The hackathon: the cornerstone of any nutritious art-tech meetup. We’ve indulged in putting on a few of them ourselves, and today if you’re in London you can attend Art Meets Tech, which takes place at the Mozilla offices (101 St. Martins Lane). It’s been put together by three men with beards—Michael Hobson, Bryce Keane, and Joe Scarboro—from a tech-event-organizing collective called 3beards, which is behind events for London’s startup community like Silicon Drinkabout and Don't Pitch Me, Bro!.
Over 48 hours (September 14th-16th), the group will bring together 50 hackers and 50 digital artists and musicians to create anything they want from public data. And this open-ended aspect is what makes hackathons such great fun, a place where anything can happen as the creative community get their hands on everything from Arduino kits to Rasberry Pis and Xbox Kinects. The event is sponsored by WPSChallenger, and the resulting artworks will be showcased at a Digital Sizzle party at the Whitechapel Gallery on September 26, 2012.
And it’s not just the art and tech communities that can benefit from these kinds of meetups, as 3beards believe they’re influencing traditional culture outside the tech scene too. “One of our early influences and inspirations for this project is actually a perfect example of this phenomenon (though similar examples extend across almost every industry sector)—the work of Scottish cello player, composer and digital performance pioneer Peter Gregson.” Keane told me in an email. “We read a piece about him in Wired, and were struck by his quote, ’We’ll never create new music using old techniques, just as you won’t make the next iPad using BASIC,’ and he's right! To give some context, here's a young guy that left the formal classical training route (because he wanted to create something original and always had a fascination for technology and digital culture) and was picked up by MIT Media Labs in Boston. He’s gone on to collaborate with many of the world's leading technologists, including ”http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/" target="_blank">Microsoft Labs, United Visual Artists, and Reactify to create some incredible immersive performances fusing the traditional medium of classical music with data and technology. For example, his piece The Listening Machine."
As well as bringing people together in what Keane describes as “a sort of pressure cooker environment for creative people,” let’s not forget the other star—the data. As technology is utilized to visualize and manifest the world of data as installations and artworks, our perceptions of it change. It’s no longer impenetrable or intangible, but something that can be explored and experienced by everyone. And while technology has allowed us to do this, data has played its own part in driving forward this reciprocal relationship. As Keane notes, “It [technology] allows us to make sense of the near endless streams of information out there about everything from tube delays to population statistics. However, data is also the driver behind technology, insomuch as human beings have always strived to make sense of their world and the furious pace of technological development is often aimed at keeping up with, and reinterpreting, data in new ways that continues to add benefit to our day-to-day lives.”