Digitalisation back

Claudia Schwarz: “Digital innovations bring us closer to a more liveable society”.

Claudia Schwarz: “Digital innovations bring us closer to a more liveable society”.
Photo: © Jens Thomas

The digital revolution is changing work, life and, of course, the entire music market upside down. Who benefits? Claudia Schwarz is a strategy consultant in the field of creative technologies with a focus on music technology and interdisciplinary applications. She is also a co-founder of the creative tech agency WickedWork, founded the startup pixiesound and is Vice President of the German Music Technology Association MusicTech Germany. This year she was a panellist at the Music Tech Fest in Stockholm and spoke on the topic of “Woman Empowerment”: Does digitalisation bring more equality or does it even reproduce stereotypes? We met the tech specialist in Stockholm. 



CCB Magazin: Hello Claudia, you gave a lecture on Woman Empowerment and Digitalisation at the Music Tech Fest in Stockholm. What does digitalisation have to do with the empowerment of women? 

Claudia Schwarz: Quite a lot. Technical innovations have always gone hand in hand with improved access to education and crafts and have strengthened the participation of the individual in society, culture and politics. Of course, this also has an impact on the opportunities to be creative and to become an active part of the social innovation process. The digital transformation in recent years in particular is noticeably driving change for more traditional models of coexistence, cooperation and creative work. Empowerment, regardless of which under-represented group is involved, primarily means access to knowledge, means of communication and, last but not least, resources.

Empowerment primarily means access to knowledge, means of communication and resources. Especially the digital transformation of the last years is driving the change noticeably.

CCB Magazin: Many scientists and IT experts fear that digitalisation will be a real job destroyer. If you believe the forecasts, professions such as translators, journalists or lawyers will be eliminated in the future, and even the IT industry will probably not be spared. Aren’t women the worst off in this respect?  

Claudia Schwarz: I am much more optimistic. Career profiles have always been shaped by social change and therefore also by the influence of technologies and exposed to appropriate tools. In recent years, creative technologies in particular have understood better than almost any other industry that diversity and collaboration are drivers of innovation and ultimately success. Compared to other industries, start-up and team dynamics, personnel policy and working cultures in the field of creative technologies are also much more strongly characterised by equal opportunities, a willingness to experiment and take risks, and trust in - but also dependence on - creative swarms and their individuals. The willingness to invest in these fundamental principles is vital for survival.

CCB Magazin: In a nutshell: Does digitalisation now bring more gender equality or increasing inequality?

Claudia Schwarz: Technologies can, at least for now, only be as good as the people who develop them, use them, think ahead. But breaking down static models of education, work and life is undoubtedly one of the elementary prerequisites for a more balanced society, for example through education and training via digital platforms, through easy access to and exchange with global innovation drivers, and through simplified ways of founding and “self-marketing”. But this requires access to digital tools. Minimising the start-up capital required through approaches such as crowdsourcing and crowdfunding and agile structures are also helpful in this instance.

CCB Magazin: However, increasing algorithms and digital recommendation cultures are increasingly determining our everyday lives. Isn’t digitalisation a danger?  

Claudia Schwarz: I don’t share this general fear, even though the media loves to hype it that way. But, of course, digitalisation does have inherent, hidden dangers. After all, the majority of the population lives in a world that is increasingly permeated by algorithms, such as recommendation cultures, and is exposed to everyday technologies such as facial recognition. And of course the question arises to what extent underlying programming may already be entrenched and shaped by specific parameters that further deepen the disadvantage of certain sections of society or strengthen a potentially homogenised mainstream. Biased technologies are often the result of a programming (programmer) culture that was male-dominated in the early years of the IT industry. It’s important to publicly discuss and question these processes. This is particularly true in view of the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence and the question of which data sets and knowledge we will use to feed machines in the future. 

CCB Magazin: The topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI) currently determines the discourse. While on the one hand the cheering storms continue, critics reply that in the future we will give up the individuality we have fought for over the years. Does digitalisation scare you?

Claudia Schwarz: No, she’s not doing it to me. Fear - especially of the new and unknown - often has a lot to do with ignorance. I am even almost optimistic that digital innovations and new technologies such as AI or Blockchain will be able to bring us closer to a society worth living in the future; a society that is much more characterised by equal opportunities than other generations before us. Especially in the field of music technology, AI really creates fascinating new possibilities.

CCB Magazin: What are they?

Claudia Schwarz: The shape-shifting technology from (UK), for example, generates 10, 100, 1000 licensed individual variations from a song in real time and ultimately expands an artist’s catalogue and earning potential many times over in seconds. Another example is the music therapy possibilities supported by “machine learning”. These technologies already enable patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other degenerative diseases to find their way back to a more fulfilled life.

I’m optimistic. I believe that digital innovations and new technologies like AI or Blockchain will bring us closer to a more liveable society in the future.

CCB Magazin: But don’t you paint a very positive picture here? The opposite side is that we are increasingly letting ourselves be navigated by others and people will become transparent.   

Claudia Schwarz: I can only point out once again that technology can only be as good or as bad as the people who use it. Monopoly structures, economic and cultural hegemonies have rarely been healthy or desirable for the free development of a diverse society. That means, of course, that vigilance is needed. Proactive legislation may also be needed to strengthen innovative and disruptive approaches. We must strengthen diversity as a counterweight to technologies that are often driven exclusively by large corporations. 

CCB Magazin:Keyword counterweight: The music value chain is changing rapidly as a result of digitalisation. While the CD will soon belong to the antiquarian bookshop, the music industry is making profits again through streaming. At the same time, many complain that music is increasingly becoming a monoculture in the wake of ‘Spotifying’ music. Spotify’s algorithms usually search for the lowest common denominator. Especially the niches and the experimental fall through the digital search. Doesn’t digitalisation mean the end of experimental culture and the democratisation of music in the long run?

Claudia Schwarz: Even though it’s a joke at almost every conference that Germany still has a comparably high proportion of physical sales, this can also be viewed positively: The variety of media has never been greater or more inclusive. And even the positive sales figures for cassettes last year surprised me. The more easily music becomes available, the more tempting it is to step out of an active role and, for example, indulge in the luxury of curated playlists. Attributing the responsibility for such a development primarily to the platforms and providers seems a little too simplistic to me. Despite high user numbers in some cases, hardly any platform or application in the field of music technology - or creative content in general - is currently profitable. 

The variety of media has never been bigger or more inclusive. Now, however, users are also being asked to discover content outside the mainstream.

CCB Magazin: What’s the reason for that?  

Claudia Schwarz: Suppliers are often driven by the high expectations of investors. Add to that the inertia of many users. Not infrequently, it’s primarily the mainstream that is served, as we have known it from radio and television for years. Technologically, however, there have never been so many possibilities to serve the artistic “long tail”: Very special genres, lyrics in languages that may not immediately be understood by the majority of the world’s population, experimental compositions, unusual instrumentation, organic marketing of content and so on. But in order to support (sub)cultures at the level of technological innovation, we need to rethink.

CCB Magazin: And that means? 

Claudia Schwarz: We should ask ourselves how creative content will make sense in the future - and that means in the sense of artists, creatives and users! - can be licensed for the use of current technologies. Currently, the available licensing models and the high pressure on investors’ expectations determine, for example, the prices for the end consumer and thus also influence the chances a new idea has on the market. Unfortunately, the latter disproportionately affects ideas and business models that are aimed at a small circle of users - for example, niche markets, but also a comparably small group of people affected, such as the music therapy segment. 

CCB Magazin: How do you change that?

Claudia Schwarz: An international network of innovation drivers, including MusicTech Germany and WickedWork, is currently working on a “global innovation license”. This license is intended to simplify the licensing process for creative content for new applications in the field of decentralised technologies. This is important and necessary in view of the amendment to Article 13 of EU copyright law adopted on 12 September 2018: In the future, it will be even more important to help shape and promote more flexible licensing models. At the same time, this is also an - if not the - answer to the question of participation in the digital value chain and the end of the value-added gap. Many technologies are already available and they’re constantly being developed further. It’s precisely now that all stakeholders should urgently and continuously engage in discourse. The aim must be to shape the ecosystem in such a way that creation and enjoyment stand in a harmonious relationship to one another.

Category: Knowledge & Analysis


Also a good read