The Big Picture, V – China’s Creative Economy, Beijing’s Creative Spaces and a Robot Monk

August 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

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China’s Creative Economy, through the lens of creative spaces, is the subject of the last installment of our Big Picture series.

It was a few days before New Year 2016 when I first heard the word 融合业态 (Rong He Ye Tai)- fusion or convergence of industries – as a latest trend in China. The son of my father’s friend visited San Francisco with his newly-wed wife during the holidays, and I entertained them. I was trying to explain what kind of work I do (or am doing in recent years), and instead of an awkward silence which I thought would ensue, he was unexpectedly turned on by my “explorations between art and science, culture and technology, nature and lifestyle”, a concept I had thought would be too esoteric, convoluted or impractical for anyone in China to care. “融合业态!” He declared, “It’s the ‘in’ thing now!” He went on to tell me how high tech parks are passé now, replaced by creativity and design parks, and cultural incubators; how a real estate or tourist project would get funding more easily, if it had a cultural theme. He urged me to collaborate with the association he was working for, affiliated with the Ministry of Culture.

Sensing my skepticism, he handed me a document a few days later, on red letterhead. It is the State Council 2014 [10] Gazette, on promoting “the integration of cultural creativity and design services with the development of industries”.

I was blown away.  The central government is recognizing that the culture industry has the desirable attributes of “high knowledge intensity, high value-add, low energy consumption, and low pollution”, as the country’s economy goes through much-needed transformation.  It is encouraging the “deep integration” of culture industries with ‘real’ economy industries such as technology, manufacturing, real estate and retail, as new sources of growth, competitiveness, employment, consumption diversity and higher standard of living. It knows that without culture leading the way, there would be no “Created in China”.

A couple of trips to China in the ensuing months gave me the opportunity to investigate and see with my own eyes. Below I share with you several creative spaces I visited as part of this reconnaissance. It is not a conclusive report on whether the government’s policy is working – much more time and resources would be needed for that – but rather an observation of the physical (and in some cases, business and cultural) environments that creativity is being pursued, along with anecdotal stories. They are not necessarily born out of the Directive – some of these places predated the Gazette by a decade; and the people I spoke to at these places did not necessarily know anything about the policy; but in a uniquely characteristic Chinese way, the Visible Hand of the Government and the Invisible Hand of the Market are certainly at interplay, with the former sometimes directing the latter, while other times shrewdly taking clues and multiplying the latter.
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The Big Picture, III – Venture Capitalist Steps in on San Francisco’s Art exodus; Big Art Meets Big Tech in Silicon Valley’s First Serious Gallery

May 7, 2016 § 4 Comments

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This installment of our Big Picture series zooms in on Silicon Valley.

As the 2010’s enters its second half, something curious is going on between tech and art, in the oft-proclaimed “innovation capital”.

On the one hand, angry protests from San Francisco’s art community, against the new monied tech elites driving up real estate prices and edging out artists and other creatives, are still ringing in the ear. A personal anecdote (other than the fact that non-artist regular people like myself can hardly afford housing here too): just yesterday I was calling a string of art supply stores for a gift I’m planning on buying for a friend in China, only to find out that half of them have moved from their previously listed locations – the one in downtown Palo Alto has moved to Redwood City, after losing its lease to a “social networking company”; the one in San Francisco is in the process of moving to Oakland, vacating space for a condo development (perhaps  targeting employees of that social networking company). All-too-familiar stories, about the exodus of art. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Big Picture, II – Designers of the Future, Poets for Your Bots, and Anti-disciplinarians: the Emerging World as Seen in New Job Descriptions

April 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

We cannot foresee at this point which scenario is likely to emerge, and history suggests that the outcome is likely to be some combination of the two. However, I am convinced of one thing—that in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production.”
– Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

Well, capital still seems pretty darn critical from where I stand, but that’s beside the point for this installment of our Big Picture series.  Continuing from “Part I, The Fourth Industrial Revolution” last week, this issue is a more concrete exploration of the future depicted by Dr. Schwab, through a particular lens – new talents and job skill demands emerging or anticipated at the leading edge of the tech industry.


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The Most Important Design Jobs Of The Future, from Fast Company, CO.DESIGN, by Suzanne Labarre « Read the rest of this entry »

The Big Picture, I – The Fourth Industrial Revolution

April 4, 2016 § 3 Comments

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond

By Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, for Davos 2016

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Excerpts:

“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. … « Read the rest of this entry »

First Quarter in Review: The Big Picture, Ahead and Around

April 4, 2016 § 4 Comments

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Unlike most of my posts, this issue (or this series, in multiple issues) does not feature specific artworks (which, by the way, many of you have told me to be beautiful–thank you!). Instead, I will share with you news, events and readings I came across in the first quarter of 2016, which collectively form a “big picture” context, helping to demonstrate that Essinova’s exploration into the arts is not just about beauty, although that itself is a worthy cause.

Top 10 skills 2020It is a big picture of the next industrial revolution and the future that mankind is entering, in which art and culture will be of fundamental importance not only to the human race as a whole but also to private industry. Philosophically speaking, art (with feelings) might become one of our last bastions of human privilege as machines can replace us in pretty much everything else. On a more practical level, culture and humanities, alongside science and technology, will become part of the very fabric of tomorrow’s businesses, rather than an afterthought marketing flair. This is necessitated by the new demands of solution design, consumer experience and talent development. « Read the rest of this entry »

Beauty and Brains. The Nerd Wears Prada. My “Smart Jewelry” Reconnaissance.

January 16, 2016 § 2 Comments

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The first week of 2016 found me in Las Vegas, to attend CES, the giant annual Consumer Electronics Show, for the very first time.  In the sea of gadgets large and small, I wandered in the area designated for “wearables”.

Wearables have not, before now, really grabbed me, in spite of my coverage of health technology for years, and enthusiasm for the category in the tech world and beyond.  I tried out a Fitbit last year for a few days initially, then in a few more short stretches of heightened self-motivation, but have let it collect dust on my night stand ever since.

Just around New Year’s I learned of “smart jewelry,” and we featured two collections — Ringly and Tyia — in our Lifestyle gallery.  They made me realize why I had stopped wearing the Fitbit – many times I had been embarrassed by the unsightly plastic on my wrist, compromising my outfit.

With no better plans for my last afternoon at CES (my presumed primary mission having proven a bust the day before), I decided to just take it easy and see if I could find anything else like Ringly and Tyia that may actually be, well, “wearable”.  I’m glad I did – these last few hours made the whole trip worthwhile.

I now share with you my review and stories of five “smart jewelry” makers, including my picks from CES; as well as my thoughts about this new generation of “wearables”. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Day at A Travel Hackathon; and An Evening of Dance, Science, and Interactive Tech

November 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

IMG_4096_editedThis past weekend, we proudly exhibited interactive 3D data art created by Kineviz, during Emirates Travel Hackathon hosted at Runway Incubator in San Francisco, where 300+ developers and designers built innovative travel-centric applications aimed at improving customer experience, in competition for a trip to Dubai and various tech and cash prizes.
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