ease. The Institute for Applied Autonomy makes
remote-controlled street-graffiti robots. Wow,
what maker wouldn’t want a few of those? Ruben
Ortiz-Torres builds chromed-out low-rider lawn
mowers and power tools. They’re bitchin’, as Steve
Jobs likes to say.
I’m frankly wondering if I even have to explain the if they don’t know it yet. They’re becoming the
difference between tech and art to anybody under Myrmidons of a digitized culture industry.
the age of 20. There is a difference, a big one, between The true distinction between art and tech is a
doing an art project and attracting curators, collec- simple matter. Techies are dull, geeky people with
tors, and gallery foot traffic — and starting a Web 2.0 exciting, practical ideas, while artists are exciting,
collaborative pop-site, and attracting open source impractical people with goofy, irrational notions.
programmers, a horde of users, and Google/Yahoo Frankly, that’s more of a slider-bar than a real
buyout types. I mean, those are some pretty big schism. However, as a “creative class,” they’ve got
differences, right? identical class problems: finding public spaces,
But then compare that to the colossal chasm in finding public attention, and fighting off vampire
our society between people who do creative work hordes of commercial IP creeps who want to mon-for love, passion, and intellectual joy, and the profit- etize everything, lock it down with legal barbed wire,
driven corporate elite who make all the important and make sure the fix stays in. That’s what really
decisions. The credentials, the training, the harsh matters now. The rest is just tactics.
class distinctions between artisans and techies — These sure are exciting times.
they just don’t seem to matter much anymore. It’s
no longer “Two Cultures,” as C.P. Snow used to call
them, at each other’s intellectual throats. The 20th
century’s Two Cultures are being squished together
like a Google mashup. Their Cold War is over, even
Graffiti beam: Katsu’s tag on Washington’s Arch
in New York City’s Washington Square Park.
Eyebeam’s Evan Roth explains how the image is
projected from a car: “We just pull over, pop the
hood, and run jumper cables through the passenger
window to power the projector and laptop.”
Bruce Sterling (
firstname.lastname@example.org) is a science fiction writer
and part-time design professor.