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The spectacle of technology

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I was recently in New York, and while there I ended up at an art opening, where I fell into a conversation with an art historian. Obviously, the conversation turned to the state of the “art world.” She was pretty candid when she said that these days it is less about art and more about “the spectacle of art.”

The sale of The Scream by Edvard Munch for $120 million is yet another sign that in the art world there is a lot more focus on the business, the ever rising prices, the booming demand. This person said that the world is indeed focused on big sales and big art gatherings such as Biennale or Art Basel.

I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between art and our world of technology. With the fetishization of funding announcements, or the incessant coverage of the sale of Instagram, or mingling at countless events, Silicon Valley (in a proverbial sense) is becoming more about the spectacle of technology. (I hinted as much last year in my post, Is the Internet the “Paris” of the new millennium.)

This is not a judgement — more an observation, for that is where we might be in a cycle, both economic and creative. But as this art historian pointed out, away from the sparkling lights, she has seen new collectives and movements form, which gives her hope. I am betting it is the same in tech-land.

6 Responses to “The spectacle of technology”

  1. Dana Byerlee

    ” ‘fetishization’ of funding announcements” Love this. You always find such unique and spot-on ways to articulate the complex social/ cultural behaviors going on out here

  2. Steve K

    Secret to success (short term); create a need (or desire) and fill it. Or at least the illusion that it’s going to be filled. The days of ‘building a better mousetrap and the world beating a path to your door’ are long gone. To borrow Canon’s tag line “image is everything”. Or maybe it’s more important to ask “Where’s the beef?” Silicon valley has gone though a lot of cycles of innovation and re-inventing itself with world changing products. And almost as many cycles of vaporware that made a few rich quickly but fell like a house of cards because of the hype.
    But that has long been the bastion of the finagler. If you’re not smart enough to come up with some game changer, there’s gullible people to be found who will invest in magic bean farms for awhile.
    I admire that you see this and publish it. I would hope that a function of the press would be to critically and honestly evaluate press releases and the latest hype. The mark of a great reporter has always been the ability to sift though all the stories and present the actual facts.

  3. David Repas

    I think that search for innovation by entrepreneurs has too often become a secondary goal – or a superficial one. It’s now mostly about the financial transaction – whether that be a fundraising event or quick flip acquisition. That focus may make sense if you’re investor, but not if you’re trying to build a company of real value.

  4. I hate how much I agree with you on this one — not because I dislike agreeing with you, but because I love technology innovation and don’t like the industry’s infatuation with “what’s hot” instead of what’s truly innovative.

    • Paul Gupta

      I agree with you. Although this is my first time reading here, so I have no opinion of the author…

      Anyway, they focus on what’s profitable instead of what’s going to change things. Which generally means cheaper technology. Which…is less profitable for the big tech companies.

      I wouldn’t call it deviant, but it is just business. I wish there was more independent tech news out there, but it’s easily eclipsed by the more profitable news.