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Arts & Crafts in the new world…

First Published in CLEAPSS ‘Futureminds 4′ – Feb 2017 (online)

3D printed Skirt

3D Printed Skirt…….

As we ‘STEAM’ ahead with new technologies and the move towards mass customization, what are the implications on the arts and of what will be a dramatic and impending shift in how our world works. The so-called 4th industrial revolution brings us unlimited possibilities with the convergence of mind-boggling computer power, ever-smarter artificial intelligence (AI) and globalization, all combining to challenge our understanding of what it means to be a ‘worker’.

Indeed, some profess that automation and AI will remove the need to work, or, for the more cynical, take people’s jobs. None of this is a surprise, but while it is easy to be worried by the implications of automation and AI, a closer look at the nature of humans, computers and how they interact makes us think carefully about the future and how the arts will contribute.

Humans are social creatures and the way we learn and interact depends on our interactions with others. We know that you can learn more by discussing or working with someone than by lonesome book reading. IT and AI can do the easy stuff that we once spent hours doing, but what it can’t do is be creative, innovate, inspire or motivate. We are good at creating and the need for ideas and innovation is behind the new D&T GCSE.

However, in recent years, STEM subjects have been at the forefront of worldwide initiatives in education, with encouragement and funding being pushed towards science, technology, engineering and maths, at the expense of creative subjects, particularly in the UK. These STEM skills are undoubtedly essential both socially and economically to keep the world ticking and developing, but we can get a computer to sort our mathematical problems and robots to build our cars! What we need is designers and creatives to enhance our world.

In fact, in the UK, we are in a time when the creative industries are a huge economic success, employing over 2.6m people. That equates to 1 in every 12 jobs!Research has shown that industries which combine creative with STEM skills (STEAM), can outperform those that don’t. (nesta.org). It is old news to those of us in the creative industries to hear that arts skills aren’t just a ‘nice’ thing to do/have, an ‘add on’, but play a vital role in the UK economy. Likewise, in education we need to nurture students to be flexible, intuitive, collaborative and creative – essential skills needed for a workforce in a world undergoing profound changes.

We are also seeing increased demand for ‘craft’ skills and education in a variety of arts and crafts. The gradual understanding of sustainability, environmental issues, economic, gender and ethical equality etc. are bringing about changes in society’s needs and demands, with focus on less rather than more, quality and value. Highly skilled crafts are becoming respected again as something we should value and that will support our society to become relevant, economically stable and add value to our lives.

Mass customization will require innovative, skilled crafts people to deliver bespoke products with the support of AI and automation. 3D printed products need the product/building designing as well as the hard and software behind it. Mass customized garments made to your own measurements need a creative to design the fabrics and the styles as well as the software and machines to produce it.

The world is going through its biggest change ever and we need to ensure we have a society that can deal with the challenges this brings. Scientists, mathematicians, engineers and creatives are equally required to deliver a future that supports and enhances the human in all ways. Innovation, diversity, flexibility and collaboration will see the next generations enjoy the fruits of this 4th ‘industrial’ revolution.

STEAMCo.org  http://www.steamco.org.uk/home#creativity

Can Robots Transform the Garment Industry?

SEWBO: Watch a robot sew a shirt from start to finish: https://youtu.be/oeSu9Vcu0DU

SEWING ROBOTS: https://youtu.be/BA96-WX-oXc

3D Printed garments: http://danitpeleg.com