Changes in Advertising
Ron Meijer: A lot is changing in advertising today, especially if you consider advertising in the classic way
of 'selling products with pictures and words'. Advertising in this classical sense will not live for very much longer. However you could also see advertising as the pathway to publish uncensored whatever you want to say, whether you sell a product, run a company or a political party. If advertising is considered like this it becomes the pathway to getting your message across.
Willem Velthoven: I like your definition of advertising as companies or anyone buying mediatime/space and using it to communicate whatever they want to say.
RM: There we have to make a differentiation between pa/guided communication, and free communication. Paid communication is when you pay for the fact that nobody interferes with what you want to say. And then in the end there really isn't that much difference between selling products or selling ideas.
Dirk van Weelden: Or does the fact that you advertise them turn them into products?
John Thackara: Or brands? I started thinking about this subject from the perspective of design, where you think about a certain object or a single image. The design-world has been, and generally remains, ignorant of the communication concept of the 'brand'. But if you look at the way the business operates, the designers have kind of gone round the brand, from the product to the company. The whole kind of environmental corporate identity is now a three billion-dollar industry in the world. Instead of selling the product you are selling the image and the environment of the total company. The advertising industry is basically heavily dependent on the brand, and the design-industry looks at the company as the basic unit. In the last six months there's been a sort of crisis in the financial and advertising press, about the fact that the power of the brand is diminishing. The consumers generally have become literate in communications to the extent that they now understand what a brand is, and in understanding it they now realize that the price they pay for a branded product is higher than its functional value, and they are becoming more resistant to that. Some of the Japanese say that now that brand-culture is dead, you have to go beyond the brand to the company... You get to this pseudo-science quote. Like John Scully from Apple who said: Now the basic component of the modern corporation is relationships with customers, and relationship marketing is the new tactic, replacing brand-marketing.
Hans Vervoorn: It's not contradictory to brands. You can see there are logo's and trademarks even older than industry. A brand is nothing but a bundle of possible associations, so in the end there is not so much difference if you brand an idea, a firm, a country...or a multinational, which is a kind of modern power state.
JTH: But if you're brand oriented, you tend to ignore the properties of the product or the qualities of the company. In the example of Marlboro, once they had established the brand, in the end they were not really interested if they sell cigarettes or something else. But if they decide to sell Marlboro T-shirts, people start to realize that because it has Marlboro stamped on it this is going to add to the price, and they ask themselves what is better about this T-shirt that I have to pay extra for? And if you cannot provide that extra, then you can't sell the T-shirts either.
WV: The extra is the brand! So if we agree to shift to relationship-marketing, can the brand be an extra for much longer? What about these Mugi-shops, these Japanese no-brand shops... do they advertise? Mugi is a big hit in Japan, now opening up shops in Europe, selling products with no brand. The name actually means 'No- Brand'. They sell generic stuff for very high prices. This is marketed as high design, but the Mugi T-shirt is recognized simply because it doesn't say anything. It's a brand, where the added value is no-brand...! This is very funny, since Japan is such a very brand oriented, consumerist market.
JTH: I did an interview with someone at Seibu, who was panicking about the death of the brand... He is worried about dying brands. But didn't we simply overdo it with these brands. As a consumer I get tired because every shop has a concept. I mean you can hardly walk into a shop without being confronted with all this theme-stuff... Green shops, Eco-shops etc. You get tired of it. Which is why half of them is now bankrupt. Because that kind of communication-driven marketing has lost its power to work. At first it was very effective, but when everybody started doing mass-reproduction of a shop, advertising and packaging, then merchandising the whole thing became selfcancelling.
Changes in Marketing
WV: So what are the consequences for the way of advertising? Okay, we're no longer advertising products, we are advertising relationships, but does this actually change the way you market?
DVW: The whole idea of image or logo has become immaterial: it’s not important what kind of logo you have, if it's not marketed through mass communications. Relationship marketing is a private thing. Most brands were marketed in the public domain, and relationship-marketing tends to disappear from that area. But the brand also makes itself loose from material manifestations of advertising.
HV: Of course, the production of most companies becomes immaterial. Only in Europe 40% of production is material, 60%is producing services and ideas. But even relationship-marketing is a way to get a brand known. Advertising is actually the wrong word to discuss here, because it's a word of the past. We should, as Ron pointed out, talk about the concept of advertising as communication.
JTH: Communication is a much more accurate description, more sophisticated. Big agencies use words like orchestration, in the sense of organizing all the different ways companies communicate with customers or employees. There are lists of possibilities of which media-advertising is only one element. It's only in the recent period that they have not been dominated by the notions of mass communication, and of the mass-audience as being the mass product. Isn't that what's changing? At the same time the technology of production is changing, becoming more fragmented, the technology of communication is becoming more fragmented, and then the market and the people who receive all these messages are becoming more differentiated and expert. So there the concept that the message can be broadbanded and emitted in one direction to consumers, that is what is under question.
RM: Toffler notes something interesting in his new book Powershift. Marketing became institutionalized after the war and the notion was developed that marketing should be technocratic. You can't do marketing in small family businesses... Toffler in his Powershift is observing that small companies and family companies are growing again... so it's a kind of post marketing development. The dictate of marketing and everything being already marketed before it even appears is changing.
HV: It's interesting to note that the basic trends are moving away from techniques, marketing-techniques, management techniques etc. And they're all heading for embodiment and envisioning...
DVW: They all try to internalize the situation in which they want to have an effect... almost as a state of mind, not as an action. That is why mass-advertising is mainly a statistical rationalized technique; you know what kind of people are interested in this and how to approach them... and afterwards you see if the effect is sufficient or not. When you think of leaving technique you have to go to the situation, where the product is used. Like the cigarette-company who sent people out, into the nightlife to mingle with the consumers.
JTH: Which is why they are writing books on ethics and business; like on cities or companies, which succeed economically because of a sort of common value system. Ethical consultancy to business on how to be good and all, is developing into a business of its own.
HV: This is the biggest change in advertising... Companies are presenting their story on network TV and see if the public is interested. They hope to attract people by telling a good story. They're not selling messages to mass audiences, it's more like... this is my story... are you interested? That's what communication is all about. Advertising as such was not communication at all, it was a one-way street.
WV: So, gentlemen-artists, what does art think about communication, what kind of communication is art itself? If you look at the history of art, in Europe at least, it starts as a straightforward communication instrument; the communication of religious images and ideas. Telling the story of the bible to the illiterate. Art as a propaganda instrument is much older than advertising. It was a communication-instrument of power. From there art has taken a very strange bent, and it evolved into something more withdrawn.
Jouke Kleerebezem: What could be a critique on art, is the splendid isolation. I'm seriously wondering whether art is communication. After art lost its primary function in society, it changed into this struggle, see the history of modern art. It was basically a retreat into the realm of art itself, and not dealing directly with other parts of society anymore. Now art is looking for new relationships... the most interesting development in contemporary art as far as I'm concerned.
RM: An interesting thing is that some ten years ago advertising was borrowing from art, now we see art borrowing an incredible lot from advertising. Rob Scholte and others are replicating, changing nothing adding only the labels.
JK: They are changing the context! Doing what Duchamp did. Artists have been using advertising-materials since the twenties, Dada, Schwitters etc. have used the material, but not the communication-techniques. A lot of artists, like the ones in Business-art/Art- business, think they are very clever using advertising.
RM: The technique of using pictures and words, inter- acting with each other to get across something, developed with advertising. This is used in art now.
DVW: So what does this tell us? Is it a sign of decadence? Of desperation?
JTH: One aspect of the interpretation of art is that the artist wishes to make a statement, and isn't so concerned about the effect of that statement. A kind of representing an idea, a point, a feeling and to some extent the reaction of the audience is contingent in that it doesn't matter so much. Whereas the advertising process is about changing behavior and attitudes, and so therefore advertising by definition gets a sort of feedback.
DVW: So it's a nostalgic problem. Does this incorporation of advertising techniques represent some sort of nostalgia on the part of the artist, of his lost influence, his lost connection to society? He would like to change behavior, but there's nothing like advertising to envision it, so then they start to make artworks for compares, which is a way to change behavior, which is what they are called in to do.
RM: John makes a distinction there... Advertising is interested in the effect and the artist wants to make a statement and was not primarily interested in the effect. I think the artists who are now using these techniques are utterly interested in the effect.
JTH: Either that or they have become aware that advertising permeates our environment, and that in the sense that they are not living in an abstraction; if they want to comment on the world as it exists, then they have to comment on advertising as well.
Paul Perry: Culture is our nature, as they say.
JTH: And our nurture!
WV: Still this so-called business-art is not trying to deal with society. as far as I can see. These artists posing as businessmen and so-on. They only present their businesses in art-departments. These artist/companies are not real, they are sniffing on their own historical functions. I don' t know if they really want to be a company at all.
JK: But there is a difference between artists like Servaas, who run a studio, a one-man business without having the burden of running a business, and artists like Rob Scholte who has the burden of running a business. Running a business or posing as such makes a difference. The artists trying to run a business are more interesting than the guys saying okay now I'm a business. That makes no impact on the way of conducting business.
JTH: What about artists working for companies? Like Absolut Vodka who hires artists to make images with vodka-bottles in it. What is that, art? Or is it advertising? I think it probably is.
The End of Mass?
JTH: The whole approach of the luxury industry of marketing all parts together - where you have the communication, the packaging, the bottle - that is actually a 19th century phenomenon, so nothing is ever new. I think there's a lot to be said about those companies that really integrated the objects of their communications and their environments. I think they have a lot to teach the companies that are interested in that now. Whether that is art I don't really know, maybe it doesn't matter. It is certainly quite a sophisticated business. They created a kind of specialized, small-scale environment, which is where we're going... away from the mass market towards specialized production of goods and services, towards mass-customization.
HV: The ultimate aim is to keep the benefits of mass production and at the same time servicing your clients on an individual basis. So mass-customized servicing or production is a way to fit these two together. This relates to computer-integrated manufacturing. The more flexible it becomes, the easier it becomes to do it.
WV: That's basically customer driven differentiation.
JTH: We have still got mass production all over the world, whereas we have capacity for very much more flexible individual mass production. It's just a question of investment and we could actually have global specialized production today, if we were to start from scratch. It’s just that it is not possible to make that transition, with all these companies going bust.
HV: I predict that within five years you enter a shop, you are physically scanned, you can design your own stuff on a screen and within 24 hours your product is produced in a mass-factory.
WV: But would you really expect your client to design his own stuff?
DVW: No, they just run into the menu....Wham! But that's the whole problem about this concept of communication..., the word communication sounds real free and uncensored, but it's just victims running into the menu of sales-people. They have set up the menu, all different types of individuals clash into it, and everything not interacting with the menu is dismissed as irrelevant. In the menu one can only make contact with categories that the producers have set up. It determines the way the consumer is individually approached... So it has nothing to do with let's say a humane idea of communication. It's just another way of selling material things.
HV: The biggest change in advertising is that it is loosing its instrumental value. In the future people will not be seduced so easily by simple tricks like that.
PP: I stumbled over what Han just mentioned, the benefits of mass-production...? Willem wrote that advertising as a 20th century art has served it's purposes and will now quietly fade away... and I wonder whether this notion of mass-production will also quietly fade... Basically we're talking about a shift in paradigm in terms of communication, so can we not question these so-called benefits of mass-production?
RM: They are rather obvious... people that own capital want a multiplication of money coming in with as Little effort as possible. So they are not interested in selling product by product, unless they have a production system in which they don't care anymore. If technique enables to make, instead of 100.000 the same products 100.000 different products they will do it. At the same speed and to the same costs of course... or lower!
JTH: It’s not a question of good or bad, it's more a question of who benefits from the ability to produce things in large quantities. Now that benefit is being reduced... and the irony is that the pressure is to add more and more value to the product, to get more specialized, exotic cars for example when actually the consumers or the people in most of these industrial societies would benefit quite well from mass-produced cars that are exactly the same... But there is no profit in it. So there's a political and an economic contradiction. Totalitarianism has always offered mass-production as a social benefit. That is in part the crisis in the consumer-electronics industry... The whole structure of the business is based on that you invest in research and technology and then you put the technology into a box and sell the box at five or ten times its production value. And the trouble is that, and which is how industrialization worked for much like the last hundred years...the trouble is now that this has spiral- effect on the speed with which other people pick up the same technology to make a product at half the price, or the speed with which a new technology makes that one obsolete. The space in which you extract value and profit from your business is disappearing, which is why the people who make hardware are just all going into this crisis. And that's, theoretically, why digital technologies are profitable because it costs no more to change software... reproduction is not the cost, which is why these companies are not in crisis.
Mass versus Individual Marketing
RM: We should not overestimate individualism. We are talking about differentiation, fragmentation and individualization - smaller groups-, that people also have tendencies to be different from other people but they also like to belong to groups. When I, from my office have to convince someone not to use direct marketing, which is very personal, but should use advertising... I always take the example, that if you offer someone to buy a Rolex of 10.000 by mail, he will not take it if he does not realize that all his neighbors know that a Rolex is a very expensive watch, because then it is not worth the money. However if I buy wine, direct marketing works very well, because I want very good wine and... a wine that nobody else has. You can come up with a whole spectrum of products and they are all different in whether they want to be consumed in a broad network or very specialized, with everything in between... And then you have all the different groups, even in electronics, of people who want to belong and those who want to be different... I don't think this will change very much.
JTH: You talk about community and social interaction and all of that... but basically the logic of the advertising industry is not how to create social events...
RM: That is changing... you mentioned Apple... the most famous commercials for Apple are not about their machines...
JTH: It is certainly about something more than products, but it till is basically a visual one-way communication. I read this thing about Hermes, who make bags and scarves. Their whole ethos is set about the image of luxury, the image of beautiful shops and high price products. They have now experimented through direct mail with organizing Hermes parties, where people sell each other scarves and things and their sales have gone up 300%. They don't need the shops any more. The social interaction happens in private places, where we are all rich together...
RM: Even Tupperware i s still successful with the same old technique.
JTH: This whole question of peer groups is very interesting... I attended two conferences in the US on sponsorship, where I was under the expectation that they would be concerned with special interest groups, where you identify all the people in the world who like dogsled racing or bungee jumping... However for the marketing people it is not important that they have a list with people with special interest, it's the fact that these people have a special interest that they hare in a social environment. It all has to do with peer group, word of mouth, interaction between people that are not trying to sell each other something! This is an argument against direct marketing where people have no social interaction, no social experience, so it's not that powerful. In the next station of marketing/advertising we will not define groups by consumption but by communication.
The New Social Environment
WV: If you look at the way the new technologies evolve... they are moving in the direction of the social networks. I'm an almost daily user of a BBS, where people communicate and work together. Addison Wesley just published a book about Internet, the largest academic network in the world, written by two people who live 3000 km apart... New social relations grow in networks, like Internet and CompuServe, but also go beyond its limits. These people also make appointments and meet, have dinners etc.
JTH: So the technology provokes... the network is the means to something else. It's a catalyst. This is where you come back to the body question, of haring a physical experience. I went to a meeting where people were discussing the festival of Britain, which was in 1951, which had a spectacular kind of technological pavilions - an expression of modernity and futurism - and was about all the things that technology could do. But what all these people, who had designed or visited these pavilions, actually remembered as being wonderful was being together on the site, the shared experience... the rest was just background.
RM: About these networks and belonging to groups... I think there's something interesting you can see in the development of TV in the Netherlands. When we had one channel the whole country was sitting in front of the TV, talking about it the next day... Then when we got the second channel... we had some quarrels about the house, but we still did the same thing. Then the 3rd channel came, a bit more cultural so it was a smaller group of people... advertisers had problems with the limited distribution of commercial time, so they fought for a commercial channel. When RTL4 came we crossed a critical border, it became choosing between a quantity of channels. Suddenly people were not connected to the same lady on the screen every night, saying Goodnight, loosing the common ground of conversation. It diminished the role of TV, because now it's easier to turn it of. When there were two channels everybody wanted to watch, because nobody wanted to miss the program you could be talking about the next morning. So actually by the growth of TV, the function diminished...
WV: But has the amount of hours people spend in front of TV really decreased spectacularly? Only slightly, so it's not a dramatic event. It simply has become more difficult for you advertisers to catch them. Advertising has become vital, because it gives you time to zap.
]TH: But for advertising the problem is twofold... On the one hand there are more and more channels, but on the other we also watch TV with more literacy, more cynically and filter out the advertising, either physically with a button, or we just mentally block it out.
JTH: There is another area where people are becoming very cynical... Coming back to the relationship between business and art... most of the time it is a matter of expressing the fact that they are not only dull businessmen, that they have a broader mind than that... As soon as they become involved with art that becomes dangerous to the business, they quit... It's a coquettish way of showing 'their good intentions'. Being interested in art shows that you are not only interested in money. But most consumers are cynical, if an oil company sponsors an artform, which has nothing to do with their business. It is just disingenuous to believe that we are what we sponsor.
PP: The most important thing, which we have touched upon several times, is the growing literacy of the public/consumers and this growing cynicism. We let it happen, we happily enjoy it to a certain extent but there is also this cynicism, that has really changed... and that is something we have to deal with...
RM: On the one hand you are right, but on the other hand... There's this best-seller in the US, called Shopping for a better World, listing all the companies with ratings on all kinds of issues, on racism, on feminism and so on. So people are buying this book, and changing their shopping behavior, based on ideological criteria. They call it voting with your wallet,
JTH: Levis is stopping production in China, because China has a bad human rights record. They do it for selfish reasons ultimately, but then it is objectively not a bad policy change... So it works both ways. I saw a lecture by someone comparing Lois and Levis jeans commercials which both use rock music etc., and one was badly done and the other was well done... If you don't get the cultural references correct, or accurate, or you sell fake street-credibility it's counterproductive advertising. So there's a sense in which successful advertising is genuinely a response to what the streets or the cultural avant-garde is interested in. If it's accurate, people will respect it for its accuracy... that's not the same as questioning the business. It's like saying do not try and patronize me...
DVW: I thought when you talked about cynicism and the sponsoring business, that the public sort of sees the corporate world that tries to redeem itself...We don't only take, we do some charity too..., as a way of using their guilt! They need my money, but they also need my absolution. Environmental activists sometimes have to go along with or sit next to people they absolutely hate, just because this guy has an enormous guilt or his company has some problem to solve... They don't care, they just get the money and do something they think is socially worthwhile... This is a complete disappearance of ideological loyalty.
JK: There was this article in Omni where a guy defines Costa Rica as a corporation of 3 million shareholders, the product of the corporation is about 5000 species that they have in their rainforest, in stock. He pleads to consider a country, a nation... as a corporation, that should be run and should be profitable... and that has a product in its back yard that can be sold.
PP: He's a conservationist, but feels that there is no use in walking in picket lines. He is dealing in a commodity... he is talking about the fact that the research and development of a single drug by a very big American drug manufacturer involves 200 million dollars. That is many, many times greater than the gross national product of Costa Rica. Now he's dealing, with his ideology, with the big multinational drug corporations.
RM: People have only just realized that there is a corporate culture... In the 50s the local owner of a factory was a capitalist, the bankmanager and insurance salesman were not... Well the banks and insurance companies were the first corporations. Nowadays people realize that it works that way, and it makes them cynical. They may not know how marketing works, but they know that there are guys around trying to play tricks on them.
DVW: But who can also be tricked... now they know!
JTH: The environmental issue is a good example... because that's exactly what the campaigners do. They say, well corporations behave according to their own interest, but corporations consist of tens of thousands of people and they all have families and children... and so their whole kind of campaigning is towards children, who go home and say to their father and mother: Daddy why are you poisoning the ocean... Fifty percent of all children cartoons are about the environment nowadays, villains and bad people who pollute and heroes who save it...
HV: Well there used to be a lot of loyalty from consumers in the past, brand-loyalty... but this loyalty is less nowadays.
WV: But we are talking about why they like you; we are talking about advertising, how and what these companies are communicating. Voting with your wallet or whatever you want to call it has been around for a while, but the issue here is not so much if it works or not.
DVW: What do these companies represent...? If you say people are loyal to a brand they are a more or less passive victims, or they just say yes to the brand or the feeling of comfort. So when they become disloyal, or more individual they see this relationship with the corporate world as a possibility to be active, to choose... because they know that if nobody wants this product of a certain company for whatever reason, then this company is hurt. But what do the good companies represent? If you vote for a certain company, what does it represent?
Business and Ethics
RM: More and more companies get ethical offices, they try to formulate a kind of ideology. A t the same time political parties become less ideological and more and more pragmatic... where do I get the voters. They start to do marketing. So the corporations are becoming tomorrow's political parties... I hate the example, but with the Bodyshops - Anita Rudder's Trade not aid campaign - it's the story not the stuff. She's not advertising her products; she's selling her concept...! Anita Rudder's concept for the Body Shop is very militant, but it's a balanced thing. She says that they are trying to get a fair share of living for the people and have more balance between giving and taking, but she's very businesslike... and she's definitely in it for the money. On the other hand there's this company, called Ben and Jerry's selling Hippie Ice-cream, who started as a company but do crazy things. So you have companies that don't do anything on ideological things, then you have companies who do it because they feel they have to, to keep in business and a few exceptions.
JTH: You have to differentiate here between companies in mature markets and companies in new markets. If you are making soap etc. you're in a pretty competitive market and you 're all pretty much the same, then all this ethical stuff comes in. But with all these software companies, where what they do is radically different from what the other companies do, they don't have to be ethical. They can have a completely unethical network technology company, because if they are good at what they do they will sell their stuff anyway. The major economy is changing, and thousands of companies are stuck in old businesses, where they compete on these ethical questions, or any other quality, except the product. Whereas the new technology sector sells really on the product, and it's quite simple...
WV: The funny thing is that all this voting stuff, at least the recent developments in this field, has to do with things to be against. This whole thing came up because of the ecology movement using kids to work on the corporations, an outside party that uses the voting mechanism to fight the corporation policies, or to support. But they are playing with this fear, being against something and being conscious about things that might be wrong. It's all focused on negative aspects. If the companies are really looking at this way of communicating themselves, they have to find a positive approach.
JTH: I make a prediction that the next ethical thing is that companies make a benefit of employing more people than they actually need to, like companies saying we employ more people than we need to because we make things by hand... There is a point where savings from productivity, are offset by social disintegration. You need someone to buy your stuff! There is always this spiral/circle effect, because there simply is a point where productivity no longer pays for itself... for those reasons, and that's where we are now. Also if you look at the money spent on research and development... it has just reached a point where it no longer makes a return on the capital. It doesn't have to be conscious... it's just the market slowing it down.
PP: Going back to the notion of movement away from masses... We talked about corporations, but in the end they are us, made up of people. One of the things that I'm interested in is this shift in biological terms, this notion of the social insect in social biology. Looking at the corporation as an organism, the corporate body... Aren't we getting in trouble because we tend to think of the corporation in one sense, and of the individual in another…?
RM: I work for a software company BSO... and there structure is based on cells of 50 people, 50 small corporations within a larger corporation. They grow by splitting the cells... The whole feeling behind it is that people should belong to an entity, to be stimulated and motivated. Companies as corporate communities... is also focused on how to attract people to work for them.
WV: Let's go back to the communications aspect of it all... For instance BSO, with its cell structure, how do they use this in their marketing...?
RM: We tell stories... we suggest a feeling, so that in the end people think they should get BSO because they think these are clever people. They are careful, take little steps, but they try to get ahead. A lot of the people that are now in top functions were young in the sixties, so this appeals to their lost ideals as well. I was talking to a researcher from the university of Utrecht about the social responsibility of companies... and the primary social responsibility of companies is with its employees. So if I start throwing money into ecological projects, and my company goes bankrupt I'm not very socially responsible... It's a very narrow balance between being fair to the stockholders and doing something.
JTH: There's another dimension to this, in terms of the behavior of companies... the concept of modernity has given way to the post-modern argument of no future and the questioning of progress with a lack of confidence in the future. We've had that for quite a while now and I think those companies that can say that they have confidence in the future, that they believe in change, in innovation... and they welcome it, can create a difference. No longer hampered by tradition or history, BSO type companies can also ethically be at the forefront.
Art in Business?
JTR: We talked about companies using art, as a way to distinguish themselves. What about very big telecommunication companies, who have very little relation with art, sponsoring media-artists or their projects - would that be progressive or not? Art is also about exploring things, that cannot be expressed by any other means... These technologies totally change our environment, but artists are totally marginalized in trying to intervene. Important people within these companies don't know what is going to happen, so you would expect that would be a bit more imaginative about whom they talk to... Is there not an argument for a company to say we want to look at the cultural aspects of telecommunication and have a more direct relationship with artists? Why doesn't it happen. There are a few companies that have long running contacts with
in institutes or museums. BSO and the McLuhan Institute for example. I would defend the relationship between BSO and the McLuhan institute, because they don't expect to get a product from that relationship, they expect to get ideas, awareness, to think about things differently... But for companies that sell intangible things, to have an intelligent relationship with an artist seems to be very rare.
JK: On the other hand there is also very little initiative from the artist-side. Artists are to a large extent are very illiterate, they don't know the technology.
DVW: The reason why artists are not involved, is that the people who decide these things have strange idea of what artists are... There are artists who know what they could do... but they are never noticed by the group of people who have the power to decide, and should have the ability to see that on a small scale they need the input of artists.
PP: The question though is that basically no-one is in control of these developments. At a certain moment these things go beyond our understanding, and I think John is right in saying that, that's where the notion of art becomes important again. To look into the future to plot out potential trajectories and ways we can handle these kind of technologies.
JTH: Artists can have a sort of synthetic intelligence, an ability to figure out what is happening, by non rational means... Now that no one person can possibly understand all this stuff... you can either say that man's intelligence is just to limited, or that artist sensibility may be able to make sense of it.
WV: It's a real problem for big corporations... it can actually happen that nobody in the company knows the answers to these kind of questions, without anybody realizing it. Bert Mulder once asked a group of directors at Philips, who was deciding what is in a chip, who was deciding what these things do... they didn't know! They are driving these developments... The actual people that run the company don't really know what the company is about. This connects with what Paul said about the notion of companies as organisms. Which cell in your body knows where you are going?
PP: We have been asking that question for a thousand years... we don't know! Basically it is the same with a corporation, it has a trajectory, it is moving... it has an impetus to move, just like an organism. But the thing is that we are developing such radical changes in the technology, that undermine the human condition. So at a certain moment the imagination breaks down... That's the interesting point.
JTH: But modern art had an important role to play in making sense of all the changes over the past century, making sense of urbanization, industrialization... We don't seem to have that equivalent at the moment. Not for social reasons... but if business has the technology, and is or is not in control of it, there is an argument to be made that if they want to make sense of it they should find some new people to talk about it.