This is the first in a series of posts exploring what exactly a creative technologist is, and what is it - exactly - that they do? I am hardly the first person to write about the creative technologist(I've found posts dating back to 2011) and their preeminence in circles where arts, tech, and marketing overlap, however, I won't let that stop me here. Writing about this seemingly vaunted position is a way for me to understand it.
In subsequent posts, I will explore:
- Job descriptions from companies seeking to hire creative technologists and the skills and experience that they ask.
- Whether "creative technologist" is the new "full stack developer"?
- Is "creative technology" a fad? Will the practice of "creating experiences with technology" become normalized and niche-specific in the coming years?
In this post, I attempt to answer these questions:
- What is a "creative technologist"?
- Who can be a creative technologist?
- Is that actually a job that some people do? (It is.)
What's In A Title?
If you pay attention to the arts and tech world, you see this title more and more everyday. Especially in NYC - which is a locus for creative tech. In the arts and tech worlds, I'd say a sizeable percentage of the people you meet are creative technologists, and often talented ones at that.
But what exactly is a creative technologist? Can we define it?
Yes, rhetorical-me, of course we can!
Personally, I'd describe a creative technologist as someone who's more artist than engineer yet still possesses the logical and iterative skills of an engineer to manifest an idea into, at the very least, a minimum viable product, or work, as it were. Creative tech can often be concerned with the speculative, the virtual, and the playable. A creative technologist often creates "interactive experiences", as well.
Many creative technologists do come from math and science backgrounds. Most commonly they are software engineers and web developers, but often can from research-related math and science fields, such as biology or physics.
I'd venture that at least some of the current Eyebeam(note: I'm currently an intern at Eyebeam) artists-in-residence might define themselves that way.
Can Your Average Joe Become A Creative Technologist?
The short answer is, "how much time do you have?". Speaking as someone who is slowly, ploddingly learning to code, I'd say - learning to program is not easy.
A creative technologist needs to know how to code. That's the first part. It's part and parcel of the job: using code to build things that did not previously exist.
Learning to code is like learning to speak another language. It takes years to become fluent.
That said, creative technologists inhabit a unique space in today's job market. As a creative technologist, one is fluent in the practices of making art and code-driven experiences(sometimes software-driven, sometimes hardware-driven). What this seems to mean is that, if you know your stuff, you can always find a job, at the very least doing some sort of web programming.
For instance, I've heard that NYU's graduate-level Interactive Telecommunications Program turns out graduates who mostly become UX designers for their first two or three years out of grad school. The lucky ones are able find a job as a junior-level product designer.
However, I've met one UX designers who's been in the field for 3-5 years that told me that they make enough money in the first six months of the year to work on art the rest of the year. So there's that.
That's all for now. Today, I've been exploring job descriptions and reading other blog posts about what a creative technologist is, so expect more in-depth analyses to be forthcoming.