Breaking boundaries: the spread of tech-enabled access to art

Is all art for everyone? Are works that sell for millions in auction houses and street murals in urban playgrounds equally deserving of access for all? Increasingly technologists are signaling “YES” with clever products that not only introduce access to art, but call for active engagement. 

Accessibility 1.0: distributive access

Accessibility 1.0, much like Web 1.0, focused on just getting the content distributed. These are online portals that make users able to see and learn about art, like Khan Academy’s art history content. Accessibility 1.0 focuses on the democratization of knowledge, much like Project Gutenberg, which has famously provided access to over 57,000 free eBooks.

Accessibility 2.0: putting the AR in art

Accessibility 2.0 is underway, with a new generation of tech-enabled art evangelists. They want historic art and art from your every day experience to be equally as accessible, physically and psychologically.

As augmented reality has become just an app download away, marketers and philanthropists alike have identified the opportunity to make art look and feel more tangible. Using Art.com‘s ArtView feature you can get a preview of what a piece looks like on your living room wall. 

AR initiatives such as CMU’s Art Management & Technology Laboratory have also begun developing similar functionality for educational purposes; such initiatives can project historic paintings, statues, and structures, allowing for people to actively explore.

Accessibility 3.0: enabling creativity

Accessibility 3.0 has rolled out almost simultaneously. To its vanguards, accessibility means both being able to see and interact with art, as well as being able to make it.

Prisma is an exemplary app that transforms any ordinary photo into an impressionist piece a la Picasso or surrealist Salvador Dali at the touch of a screen. While mega companies are waiting at the wings to buy user behavior data, the technology allows a new level of personal expression in user generated content.

GalaPro is also opening another arts door to the disabled: theater. This new app interprets performances for deaf, blind, and non-English-speaking audiences, by providing audio descriptions, captioning, and dubbing. Twelve Broadway theaters now offer GalaPro.  One show, Children of a Lesser God, features hearing, hard of hearing, and deaf actors. The show itself features full subtitles throughout using the same technology from GalaPro.

This rapid evolution of accessibility tools, providing knowledge and the opportunity for self-expression, makes art accessibility feel more achievable than ever. Invisible lines are being crossed and blurred and soon will be erased from our augmented view.

Moving in and taking out – the demise of Seamless

It’s July, I’ve tossed my graduation cap up in the air, and into a crate. I’ll miss the NYU housing, just a stone’s throw away from Washington Square Park. Mamoun’s will no longer be my go-to dinner spot, and I finished my last Smith’s brunch for a while yesterday morning. 

The two movers from Queens that I found on Craig’s List arrived with their van, and we begin the elevator dance, squeezing what we can into the freight in our 3 hour reserved slot. I’d managed to find a new three bedroom in a hot new neighborhood. Well, just outside of a hot new neighborhood – Bushwick; itโ€™s more affordable. It’s a walk-up, but I’m only on the second floor, and there’s three of us — we can handle.

Six hours later, with 30 minutes of coach maneuvering, we’ve arrived as a sweaty mess of cardboard boxes in the living room. I don’t know were my new work wardrobe ends and my pots and pans begin. I think to myself, If I can make it here, I can also get it delivered. Already salivating, I pull out my phone and open up Seamless, visions of chicken pad thai dancing through my mind. I scroll. And scroll. And scroll. Polish food. All Polish food. No thai food even touches the map of possibilities. Even if I pretend to be a few blocks closer to Manhattan, I seem to be just one block further east than any Thai restaurant is willing to go. And it fully dawns on me, I’ve made a horrible mistake — I have moved into a delivery desert.

I lived in a land with sushi as far as the eye can see only 6 hours ago. In the depths of my despair, I realize I need to pay the movers. As they open Venmo to make the request, I notice a *whole screen* of food apps. “Hey, which of those apps do delivery around here?” I ask, trying not to sound as desperate as I am. “All of them,” my mover says. I gape in disbelief. “Want a referral? I can send you all of them – DoorDash, Postmates, maybe Caviar because – treat yo-self”. Hell. Yes. “That would be awesome, I owe you a tip as well, add it to the Venmo.” 

My world had just contracted and expanded in the space of minutes, the Big Bang of delivery. Just because I don’t live in the Village, doesn’t mean I can’t eat like I do. The confines of my local neighborhood erased, the city is once again my bread basket.

Download #1 complete. Postmates. I open, and scroll, and scroll. It was there. It was all there. Restaurants that had mysteriously disappeared from Seamless months ago, now available to me, miles away. I now saw the shifting tides for what they were: the Great Unbundling. The restaurants no longer had to hire delivery people, or share a cut with Seamless. They could just outsource it.

Further down the list: Shake Shack. This explained the mysterious lines of this non-delivering burger power house. These delivery services will order for you, and wait in line! And after a day like mine, I am more than willing to pay the service and delivery costs. I upgrade from my #2 to my #1 Thai place, now that it’s back on the map, and place a double order of chicken pad thai. And while I’m at it, I delete the Seamless app. Goodbye peirogis, hello world.

I was in stitches: the most American 4th of July

As I was bleeding out on the pavement, I reached for my iPhone to check my insurance app. Maybe someone was having a sale on stitches this week, ideally someone close by. However, because it was the 4th of July (a typically injury fraught holiday), it seemed like surge pricing was in full effect. $75 just to have a look. Thus began the mental calculus many Americans are all too familiar with. Do I really need stitches anyway? I mean maybe I could get by with a bandaid… a really big bandaid.

At this point, I’m usually tempted to open Tinder and start swiping until I match with a doctor (or at least a medical student). I’m in no position to fight temptation. Even at $16 for a cocktail, it’s cheaper than urgent care.

Now I’m not going to say I was biking while intoxicated, but I just started this new starvation diet where you don’t eat anything for the first 36 hours, then you’re allowed 6 almonds for the next 72. Perhaps I was a little light headed, but definitely still in control. I can handle my almonds!

Just my luck, I matched with Dr. McDreamy, sitting right in the closest urgent care center.

Me: Hey, you busy?
Doctor: I am at work right now, but this guy isn’t getting any better no matter what I do. Sup with you?
Me: I’m having the most American of 4th of Julys. You really a doctor?
Doctor: Yep
Me: Pop quiz! How would you treat minor abrasions and multiple epidermal lacerations on the left leg?
Doctor: Umm…I usually start with drinks
Me: Great! What kind of alcohol ya got? Rubbing? ๐Ÿ˜‰
Doctor: Wow, it’s like you know me.
Me: Well, I’d love to get to know you more. In fact, I am heading over to you right now.

I hobbled my way over, credit card in hand. In the end I wound up with a rather large bandage. I’m sure it will be fine. Happy 4th!