The concept of “First Word, Last Word” refers to the ability of a work to remain fresh, astounding or impressive to the audience. The Gartner Hype Cycle graphs out this phenomenon through a series of points representing the popularity or usefulness of certain utilities and ideas. The “first word arts” exist as yellow arrows, climbing up the Technology Trigger and heading close to the Peak of Inflated Expectations. They represent new ideas, impressive and innovative displays that have not yet become the popular, hot, mainstream news. The area of the curve between the Peak of Inflated Expectations and the Trough of Disillusionment embodies the “last word arts”. Only works that remain steadily between these two areas have not fallen into the category of disinterest or the expectation of norm. Yet these works are well known and remain talked about amongst the people. My interests exist somewhere between the Innovation Trigger and the Peak of Inflated Expectations. I wish to create works with found technology but present it in a new way. Instead of working near the Peak of Inflated Expectations where there already exist works I must compare with for ideas, I want to create something new. I think Schulze enjoys working in the “Trough of Disillusionment” because there is something magical about the forgotten common items. They may be found everywhere and blended in with their surroundings, but it does not make them any less curious.
First Word art and Last Word art are comparable to the peak of inflated expectation the slope of enlightenment respectively. The First Word art defines a movement and puts it into the spotlight. What follows is a series of imitators who establishes a set of norms. On the peak of the GHC, the technology similarly becomes extremely popular, but soon becomes commonplace and trite.
Last Word art is a second revolution within the movement where the technology or art form is brought dramatically to new heights. As Naimark’s student pointed out, the Last Word art stands the test of time, and the technologies that came during or after the enlightenment are the ones that will be used by future generations. This is probably why Schulze prefers to work in the trough. He wants the progress he made to be the one that sparked the enlightenment and ends up being the lasting one.
I, too, would prefer to work in the trough, as I would feel more comfortable working within an established set of rules, yet I would also feel adventurous making progress in a technology or art form that hasn’t realized its full potential.
The theories behind the Gartner Hype Cycle and “First Word Art / Last Word Art” by Michael Naimark both attempt to address how new creations make an impact on our society.
The Gartner Hype Cycle is an annual, calculated curve that shows how particular inventions trend through five phases of popularity. These stages basically describe how a breakthrough product starts gaining popularity exponentially and reaches its peak with success before consumers start realizing the downfalls of the product. After losing popularity, there is a point where the product is produced very cheaply, but may gain more attention as its applications begin to evolve. From there, the product can reenter the market at a steady rate of productivity.Source: Gartner August 2013
In the MIT Media Conversations Series, Jack Schulze voiced how he preferred to work in the “Trough of Disillusionment”, where products have lost most of public interest and are mass produced cheaply. He favors this trough because there is interest in the dull, disregarded mechanisms that have the appeal of affordability and quantity. I can side with his point of view because I am more attracted to the hidden potential of an object overlooked rather than a shiny new toy. Then again, that could be my hipster side speaking.
First Word Art / Last Word Art, on the other hand describes how the two most popular types of art tend to be the groundbreaking, new age pieces, or timeless works that are built upon established and accepted form. Personally, I don’t really believe there can truly be a First Word or Last Word Art because artists are constantly inspired by each other in cycles. I recently read the book,
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, and it basically says great artists draw endlessly from the ideas of other artists. So how can there be a true first and last word art? But I can agree that there are some artists that are constantly pushing for radical, fresh concepts, and others who gradually gain respect through their masterful conquering of an established style. What unifies these two extremes is the fact that these artists are making an identity for themselves that will continue to drive future generations.
Here is a TED Talk by Austin Kleon:
First word art time period is equivalent to the Peak of Inflated Expectations, because technology and art in that area are not well understood and thus could not be judged by existing standards, they become idealized with too much hype, thus causing the Peak of Inflated Expectations. On the other hand, last word art is equivalent to Plateau of Productivity, where rules and understandings are now grounded in reality, so people can start producing them en masse.
I prefer to start on new technologies after the initial wave of hype and idealism has passed, so my interest lay somewhere after the start of the Slope of Enlightenment. This would be equivalent to being somewhere near the start of last word art.
Schulze prefers Trough of Disillusionment because it provides the perfect balance; we understood enough about the technology to not be misled by idealism, so he does not have to spend time personally conduct experimentation, yet at the same time there are plenty of opportunities that can be taken before the bandwagon rolls in.
Both the Gartner Hype Cycle and the First Word/ Last Word analysis are interpretations of society expectations. The Hype Cycle takes a more quantitative, objective view, determining humanity’s interest in technologies based numerical data collected from the technology’s emergence and reaction. First Word/ Last Word looks at emerging art in a similar way: initially, the viability of a newly birthed medium is often questioned, just as a newly emerging technology rank low in expectations on the Hype Cycle. Over time the medium and the technology rise along the expectation curve as audiences become more interested in their functions and applications. Both reach a peak in expectations, during which time the Last Word artwork or crowning refinement of the technology is created. Expectations of improvement plummet due to the Last Word’s success, but the medium/technology is still in use. Gradually the method resumes some of its former expectations as it reaches a mainstream level.
I think Schulze prefers working in The Trough of Disillusionment because the technology/medium takes on new connotations and conceptual value as a symbol of society with its fall from glory. For example, what once was only available only to the wealthy can now be accessed by the masses. I tend to build from established tools, so I too prefer to work from the Trough.
The Gartner Hype Cycle and first word art/last word art have something in common at their cores: both concern novelty in their respective areas. But these areas converge. Novelty in art and technology go hand in hand, where people make art from the newest technology or develop the newest technology to make art. The technology doesn’t necessarily have to be recent; consider the rediscovering of perspective in Renaissance art.
What is made with the most hyped technology is the first word art. For example, the first art made with 3D printing at the Peak of Inflated Expectations is first word art. What could be the last word art when using the technology present in the cycle? What was made with the technologies in the Trough of Disillusionment before they ended up in the trough could be considered last word art, since last word art implies that whatever work that was made with those technologies couldn’t be overshadowed by another work made with the same media. Since the expectation couldn’t be beaten, people become disillusioned with the technology and kick it into the trough.
My interest is whatever is accessible at first glance. Craft comes from immediate access–if I have the technology in my immediate vicinity, and have an idea to do something with that technology, then I would execute it. I don’t particularly care for creating the first word art because those things happen naturally and most unexpectedly. It’s like history: full of pockets of anomalies driving events. (People would disagree with me.)
In that way, I relate to Schulze because he prefers to work in the Trough of Disillusionment. As he said in the talk, he sees the value in how cheap the technologies are in the Trough of Disillusionment, because they’ve all been done before. There are no expectations for whatever is in the trough. You don’t have to live up to what society deems to be “cool.” You are free to explore, and produce as much as you want, because no one’s really looking. In quantity lies experimentation, and experimentation is the cause of first word art (and a bit of innovation).