For Creative Tech Week NYC 2016

A View From The Cloud: creative technologies for art and innovation, people and planet.

Creative Tech Week ( is an industry wide gathering for the creative technology field taking place across NYC, April 28 – May 8, 2016.

We’re celebrating CTW, developed and produced by Isabel Draves, with this online feature – “A View From The Cloud” which is part of an ongoing international program of art and innovation that launched on September 14, 2015, co-produced with World Council of Peoples for the United Nations. It’s looking at the technologies of data, code, electronics and the Internet that have expanded the creative possibilities for art, design and innovation across fields — and beyond this, how the mechanisms of creative tech sharpen worldviews and advance the solutions for 21st century problems.


[Image above from video artwork “Dreams In High Fidelity” by Scott Draves.]

Creative tech--

According to media theorist Marshall McLuhan, “Art at its most significant is a D.E.W. – a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied upon to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.” (Understanding Media, 1964)

You can say that art and design, including humanoids such as Bina48, made with the creative technologies that are powering the world — code, data, software, internet, and electronics, are Distant Early Warnings of what’s coming.  

CLOUDS is an interactive documentary Virtual Reality portrait of the community of digital pioneers, explored through the lens of code. Produced by James George and Jonathan Minard, the project asks questions about the future of creativity and the potential of technology at a time when algorithms play an important role in shaping culture.

clouds doc imageTrailer and website


Crowdsourced art is using the mechanisms of creative tech that are needed for solving world problems –collaboration, cooperation, and sharing of innovation – across national borders and cultures. Engaging the mind in the creative ‘zone’ in making or experiencing art and gaming without specific social purpose is no less important. 

The Johnny Cash Project (2010 -) by Aaron Koblin and Chris Milk is a global collective art project where participants are invited to create a drawing that is woven into a collective tribute to Johnny Cash, set to his song “Ain’t No Grave.” The project was inspired by the song’s central lyric, “ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down,” and represents Cash’s continued existence, even after his death, through his music and his fans. The work continues to grow and evolve as more people participate. Read more

johnny cash
Watch here

Among other projects, Koblin and Milk have created “This Exquisite Forest” – an online collaborative animation project and installation at the Tate Modern. From 2012 – 2014, visitors to the site could use an online drawing tool to create short animations together. Working alongside world famous artists, visitors could build off of existing animations, resulting in branching, ever-evolving, narratives resembling trees.


Electric Sheep, created in 1999 by Scott Draves using open source code, is a form of artificial life, which is to say it is software that recreates the biological phenomena of evolution and reproduction though mathematics. The system is made up of man and machine, a cyborg mind with 450,000 participant computers and people all over the Internet.

This is a distributed system, with all participating computers working together to form a supercomputer that renders animations, called “sheep”, that everyone sees. The human participants guide the survival of the fittest by voting for their favorite animations in the flock. You can join this project by downloading the Electric Sheep Screensaver.


Gaming proves that collaboration of people across cultures is possible. Strangers around the world are strategizing together. 

Games are bringing people into the experiences of learning about cultures and exploring politics and international affairs. All Walls Must Fall by inbetweengames explores the cultural division of cold war-era Berlin. Read more at



Gamers showed that they can help social causes. Fifty-thousand players of The Bungie company’s Destiny raised over $1M for the Earthquake victims in Nepal by purchasing a shirt and received the armor shader for their game.

Katherine Isbister’s book,”How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design” counters arguments that games are creating a generation of isolated, emotionally numb, antisocial loners. She shows how games can influence emotion and social connection, with examples—drawn from popular, indie, and art games—that unpack the gamer’s experience.

She shows how designers use physical movement to enhance players’ emotional experience, and examines long-distance networked play. She illustrates the use of these design methods with examples that range from Sony’s Little Big Planet to the much-praised indie game Journey to art games like Brenda Romero’s Train (watch her TED talk …here).

Isbister says games are an innovative and powerful medium for doing what film, literature, and other creative media do: helping us to understand ourselves and what it means to be human.

This is research
by Jane McGonigal, PhD, a world-renowned designer of alternate reality games — or, games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems.

Emotional connections

Along with games, VR, art and multi-media experiences, film, and comedy, create emotional experiences that research proves is the best way to connect to learning and empathy. 

The VR film “Clouds Over Sidra” by the VR company VRSE, was shot at the Zaatari Refugee Camp, home to 130,000 Syrians fleeing violence and war. Children make up half the camp’s population. This is the story of Sidra, a 12-year old girl who has spent the last 18 months in Zaatari.


Immersive multi-media works produced by FuturePerfect Productions, founded by Wayne Ashley, are a catalyst for artistic and cultural development around the world:

Visitors talk about the overwhelming experience of “Zee” by Kurt Hentschlager.


FuturePerfect-water“Aquasonic” by Danish musicians Laila Skovmand and Robert Karlsson, in collaboration with members of their ensemble Between Music presents five performers who submerge themselves in glass water tanks to play custom-made instruments and sing entirely underwater. Transformed inside these darkly glittering, aquatic chambers, they produce compositions that are both eerily melodic and powerfully resonant.
VIDEO and details… here.


Documentary films by Jared Scott such as “Disruption” bring viewers into encounters with the issue of climate change.

 explains the news to people in ways that scientists say open up brain channels that influence emotion and learning. Among the best talents are John Oliver US, Miao Fu and Wang Sheng in China, and Bassem Youssef in Egypt.




Devices and apps that make life easier and provide pleasurable experiences can draw people in to engage in ideas or problem solving like sustainability whether they are aware of it and interested or not. In the sharing economy, with such companies as Uber and Airbnb, the new experiences and systems are attractive.

tesla3Not all Tesla buyers are motivated to purchase because of climate change.

nativecc66b2c406b44e7ea3c935539a60f076_18In the internet age, radio still rules the world. The UN says 44,000 radio stations broadcast to five billion people, or roughly 70 percent of the world.


Looking at the ways that creative tech can solve world problems, data is one of the most important technologies. These are some of the innovators who are doing the best work in the field and who are participating in A View From The Cloud project –

Neuroscience research fellow Dr. Emile Bruneau is doing some of the most exciting and important work in the field. He’s studying brain imaging and cultural interactions to find the roots of conflict and cultural biases and use this data to devise preventive interventions, at a time when the common response to conflict is to escalate arms, destruction, and domination. The New York Times reported on Bruneau’s work in “The Brain’s Empathy Gap: Can mapping neural pathways help us make friends with our enemies”

Another great innovator is Sarah Williams, Director of MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab. Her projects involve the collaboration of developing communities in collecting data that is used to design systems to improve their lives.

Digital Matatus project: Developing Open Data for Informal Transit Systems


0475_03 001“Nasdaq” from “High Altitude” by Michael Najjar. Stock market index shapes the mountain range.

For the financial sector the CDP non-profit organization is providing data on corporate sustainability in the long term which effects their investment potential and changes market behavior towards sustainable business practices. Read more.


The Half the Sky Movement is cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book of the same name, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but to also provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women. Change is possible, and you can be part of the solution.

To date, supporters of the movement have donated more than $5 million to organizations helping women and girls; more than 1.1 million people have played the Facebook game; and more than 1,500 campus and community ambassadors have hosted screenings, held panel discussions, and educated members of their communities about the issues facing millions of women and girls and the inspiring individuals and organizations that are working for a fairer, freer world.

The Global Parliament of Mayors
, initiated by political scientist Dr. Benjamin Barber, is an unprecedented new experiment in democratic global governance platform by, for, and of cities. Mayors from cities around the world, large and small, developed and emerging, will convene in September 2016 in the Hague to identify common problems and activate the right of cities to govern themselves and create cross-border solutions to global challenges. Internet
 technology will be a key tool in their ongoing communication.

Vodafone Foundation, directed by Andrew Dunnett, is bringing mobile technology to developing regions to advance local businesses, health, education, and other social services that are helping and saving lives.



Sidewalk Labs is a Google startup that is a new type of company that works with cities to build products addressing big urban problems to accelerate innovation in cities around the world. From autonomous vehicles to building codes, Sidewalk Labs is thinking about problems and solutions that could shape cities for centuries. Daniel L. Doctoroff, Chief Executive Officer said, “We want to try it in one, two, or a few places then take it nationally or globally.”


Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk has developed a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels. Powerwall offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup.


deepmindGoogle’s artificial intelligence program AlphaGo plays the world’s best Go player, Lee Sedol in Seoul.

“Solve intelligence, make the world a better place” is the mission of Google’s DeepMind, an artificial intelligence division that will make machines capable of learning things for themselves and developing technologies that help address some of society’s toughest challenges, with a strong focus on healthcare.


CREATIVE TECH, ART and MEDIA have mechanisms for solving world problems. 

They can change the corporate culture — by proving with data that economic growth from sustainable industries is possible and that “corporations will benefit from a world that is not suffering.”

They can spread the word and capture the attention of the masses through pleasurable and moving experiences, designs and devices. This can motivate people to, for example, use sustainable products and systems, whether they are aware and interested in sustainability or not.

According to scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, when just 10% of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adapted by the majority of society.

If art, media and creative tech can motivate 10% of the population to engage in sustainability, it can be considered a climate change solution along with renewable energy, transportation, health, and other systems being developed.