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Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 by Patrick

Patrick Dinnen, Creative Technologist

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For years I’ve struggled when trying to describe what exactly it is that I do. My work with Media Lab Toronto over the past five or so years pulls from many areas. I write computer code but I’m not a coder. I connect to online media but I’m (thankfully) not a social media guru. I draw from the world of art but I’m not an artist. I use electronics and mechanics but I’m not an engineer. So what exactly am I?

It seems that Creative Technologist may be the best yet description of what I do. Mark Avnet puts it this way:

Creative Technologists understand the business of advertising, marketing, and branding, take a creative, strategic and people-centric view of how to connect people and brands, and understand the kinds of mediating technologies that can best be used to make those engaging experiences where the connection happens.

In the last year or two the Creative Technologist role seems to be gaining currency particularly in the advertising world with its drive to convey messages in new and novel ways.

The explosion of powerful and affordable technology underlies the emergence of the Creative Technologist role. This explosion is illustrated by the common scenario of technologies that used to be complex, expensive and out of reach rapidly becoming accessible and affordable to artists and tinkerers. This new accessibility leads to innovation of exciting new methods of interaction and these are the blocks the Creative Technologist can combine and build upon. Think of the Microsoft Kinect, a full featured 3D sensor for a couple of hundred dollars. The world of digital fabrication where hobbyists can buy (or build) a laser cutter or 3D printer and start manufacturing and experimenting on their desktop. Multi-touch Screens. Micro-controllers. Pico projectors. All these are part of the rapidly expanding palette of accessible technologies that just a few years ago were in the realm of corporate R&D departments or science fiction.

The incredible proliferation of technology is key to the emergence of the space where Creative Technologists work but it is not the only factor. Perhaps just as important in opening this space is open-source, the strict practice and the ethos of sharing unless there’s a good reason not too. All this in combination with the silo crumbling powers of online communication which brings previously specialised information and techniques to anyone with a web connection and curiosity.

Navigating this torrent of technologies and the techniques and communities that form around them is where I see the value of the Creative Technologist. In understanding, tracking and ultimately harnessing these developments. Working not with a tech for tech’s sake approach but for genuine communication, engagement and excitement.

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