digital fabrication, design-to-build, AI and machine learning are particularly encouraged.
The co- and inter-disciplinary conversation will ideally embrace multiple fields, including and not limited to: