DeVos Institute at UMD Launches Investigation into the Impact of Technology on the Cultural Sector

DeVos Institute at UMD Launches Investigation into the Impact of Technology on the Cultural Sector

The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland opens its inquiry into technology’s impact on the cultural sector with a debate on how screen culture is changing the way audiences engage with the arts.

“Technology, the Brain, and Audience Expectation: Vying for Attention in ‘Generation Elsewhere’” examines the growing disconnect between the traditional notion of the performing arts and today’s screen culture and attenuated attention spans.

This debate is the first of four that comprise “Generation Elsewhere: Art in the Age of Distraction,” which explores the profound opportunities—and challenges—that rapid technological change is creating for artists and administrators. The series culminates in a white paper to be released in 2017. “Generation Elsewhere” is the DeVos Institute’s second research-oriented exploration into the issues of greatest concern to the future of the arts, following a 2015 study of challenges facing arts organizations of color in the United States.

In “Technology, the Brain, and Audience Expectation,” the DeVos Institute will convene thought leaders working at the intersections of neuroscience, tech, gamification, and the arts, including: 

  • Baroness Susan Greenfield, Research Scientist, Author, Broadcaster, Co-Founder of Neuro-Bio Ltd., and Member of the House of Lords;
  • Bill O’Brien, Senior Innovation Advisor to the Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts;
  • Eiko Otake, Movement Artist, Performer, and Choreographer with Eiko & Koma;
  • Gabe Zichermann, CEO, Gamification Co. and Dopamine, Inc.;
  • Brett Egan (moderator), President, DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

The first debate opens with a lecture by Baroness Greenfield on her research into technology-driven “mind change,” familiarizing the audience with the topic and providing a starting point for the debate.

“Anyone who’s seen a toddler ‘swipe right’ or has awakened to an iPhone on their pillow understands that as tech changes, so do we,” said Egan. “Our debates respond to this new era—one we might call ‘Generation Elsewhere’—marked by tech that relentlessly distracts focus from the here-and-now. In a business that has, for centuries, relied on the attentive presence of paying audiences, we can’t ignore the depth and speed of this change. We are staging this series out of concern that, as a sector, we simply have not kept pace with its effects.”

“Generation Elsewhere” was conceived by Egan and is advised and co-curated by Tod Machover, composer, inventor, professor and head of the Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab, and Sydney Skybetter, technologist, choreographer, writer, and founding partner of Edwards & Skybetter Change Agency.

“Technology, the Brain, and Audience Expectation” begins at 4 p.m. on October 17 at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Register

Subsequent debates will be held in Providence, Rhode Island; New York, New York; and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Visit for more information.

The series is made possible with the support of the University of Maryland.

September 29, 2016

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