by Erick R. Schmidt // Spring 2013
Mark O’Renick (B.B.A ’84)
Principal in marketing services agency Salva-O’Renick and business accelerator, Ingenology.
Nicole Emanuel (Arts and Sciences )
Award-winning painter and community artist, she works in public schools and has a nonprofit (InterUrban ArtHouse) that helps organize affordable space for artists.
Jim Lammers (B.S.E.E. ’87)
Founder and owner of Trinity Animation, a 3D animation and visualization studio that does work for the television series Archer.
Perspectives: How do you use technology in your career, and how important is it to you?
MARK O’RENICK (MO): In marketing business, tech has changed the way people gather information and learn about products and services. The way business is done gets easier, faster and less expensive. And there are more things we can do. 3D animation…I think is a great example of that.
NICOLE EMANUEL (NE): In the arts, connectivity is the most important part of it. I can work with people I am nowhere near and organize vast projects that involve large numbers of people. And I can invite the audience and set the whole thing up virtually. The important part is the face-to-face, and the part that’s on the ground and real. The other aspect is that I’m also a writer, and the availability of research information from my home is constantly surprising. I can do research into historical aspects that I could not have done, even if I knew what library it was in. And now I don’t have to travel.
JIM LAMMERS (JL): The whole thing we do is pretty pictures created with computers. The computers give us the efficiency to do it in a way that makes it a real good deal for our customers because we can revise it easily. Technology’s been at the core of it from the very beginning, and when the Internet started to become really common in the later ’90s, our business really took off because we were able to market worldwide.
How does the omnipresence of technology affect the three of you?
MO: There’s an interesting dichotomy that technology provides, in that it has brought us closer together, and yet in many ways we’re further apart in terms of interpersonal relationships. We’ve kind of lost the art of the long, slow dinner. We tend to communicate in 140 characters or by text. It’s not the most efficient way.
NE: To be in a room when someone is playing guitar or doing a sculpture or playing the violin and interacting with the kids, and physically experiencing that immediacy. I don’t think there’s a replacement for that visceral experience. One of the difficulties in the art world is the replacement of direct access to materials and your audience. This once-removed element when you’re working through technology and your work becomes digitized, there’s an element of sensual displacement. The senses are less directly involved.
JL: I agree. It’s important to remember the human factor. I wouldn’t say that technology within our firm and within our lifestyle has got any downside, but just like anything, every individual has to remember that they control it and not the other way around. I don’t take my cell phone into meetings, luncheons or anything. You have to make the important things come first and put the cell phone away.
MO: They’re laughing at me because I’ve got my cell phone out. I was just checking my email.
With that in mind, what piece of technology is most damaging to our attention spans? Most beneficial?
NE: Anything that breaks your ability to make eye contact. If you are looking down at a screen and not facing the person you’re with at a dinner table or in a meeting and constantly checking your boops and your beeps, there’s something lost in that. It can be anything technologically that keeps you from being in the moment.
JL: I totally agree. People need to learn that just because the phone’s ringing, it doesn’t need to be answered. Sometimes it’s smart to leave the phone in the car and come be part of the meeting or come be part of the interaction with other people. This is something that needs to be communicated more with the under-25 crowd. It’s kind of a joke. You’ll have a gathering of 20-somethings and none of them are looking at each other.
MO: Yeah, I think phones are the biggest because they’re so portable. My daughter’s 14 and we text. She won’t pick up the phone and answer, you know? It’s five texts to get done what I can get done in 30 seconds.
NE: It’s requiring us to completely rearrange our sense of discipline. What’s urgent, like this sensation in your pocket, is what’s important right there in front of you. The urgency message is something you have to have discipline to corral yourself away from.
JL: It shows a kind of disrespect in my view if you’re with someone and they would rather take a call. It’s like, “I’m here! I’m alive, across the table from you!’”
ME: Right. Weird new etiquette on these things, huh?
How does that on-demand mentality affect what you do professionally?
MO: There’s this expectation that we can track everything, and if we can track everything, we can deliver the perfect result. But humans aren’t predictable. Technology is never an end, in and of itself.
NE: I got distracted and forgot the question. Oh, shortened attention span. I’m more interested in being with people and watching them perceiving, understanding how things are made, working with materials, getting dirty, having conflicts and having them resolved.
JL: That’s an interesting point. We try to find ways to make it work for us. Businesswise, technology has taken us so much farther than we would be otherwise. The younger group will adapt and work it into their etiquette and their behavior in a way that works for them.
MO: Yeah, and I wouldn’t trade it for everything in the world. Technology has given us so much. It’s just the management of it that’s critical.
NE: Well, and never losing a sense of social responsibility that those tools give us. There will always be differences in resources, class and wealth. If we don’t use the technology to give more to people who don’t have it, I think that’s a misuse.
Are we better off now than we were 10 or 20 years ago? Are you excited for what comes next?
NE: How would you know if it’s better if you don’t know what the future is? But the promise for neuroscience and the ability to understand the use of technology to improve our physical existence is really exciting. Artistically, there are probably all kinds of things coming that we couldn’t even conceive of. Who would have known that we could have the 3D resolution that we have in animation? Animation is remarkable right now.
Does that threaten you as an artist or do you embrace not knowing what might come next?
JL: To me, it’s all wonderful and exciting. I agree that the current time is the best it’s ever been. Even in human terms for communication, the ability to reach out and connect with people who I would have otherwise lost touch with, I think the good outweighs the bad by far. It’s just a really wonderful time to live in.
MO: Right now, the kids growing up are natives. They’re going to do things with it that we couldn’t imagine because it’s just been ingrained in who they are.
NE: Our capacity to know what’s happening in every corner of the world is a little overwhelming, but at the same time you use your skillset to respond to that. Think globally, act locally. There’s nostalgia or a kickback from technology that people are getting much more interested in local food providers, artists and performers. There’s a little bit of loyalty for what’s around you. And the answer is no, not threatened. Excited, definitely. Just think about how many more people get seen or heard.