Letter From The Editor

A digital renaissance and era of enlightenment is upon us. The digital polymaths of today are empowered to do things themselves that would have been near-impossible to do without an immense amount of help just a few years ago. The merging worlds of art and science through technology are creating contemporary, ultra-empowered visionaries who have the zeal to create stunning works of art from our newfound (and increasing) intimacy with technology. Take Zach Lieberman for example, a tech- nologist and artist, who teamed up with Nike to produce paintings using the paths that joggers take through city streets.

Now there’s an app that emboldens you to do the same; it tracks you as you run and overlays your route on a map. It sounds simplistic, but people have become immensely creative with what they want to illustrate with their daily exercise. The smartphone is more than a phone; it has become an extension of our being, it’s our map, our communication and our life. More and more we’re uploading isolated snippets of our lives to the cloud, be it an email, photo or run. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes a more coordinated process.

But the smartphone is only one technological tool at our disposal. Group SJR original research surveyed the tech savviest among us, revealing a huge array of devices and platforms that we’ve seamlessly merged with different parts of our lives. It’s a true revolution of format, since we’re no longer watching, reading and listening to content with the same device each time. We glance at the morning’s news on our tablets over coffee, we listen to a podcast or read a book on our phones as we commute, we spend the day in front of screens of varying sizes, and then we return to the evening commute and the cycle begins once again.

Between a quarter and a third of Millennials are consistently using a whopping six or more different platforms to get their daily media fix. Across these platforms, we’re more engaged in content than we’ve ever been before. Group SJR documented that the majority of us (60 percent) comment on the articles we’ve read and the TV we’ve watched. We’re also looking to technology for help in deciding what we want to read and watch next, though we may not even be aware of it. Only 39 percent of respondents knew what a recommendation engine (like Netflix’s ‘you watched this, so you might like this …’ algorithm) was, but once it was defined, audiences realized that their reliance on them is widespread. Nearly half of baby boomers said they follow up on the advice of recommendation services more than once a week.

We might not have all reached quite the same level of digital enlightenment as Lieberman, but his work invites us to examine our relationship with technology and think about how our society is changing as a result. Lieberman’s art moved us to explore this quarter’s theme, the age of the digital polymath.

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Letter From The Editor