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A perspective on the future present

Renowned musician and media-artist, Tom Ellard - always a source of insight and perspective - has offered up something disturbingly profound in a recent blog post entitled “A Serious Post...”

Tom Ellard of Severed Heads


In it Tom reflects upon his past and being called upon as a futurist to offer a view on what was to come for art and technology. His predictions around DVD, interactice media and online purchasing were remarkably accurate and backed up by his own ground-breaking practice. Yet, when he considers what he might say if called upon now to probe future possibilities, he is markedly despondent. Usually I’m a futurist-optimist but Tom’s insight certainly gives me pause.

He observes:

“Technology is an empty vessel. Transport makes money, always did. We passengers think that by travelling we are on a quest. But we’re not. We switch vehicles, but that’s not progress… The Internet could be a place where people build a hive mind to solve world problems. It is instead a cesspit of bigots and YouTube comments”

He goes on to say…

“Education bears some responsibility for this. Over on one side you have people teaching complete voodoo like Lacan. Hey look at this meaningless diagram I made up! It explains how people watch movies! Here’s a bunch of jargon! On the other side you get people like me that teach how to hold a camera steady and make 3D robots and explosions. The two groups don’t talk much, except to point out each other’s bullshit… instead of the student understanding what it means to manufacture Truth, they just want to know how to do it. Creativity has been shown worthless, something you download for a donation, something measured in Likes, something of which you can have 100,000 in your hand.”

Tom’s observed concerns seemed to hit me between the eyes as I lately find myself wrestling my own, creative, artistic, professional and scholarly demons. Binary dilemmas seem to surround; one one hand I love to teach, it’s what i do best, but I am all too often appalled at the state of tertiary education. I’m 5 years into a PhD and treasure the idea of learning and acquiring knowledge, but it’s been made apparent to me by the instiution that a PhD has no audience beyond its assessors and no point but to be a permission slip to teach in a University, hence I have to ask why bother? I preach ad-nauseam to my students there’s no such thing as knowing too much and that anti-intellectualism is the death of creative society; yet i continually fail to encounter any valid screen studies scholarship with relevance, artistry or genuine Ideas. Conference after conference forces me to bear witness to intellectual drivel driving a further wedge between theory and practice and compounding the vile anti-intellectualism that plagues our creative industries. I used to blame practitioners for their perpetuation of mediocrity. It’s now obvious to me more blame deserves to be hanging from the neck of the scholars who perpetuate the irrelevant self-absorbed navel gazing myths of academia. And now I’m heading into a period of extraordinary creative opportunities, commissions and collaborations, yet the dumbing down of creative pursuits and their mediums well below their potential makes me fear disappointment in what I’ll make…

I don’t know if Tom’s post is a most eloquent and insightful perspective, or just downright depressing.

Thanks Tom…

(read Tom’s full post - and the rest of his superb blog - at

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