Last month Creative Informatics researcher Caitlin McDonald was invited to speak at Sibos, a financial services conference with 10,000 global attendees which took place in Amsterdam. At a breakfast café talk titled “When an anthropologist, economist and technologist met for breakfast: the implications of inflation, recession, decreasing disposable income and a shift from globalisation,” Caitlin joined Shirley Ze Yu (economist) and David Wood (technologist) for a wide-ranging conversation on the current global economic state of play. Caitlin reflects on the conversation below.
Many of us probably think of the world of high finance as very far removed from our day-to-day work as creative practitioners and researchers. That’s certainly true, but we also have a lot to teach the people who design the structures that are ubiquitous in our day-to-day living: digital technology and banking. The theme of this year’s Sibos conference was “Progressive Finance for a Changing World,” with several tracks devoted to sustainability (planet and people’s livelihoods) and ethics, particularly around AI and automation.
As the conversation progressed I was able to share a few Creative Informatics projects that addressed these themes, like the Creative Horizon 3 project Creative Cred, a circular economy currency designed with the creative community in mind, and the Ocean ARTic project using music to communicate the impacts of climate change, based on real climate data from the arctic. These examples showcase two important roles the creative industries play for the wider economy and for society: first, the creative sector acts as an innovation engine which supports overall innovation and transformation throughout the economy. The creative industries provide new skills, materials, technologies and new imagined ways of living and working which act as an overall catalyst for innovation. Second, cultural and creative works are an essential part of reflecting our world back to us in imaginative ways that open up new possibilities, or help us to rethink old ones. In the words of one of my favourite artistic manifestos, shared on screen during the talk, “[Art] needs to be EVERYWHERE because it is the INSIDE of the WORLD.”
Perhaps most importantly, and surprisingly unanimous between all three perspectives, we agreed that access to arts and culture are fundamental indicators of overall societal wellbeing: everyone deserves the opportunity to have access to a rich creative & cultural life. In fact, as I was able to share at the event, some local authorities in the UK use numbers of live events/performances available in geographic regions as indicators of wider cultural health. We also agreed that to make a healthy cultural ecosystem flourish, creative careers need to be sustainably funded work, not the exclusive province of the privileged few.
My counterparts in economics and technology both took a very broad, sweeping birds-eye-view to address the topic we’d been set for the conversation. As an anthropologist, I’m usually approaching things from the “worm’s eye view”: helping to discover general truths about the world from observation of local communities and networks. It’s been a privilege to observe and to be part of the Creative Informatics community in this way.
You can also read about my short talk at the closing session for the Sibos Innotribe track, on the subject “Imagine if banking were the next frontier in space: what would it feel like and what would it inspire?” on the Design Informatics blog.