Is Technology an Art?

avatar technology artYesterday, I heard one guest on a KQED radio show suggest that technology is a form of art, and therefore calling those who build and develop technology soulless drones is fundamentally unfair. Lets put the issue of absence of soul aside for a moment and try to logically determine whether technology is in fact an art.

Art is formally defined as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.  

There is certainly plenty of space for human creative skill in technology, as well as imagination. The issue is whether there is a place for beauty and emotional power. Of course, this depends on what kind of technology we are talking about. One might argue that a 3D I-Max theater screen that offers a fascinating viewing experience is much closer to being a work of art than the latest I-Phone. However, even the 3D screen is not really a work of art. It’s just a more sophisticated channel of delivering art – that movie you are watching. It’s not the screen itself that you appreciate for it’s beauty and emotional power, but it’s what you see on it that hopefully moves you.

What about different digital graphic design creations, animations and effects in their various forms – aren’t they a work of art? Let’s look at Avatar. Would that movie be considered art? If so, why? Is it because of how human feelings and emotions are integrated into the surreal, digitized nature in the movie, or would the digital work alone carry a component of beauty and emotional power, which in itself deserves to be called a form of art?

I would suggest that even though much of technology is not art, there are a few specific branches, such as digital video and audio effects that carry sufficient beauty and emotional power to be considered art.

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