We must learn how to look

These are the reflexions after a 2 hour skype chat session between 17 people about an article of The Guardian called:

Learn to look – art and tech demand it – by Honor Harger.

“Our technologised society is becoming opaque. As technology becomes more ubiquitous and our relationship with digital devices ever more seamless, our technical infrastructure seems to be increasingly intangible”.

After that affirmation, several questions raised up:

  • Is the nature of digital intangible? is it in constant evolution? has the concept of “finished” or “ended” lost its meaning?

In my opinion, because of the intangibility of digital products (not structures) there is no final product. Products are in constant Beta phase, as there are a lot of aspects to be improved. All apps, software, websites, have problems that need to be solved. Updates, upgrades, new features are in their nature. Would you download any digital product that is not going to be improved anymore? I wouldn’t.

The idea of evolution, of testing, of making mistakes, and then solve them, is intrinsic on the digital environment.

If the industrial revolution changed the landscape of the cities and the countryside, where factories, roads, and cities where built, is the digital revolution as tangible as the Industrial Revolution? Are we using the concepts of tangible and real as a synonym of something physical? 

Tangible, as defined by Thesaurus:

tan·gi·ble  [tan-juh-buhl]

1. capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial.
2. real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary: the tangible benefits of sunshine.
3. definite; not vague or elusive: no tangible grounds for suspicion.
4 (of an asset) having actual physical existence, as real estate or chattels, and therefore capable ofbeing assigned a value in monetary terms.

So, an application on an iPad can’t be touched? the way we book our holidays is not real or actual? don’t we have smartphones that change our way to interact with others?  Beyond the physicality of Google’s or Amazon’s servers, there’s another tangibility in digital, a new one based on the product, not the format or support.

  • Has the digital qualitatively changed people’s feelings of value?

About this issue, it was highlighted the BBC series of John Berger: “Ways of seeing”. I found specially interesting the third episode, where it is discussed the concept of “value”, not only the pompous wealth shown in the ancient oil paintings as a social way to display the owner’s power and possessions, but also the value of the painting itself. The current speculation around the price of artworks, and what does it mean nowadays.

Then, I found this article about BITCOINS: digital value, money and speculation.

$22 Bitcoin investment brings Norwegian man fortune

Interesting, uh?

Returning to Harger’s article:

“We unquestionably rely on this infrastructure for the communication and information that helps us orientate ourselves in the world. But we are dangerously unaware of how it works. […] There are profound and lasting transformations that are ripping through everything from manufacturing to medicine to food to shopping. So as a sector, but also as a society, we must take Rajaniemi’s words to heart. We must learn how to look.”

In my opinion, it is a generational struggle. The generation born in the 20th century may do an effort to understand how to look, so we are in the middle of the change, we are creating that change. Those who born in the 21st, will be immersed in the digital as a natural part of their lives. They will need to know how to look to other things, but the basis will be understood, so they are the ground floor of the world they will know.

After a conversation with 17 people, I am not capable to write any conclusion. Lots of topics where opened in an anarchic chat. But it was interesting, after all. Another way of discussing about art, beyond a café. It was a new way of doing things, the only question that remains is: was it better or worst than the classic way of discussing?





  1. em..I think the two points in your post are great, we are in this change, so we experienced this change and know how it comes. I agree with the “Beta phase”, we are facing an unknown future

  2. Shieteng, Isn’t it exciting not to know where is it gonna end?

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