The methodology for integrating ICT and Art provides a holistic framework to integrate artistic practices in a model of ICT development. Broadly speaking, the methodology systematizes the delivery and analysis of artistic practices in several typical phases of creation, development and implementation of ICT technologies or applications.
It is important to clarify at this stage that the main principle of integration is that the world of ICT is opening up to host and welcome a set of practices that are not yet common in its domain. STARTS driven projects have to therefore find the appropriate places in the ICT domain where the contribution of artistic practices can be relevant, significant and can better contribute to innovation in ICT.
The methodology departs from the principle of the holistic nature of artistic practices. Those practices are not constrained by context, tools or means of expression. Historically, and particularly in the past century, artistic practices assumed several forms of expression. In the case of conceptual art, for example, the practice is simply the expression of a concept in any available form. In the context of ICT, as the figure above represents, artistic practices could potentially be integrated in any phase of development, from the definition of objectives to validation and verification, including implementation and methods of application.
However, the overarching principle of the STARTS Initiative (that led to the current exercise of integration of ICT and Art) helps defining concrete areas of integration by excluding less interesting ones. It is important to reiterate that the main aim of STARTS is to boost innovation in ICT Research and Innovation actions by the broad stimulation of creativity in the associated processes. The methodology is therefore outcome-focused. Clear definition of the outcomes expected from the STARTS project will help attract participants, including those SMEs who are most able to contribute to and benefit from those outcomes. It will also facilitate the transferability of the methodology to other scenarios that seek the same outcome, be it increasing trust in the use of a solution or the identification of constraints to SME development of solutions within a given domain (farm to fork, smart cities, etc.)
Nonetheless, the methodology is designed to amplify and not constrain the particularity and uniqueness of the artistic practice. STARTS is in itself a process of inclusiveness in the European Union. Therefore, STARTS has developed its main CSA,VERTIGO, as a co-creation process. The STARTS Co-VERTIGO creation methodology aims for the inclusion of all relevant participants as stakeholders. This process of bringing everybody together as stakeholders goes beyond merely allowing participation of the user or the consumer as envisioned in other, more conventional notions of co-creation.
Key findings in VERTIGO from the considered case studies and literature include the importance of managing the initial scepticism and resistance of the artists’ presence in the organisation. Key methodologies to overcome this resistance include anchoring practices and the engagement, commitment and involvement of multiple layers of the organisation as early on as possible. Preconceptions and prejudices related to the diverse profile, skills and working practices of artists and other types of professionals need to be addressed early on in the process.
The methodology for integrating ICT and Art extends a tradition of combining art, creativity and technology innovation at organisations such as Ars Electronica, MIT, Eyebeam, Waag Society, etc. Applied tools and resources draw on the knowledge and experience of artists, technologists, curators and entrepreneurs in creative technology and public participation projects.
The methodology is based on existing case studies from emergent experiences of science, technology and arts collaborations. This is particularly important, as there is much to take into consideration when facilitating these transdisciplinary collaborations.
Two other basic principles for integrating artistic practices in ICT to stimulate creation, innovation and acceptance are of relevance and need to be clearly articulated: transparency and trust.
The combination of art and ICT through the methodology can engage all stakeholders, including consumers and the public to explore and interact with the IoT systems. Artists create interfaces and interactions that will apply and therefore test applications and features, presenting new concepts and capabilities through creative prototypes, interaction design and participative experiences. Art installations make transparent the range of data that can be captured and represented, and enable users (specialist or citizen) to explore and interact with the IoT systems, and thereby to grasp and/or influence the IoT capability.
The methodology exposes and question aspects of technologies in ways that can build awareness, literacy and trust in the solutions. Artists and other stakeholders can collaborate to create experiences around important social impacts and consequences of technology, and thereby enable end users, consumers' citizens to question whether solutions are either, or both, acceptable and desirable.
This can include security and privacy elements such as confidentiality, user data awareness and control, integrity, resilience and authorisation. The art lead co-creation process provides a basis to engage users in trials to explore a wide range of acceptance factors, and thereby build trust in the solutions.
Areas of Knowledge
The methodology is sustained by a transdisciplinary discussion that juxtaposes five areas of knowledge: technical, humanistic, domain specific, holistic and artistic.
Technical knowledge is here considered to be related with basic digital concepts such as hardware or software. It feeds the discussion with substantial aspects such as digital connectivity and its impact in cognition both human and artificial. Understanding IoT as a merge of the virtual and the physical is relevant, as it is to understand (big) data, its processing and storage as crucial components in the integration of ICT and Art.
Complementarily, humanistic knowledge has a very important role in the discussion. It is one of the aims of STARTS to nurture a human-centred approach to technology. Understanding technology as an enabler of better lives, characterized by culture and ethics is extremely relevant. As it is the integration of social skills and emotion in, for instance, potential hybrid systems.
Domain knowledge – meaning concepts related to a specific application domain: agriculture, automotive, ... – has also an important role in the discussion, especially when it comes to specific domain applications of IoT.
Properly conceiving research and innovation problems, detached from the detailed specificity of potential solutions is nowadays indispensable. Holistic knowledge also allows for better communication of ideas and system design.
Critical thinking makes the connection of holistic with artistic knowledge as it is a strong characteristic of artistic practices. However, aspects such a certain ingenuity as condition sine qua non for imagination are indeed a strong contribution to the discussion. Resilience and curiosity are fundamental aspects for experimentation and improvisation leading the constant redefinition of aesthetics.
Types of Actions and Methods
The main exercise that gave origin to the methodology of integrating ICT and Art was the establishment of significant correlations between specific parts of the ICT creation, development and implementation cycle and methods related with artistic practices.
It is important to underline, that similarly to what is the case in the STARTS Co-creation methodology, the production of artworks in this context is not the main objective of the integration of artistic practices in the ICT cycle.
Artistic practices are taken as relevant activities for impacting the direction of creation, development and implementation of a specific technology in order to innovate those processes towards acceptance and up-taking of the technologies.
The resulting artworks are consequence of those activities, similarly to what are scientific papers and reports in scientific and engineering practices. It is therefore a basic assumption that bringing all stakeholders – ranging from the promoter, to end beneficiaries, also including Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs), start-ups and artists – in creative environments in different phases of the ICT cycle is a good practice to achieve acceptance, adoption and up-taking of the technologies in question, creating trust based on transparency.
The ICT cycle is here described in 4 sub-cycles:
1. Identification – including brainstorming, specifications and requirement analysis;
2. Exposure – including activities such as design, prototyping, development, validation, verification and testing;
3. Improvement – including interaction, demos, feedback and testing;
4. Co-creation – the last sub-cycle, in which participation of end beneficiaries is crucial, that includes product technical specifications, development and maintenance.
Activities that are intrinsically related with artistic practices are:
(Co-creation) Hackathons – it is nowadays very common to have artistic driven hackathons that bring together many different stakeholders. The CREATE ''Your'' IoT Series is an example of that;
Artistic Residencies – artists in residence in research and innovation projects, as the STARTS Residencies;
(Artistic) Exhibitions – displays of artworks, sometimes in the form of (interactive) installations/experiences, that can trigger discussions and create alternative perspective over specific subjects;
Discussions – typically round-table discussions (often in policy making contexts such as the STARTS Talks at the European Parliament) bring to the table different areas of knowledge, normally a scientist, a company (engineer) and an artist. The discussion is normally mediated by a policy maker (a Member of Parliament or an officer of the European Commission).
All the activities associated with artistic practices could potentially be applied to any of the phases of the ICT cycle. However, the relevance of correlation was defined based mostly on the possibility of practically experiment or not, with or around the technologies in question.
The notion of correlation has here to do with reciprocity rather than causality. An ICT and an artistic activity correlate when the connection is mutually beneficial.
1. The identification cycle seems to better correlate with discussions, exhibitions and hackathons because the concepts involved can be explores in forms and technologies that area adjacent to the technology in question. For example, concept visualizations or hacking similar technologies.
2. The exposure cycle being more related with the first step of experimentation of the technology in question, seems to correlate better with exhibitions and hackathons. The short-term of the artistic activities is ideal to give short feedback to the technology itself.
3. Improvement seems to better correlate with artistic residencies and hackathons because on the one hand artistic residencies can provide deep insights on the technology due the nature of the activity. On the other hand, hackathons can proportionate short cycle reiterations for feedback for improvement.
4. Co-creation seems to correlate better with artistic residencies, hackathons and discussions because of the visibility that those activities allow for. Exhibitions tend to have a more passive nature, as they wait for visitors to come. While, the other activities can target and engage directly the user/consumer.
Potential roles for artists in ICT
Artists can play different roles when integrated in ICT research and innovation teams. The role of artists is here defined in the intersection of the four pillars of the ICT cycle.
In the intersection of the Identification and Improvement phases, an artist or a collective of artists can support or extend the activities undertaken in order to help the team to better interpret, or even invert, the base concepts of the technology.
When in the intersection between Improvement and Exposure, artists can promote and influence the development of the technology in order to help the team making it better after reviewing, and evaluating its application. As a catalyst and an explorer in the intersection of Exposure and Co-creation, an artist can nurture collaboration of the team with other stakeholders, including final beneficiaries, by help better defining collaboration tasks.
Both in Co-creation and Identification, artists can help engage other stakeholders, including end beneficiaries, by helping the team design better experiences. They then become experimenters and moderators.
It is relevant to state that the above assumptions are based on the notion that in the modern days of ICT, and due to the easy generation of feedback data, end-users no longer exist. ‘Everybody’ using technology is participating in its improvement, even if in a more passive and unconscious way.