Creative education is essential for the tech industry
And dialogues between the two can generate new creative opportunities
Dr Garfield Benjamin
A quality creative education is a valuable end in itself. Learning to think around problems and express ideas in relatable ways to diverse audiences is an important part of global communication. The UK government should embrace creative subjects in schools for these reasons alone. But the impact of creative education is much broader. Arts subjects such as design are essential to developing effective technology. Where would usability, inclusion and diversity be without a prominent role in the decision-making loop for those trained in creative practices? Creative industries also provide the impetus for technological developments, demanding new materials and manufacturing techniques for innovative fashion, design or architecture, new digital platforms for music, film and television, and many other areas where science, technology and art come together to build a more productive and expressive future. UK institutions such as the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths, and the support of funding streams such as NESTA, are creating the next generation of art-sci leaders. The UK also boasts innovative tech-savvy artists like Anna Ridler and Jake Elwes are pioneering the use of AI for creative purposes while also challenging social issues prevalent in technology. If the UK abandons creative subjects in school, we may miss out on future leaders who never got the opportunity to discover and develop their creative skills.
Creative skills will be increasingly important in the broader digital economy, as even technical jobs start to become automated, the Harvard Business Review identified the future of work as being about “imagination, creativity, and strategy”. Forbes highlighted work by MIT researchers suggesting that the tasks of human workers will increasingly focus on “generating creative ideas and actions in a data-rich world”. Stanford has been teaching ‘design thinking’ to engineering and business students for over a decade and a half now, showing the importance of formal creative education across all disciplines. Creative pursuits, as an activity in themselves, offer a space to promote personal development and well-being in a fast-paced and productivity-driven economy. This also works in the opposite direction, with a premium now placed on the works of traditional artists in an age of gentrification and automation. Fostering artistic communities and inclusive cultural activities will be essential to promote connection, community and diversity in an increasingly tech-driven and potentially alienating world.
As technical tools become more accessible - for example the Runway ML software that opens up machine learning systems to creative practitioners without the need to understand code - the emphasis will only shift further onto the creative possibilities. The creative industries are an important part of the UK economy and, alongside the tech industry, offer a key are of potential future growth. The UK Industrial Strategy identifies immersive technology for audiences of the future as a particular focus area. The emphasis on developing the skills and infrastructure for high quality immersive content shows how these developments are not just about new technologies, but about the need for establishing the UK as a base for creating meaningful experiences using new modes of engagement. But these areas will not flourish if there is no pipeline of creative talent to take up the challenges and opportunities. Maker spaces are increasingly important for businesses and technology education, fusing creative and technical experimentation to drive learning. And yet there is also a trend for technology leaders to avoid excessive technology in their own children’s education. Creative subjects can provide alternative ways to encourage exploration and experimentation, critical thinking, innovative problem solving and communicating complex ideas. This is why it is so important to integrate quality creative education at all levels, integrated with STEM and other areas (such as philosophy, social sciences and the ethics of new tech). Only by supporting creative subjects as an integral part of our education system can the UK take a leading global role in both tech and creative industries.