When accused of being a chaotic thinker by the eminent sociologist Robert K. Merton after a 1955 talk at Columbia University, Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan coyly replied “You don’t like those ideas? I got others.” Fast forward 57 years and embracing a multitude of perspectives and conflicting viewpoints is not so much an intellectual approach as an evolutionary survival mechanism. We’re bombarded by an impossibly dense stream of media stimulus 24-7, and yet we parse that input to cultivate nuanced worldviews. We’ve taken less than a decade to rethink our daily routines and interactions as ‘machine-readable’ events and we effortlessly manipulate the social web to share, collaborate and enjoy the persistent presence of our peers – welcome to the new age of abundance! While it is naive to think that increasingly detailed data trails and heightened connectivity will allow us to ‘solve’ perennial problems like inequality, the distribution of wealth and unsustainable economic and industrial practices, we can calibrate this new milieu to help us rethink how we represent and engage the world around us.
To paraphrase another vintage McLuhanism, art functions as a ‘distant early warning system’ that reveals cultural transformations that are already underway to the broader population. While this statement was probably written with abstract expressionism and conceptual art in mind, it actually makes a lot more sense when applied to our current (flourishing!) creative era, characterised by an open-ended critical exploration of technology. One of the magical things about the talent that has been enlisted to share their work, insight and process at Resonate is that these practices do not at all lend themselves to any form of conventional disciplinary categorisation. Artist, interaction designer, hacker, engineer, impresario – these terms are nothing more than sufficiently snug straightjackets. If you want a prescriptive roster of experts in these fields and a pedestrian stream of conference tracks, order a ticket to a trade show (or worse yet, an academic symposium). The body of creative work that underpins Resonate is sprawling, diverse and adventurous enough that it undermines disciplines and career typologies that are just now being formalised. Scan through the portfolios and practices of the people involved and you’ll encounter precision-engineered interactive experiences, poetic computational design and audiovisual performance, trailblazing media imprints and new approaches for constructing narrative. This is a creative field of indefinite extent, and these are your guides for making sense of this new landscape. This is not a one-way discourse, but an open-dialogue. So please, make yourself comfortable, make friends with your neighbours, invest yourself in the workshops and performances, and don’t be shy about offering questions and provocations – it is going to be an incredible two days.
Greg J. Smith