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Studying Technology in the Art World

Technology is the collective term for the totality of any existing methods, skills, processes, or methods used in the creation of new products or services or in the successful achievement of specific goals, including scientific research. There are many areas in which technology is found today, including computer technology, telecommunications technology, medical technology, information technology, industrial technology, and information systems technology. The world of technology has greatly expanded since its inception, resulting in a variety of new industries and practices.

In order to examine the current world around us, it’s useful to view it as a system. Every technological process begins with an idea or concept, which is then transformed through a series of events or procedures into one or more technologies. The world around us is characterized by a complexity pattern, which technology aptly describes. Complexity in this world often results from the interconnectedness of many different technologies, which allows information to pass between individuals and institutions at an unparalleled rate.

In order to examine the twenty-first century, it’s useful to view it in terms of its relationship to Schatzberg’s notion of organic technology. Schatzberg believed that art and science were organically linked, and he pointed out that there are a number of similarities between the arts and other technologically based disciplines. He further stated that technology was only one of the forms of expression used by humans. The definition of technology further includes natural systems, human interaction, and organizational patterns.

A key distinction between schatzberg’s notion of organic technology and the more traditional, cognitive, and artistic approach is the fact that the later excludes the use of complex materials and non-natural systems such as communication devices. For instance, while the use of mirrors in architecture might be considered technological, it is not technically a part of communication technology. Schatzberg’s emphasis on the cultural approach highlights the importance of language to the modern condition, and his work suggests that there are certain similarities between the arts and other technological cultures. However, he denied that language was the primary means of expression, and instead looked to other forms of cultural expression. In his view, the technology was only one of the many ways that people communicated.

The analytical category Schatzberg used to explain technological change was machinery, and he looked to nineteenth-century German science and politics for examples. He noted that nineteenth-century German industries, which relied heavily on machinery, incorporated a number of different technologies. These included electrical motors and textile machinery, as well as the manufacturing of metal and glass products. The same approach can be used to describe technological change in the 21st century. Using a variety of different technological forms to describe the changes taking place can help readers compare present day technologies with those of past periods.

One of the first areas in which the analytical category of technology can be used to analyze change is in Germany. Just as the analytical category of the natural sciences has been used to explain phenomena, the German industrial arts developed a similar set of terminology and categorization. Just as scientists today use geology to describe how various events or factors affect the earth’s crust, the early German industrialists used geometrical descriptions to describe their production process. As such, the terms metallurgy, carpentry, and machining developed as different concepts in nineteenth-century Germany.

Another area in which the analysis of technology can be applied is in computer science. Just as the natural sciences have used geology to describe the location of certain minerals, the computer sciences have done the same. Computers and their technologies have developed a great deal during the last few centuries, and just as Schatzberg considered metal as an important part of the human technological production process, so too have computers and their accompanying technologies, such as wireless networks, cellular telephony, and digital cameras. Using this set of tools, artists can explore the construction of a solar-powered windmill in addition to studying the ways in which computers and their technology have changed the ways in which we do business and communicate with each other.

Artists who specialize in visual culture, visual education, or communication arts will find themselves well served by Schatzberg’s work. In a time when technological advancements have created new and exciting industries, Schatzberg’s book provides a handy manual that can help artists and others interested in these innovations understand and appreciate them. In essence, Schatzberg sought to provide a vocabulary and a methodology for analyzing technology, drawing from a variety of sources both theoretical and applied. Not only does his text offer interesting applications and examples, but he also demonstrated how these various sources can be useful in understanding technological innovations. Applied science and technology may seem to be less of a real field of study than science itself, but Schatzberg showed that artists can use technology to speak about issues of society and human life.