Thursday 06

Do artists and creators have a place in RRI?

Posted by Ecsite on 06 Oct 2016

We do not often see artists and creators mentioned as stakeholders considered in an RRI process. Yet the Ars Electronica Festival that took place 8-12 September 2016 in Linz, Austria, offers a convincing statement for their role in the innovation process. The Ars Electronica Festival for Art, Technology, and Society, is 80,000 m2 of space for conferences and speeches, exhibitions and projects, concerts and performances, animated films and awards ceremonies, guided tours and workshops. 85,000 visits and 534 events on five days, 842 participating artists and scientists from 50 countries.

Here are just a few images to demonstrate powerful connections between art and science. For more, have a look here and there .

Courtesy of Local Androids and Anouk Wipprecht

Fashion-Tech Designer Anouk Wipprecht presented a wearable entitled “Agent Unicorn” that she developed during her stay at Ars Electronica Futurelab where she teamed up with neuroscientists and experts, creating an accessory that registers the wearer’s observations via Electroencephalography (EEG). Picking up brain activity with a built-in camera that takes short movies when the wearer’s attention strikes, the Unicorn is 
learning system
wearer on what

“My work is to create. Another to demonstrate. A third one to research the interactions that my designs cause and confluence and engineer the finding back to my system. “ For the SPARKS project she used her ”concepts to develop an instrumentation that addresses [mental] health through the concept of RRI via fashion. It got me to be creating a cool product that has the potential to yield significant benefits for therapies and research.”
(from Ars Electronica blog)

Moreover, the Unicorn is beautiful, it makes you want to wear it; and that’s obviously important.

Anouk told us she is often invited by many large private companies to work them – many located in California where she now lives most of the time. It can take a little while for the organizational culture of the company to be ready to integrate her thinking, and that’s crucial to the collaboration. If those private companies currently have, or have willingly developed a corporate culture open enough to work with her, are universities and other research organisations doing the same? Actually, quite a number of universities were presenting projects at the festival, as well high-level research organisations such as CERN, ESA and ESO.

inFORM by Tangible Media Group is a Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way. inFORM can also interact with the physical world around it, for example moving objects on the table’s surface. Remote participants in a video conference can be displayed physically, allowing for a strong sense of presence and the ability to interact physically at a distance.

Credits: Daniel Leithinger*, Sean Follmer*, Hiroshi Ishii
* Contributed Equally
Video and Photo Support: Basheer Tome, Jifei Ou

Hy-Fi is a circular tower of organic bricks from The Living, an Autodesk Studio in Brooklyn, New York, US, commissioned by the New York Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1. “The structure is an extension of the natural Carbon Cycle, with a revolutionary construction material that grows out of living materials and returns to the earth through composting at the end of the structure’s earth lifecycle”.

Barkow Photo

The Festival not only shows projects and engages the public: different symposiums and events take place. The Future Innovators Summit developed by Ars Electronica and Hakuhodo (Japan) and staged in cooperation with netidee (Austria), brings together an international mix of young entrepreneurs, engineers, social activists, scientists, artists and designers in a collaborative brainstorming. New culture, citizen participation and living were the main areas of consideration that led to 3 topics: Future Humanity, Future Education and Future Commons.

We took a tour of the Ars Electronica FutureLab, an artistic-scientific think tank and a studio-lab. Projects are prototypical sketches to discuss and reflect on future concepts and their meaning to society. Among the hundreds of projects developed, let’s simply mention the one with Mercedes-Benz exploring the development of a bi-directional communication between man and the robot cars; will it be through verbal language, gestures, by the aid of objects or a completely different way to interact? More research projects of the FutureLab.

Many of the things we saw use existing technologies, so it’s not only the future: it is, or it will be today. The power of these creative thinkers is to ask new questions, think differently, include aesthetics. It was about works in progress and in process, - by definition sometimes unsettling. It was about visual attractiveness as valuable. Yes, it was messy and beautiful. And that gave us hope.

This is not a pledge for creators of all definitions to be fully part of RRI, but it could very well be...


Ecsite, the European Netwok of Science Centres and Museums in Brussels is responsible for the mapping of stakeholders in the RRI Tools project 

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