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27 : When digital, artistic and technological worlds meet at UTC

27 : When digital, artistic and technological worlds meet at UTC

Interactions - How can culture-intensive industries conjugate Art and Technology?

Prof. Pratt (AP) - The so-called culture industries are at the interface between the arts and technologies, such as we see in video-games. Games combine state-of-the-art technologies, as need for high quality displays, while 'telling a story' must strongly attract and rivet players. Both aspects - which normally are in opposition - are absolutely necessary for video games. The creative artist and the engineer must not just be happy to work together: their respective skills must serve the other side, revealing, as in photography, all the potential across the way, to tell a story or animate an event ... companies who specialize in special effects - now used in 75% all films - are themselves conjugating technology and 'story telling'.

Interactions - What is specific about these companies compared with more traditional companies?

AP - Our 'social and market markers' are reshuffled, if only because now there is a conjugation and not an opposition. From a social point of view, the enterprises here are becoming more and more free-lance, working on for example a 6 month or a one year project in a very flexible manner - and this leads to new challenges on the job market, social security, access to bank loans, etc. Such companies run high economic risks - only 20% of their created product are finally purchased, but a "success story" will largely offset the losses. They tend to favour failure, opening up fields of possible without a priori giving the solutions, contrary to traditional sectors, which again generates new management problems and issues.

Interactions - How much do these companies weigh economically speaking?

AP - Over the past 2 decades, in global markets, video-games have become economically as important as the cinema. In the USA, it is now one of the main export sectors and the US Army has placed contracts with the game companies for better video war simulation packs. In the UK, a specific fibre optic cable has been laid to vehicle special effects to the US film business. The implications here largely go beyond the framework of video games or special effects. Production here will change the way we see the world, create wealth, interact with others ... opening up an extraordinary field of possible cultural and social modifications that will call for in-depth analysis.

Interactions - How do you set up the conditions for Art and Technology to come together?

AP - Faced with the loss of a large number of video game-businesses, who have left the UK for Canada, among other destinations, which offers a more attractive and innovating environment - there is a strong debate here about the links between public policies and culture industries. Unfortunately, the terms of the debate do not rest on a precise understanding about these industries, characterized as they are by a capacity to manage largely opposing skills and create the environment to host them. There are enormous needs to better understand and analyze how they work. This field of possible research should be explored by the Universities and, as I see it, UTC would be in a good position to do so. The findings should be made available to policy makers, who, because they do not understand the issues or facts, do not know how to attract and keep such industries. Moreover, the financial support from public authorities is focused more on technology than on artistic achievements and projects. The end-result here is a domination of technological solutions over creativity, and technology was never good at writing stories!

Interactions - Do you think we should train engineer-artists?

AP - Heaven forbid! (laughing). You cannot be both and engineer and an artist without losing some expertise or artistic sensitivity. On the other hand, we must bring the engineers and artists together to encourage and enhance creativity, which is the result of meeting and debate. Engineers must be trained to pay attention to artists' needs and to understand their vision of the world. He (or she) must create appropriate locations for the meeting: an office, or a building will not suffice if they are not irrigated by interactions with the technological, artistic, intellectual, etc., milieus. At UTC, you are addressing these issues, those that mark the 21st century, especially through your work in your local ecosystem for innovation and associate academic analyses.

You have the floor, Professor Pratt