Futures and Beyond 2022: The next step in the Creativity and 4IR Conversation

UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA), will host the ‘Futures and Beyond: Creativity and 4IR Conference’ on 30 and 31 August 2022, a two-day, free-to-attend virtual conference. Thought leaders, researchers, and strategists from across the creative industries, technology sectors and 4IR development will engage in an exchange of knowledge dialogue.

Following the success of the 2021 inaugural forum, this year’s conference aims to serve as an impetus for an Africa-centric discourse and knowledge development at the intersection of Creativity and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). This year’s discussion will focus on an approach to unpacking the idea of art as an enabler of 4IR skills. The ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills is critical for any industry, which is reflected in the findings in the ‘Futures and Beyond Forum report.

The aspect of humanity within these significant anticipated technological changes is a critical area where ethical design should be considered from a historical perspective to ensure that flawed and oppressive systems do not perpetuate the inequality and discrimination that is stifling development on the continent. A grasp of the three proceeding industrial revolutions known to modern society helps frame an understanding of 4IR. Historically, industrial revolutions have been stimulated by major technological changes, that inform the rate and types of production, which in turn informs systems of labour. These changes have economic repercussions such as greater prosperity for those who own the means of production and major shifts in the use and ownership of resources. Importantly, industrial revolutions have also had substantial social impacts, such as education, gender relations, urbanization, and rapid globalization.

Previous revolutions are well established in literature and their impact has been substantially studied. The development of the cultural and creative sectors is also entwined with changes in technology and creatives have always played a role, both in the development of new technologies as well as in their proliferation. 4IR is, however, still very much in conceptualization, and the range of terms that define it is still in debate. Even more in debate is the impact it is likely to have on all spheres of human life, as well as on the creative sector more specifically.

The thematic approach of this Creativity and 4IR conference is divided into two main streams:


Ethics is a major issue of contention within 4IR, particularly in relation to data security, platform management and cyber bullying. Security is an increasing issue that will only expand further as 4IR unfolds. At a more philosophical level, new technologies are beginning to raise questions that are rooted in our histories and societal ills. The training of machine learning based on profit orientation has already resulted in ‘unethical’ machines that have resorted to political and religious extremism in order to increase consumption on platforms. Face recognition technologies and even auto-assistants rely on flawed data that are often racist and sexist, resulting in algorithms that perpetuate the problem. The current trend of relatively low-cost development of innovative technologies with enthusiastic users and markets bodes well as a strong basis for an Intellectual Property (IP) orientation in the continent’s strategy towards 4IR.


Many creatives and scholars believe that the creative and cultural sectors are well placed to be enablers of 4IR. These sectors hold the potential to ease the adoption of new technologies and provide practical ways in which these technologies could be applied and understood. In many respects, creative industries have pioneered the use of new technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D printing. The arts, unlike manufacturing and transportation, has a more nuanced relationship to 4IR. To some extent, 4IR is taking up some roles previously held by creatives. In another sense, creativity and the arts are arguably central fields for the development of 4IR and the skills and capacities to harness it.

Well-known performance poet Lebo Mashile will play host to the conference that will feature, among other presentations (subject to change):

  1. Changing perspectives on gender through imagined futures: A speculative design inquiry presented by Kimberly Bediako.
  2. Dilemmatic spaces and the online experience: The meaning of embodiment for applied theatre in South Africa presented by Lireko Qhobela.
  3. Use of virtual reality to address community service nurses’ experimental knowledge gaps in treatment of hypertension presented by Jayd Clara
  4. Illustrator as Feminist Activist: The role of visual communication presented by Christi-Lee du Plessis.
  5. Digital Divination and the African Speculative Time Complex presented by Heidi Sincuba.
  6. Modes and methods of making: Pushing design creativity in using a Maker’s Laboratory as a form of an incubator to foster 4IR developments presented by Steffen Fischer.
  7. Wom{b}_anifesto: A Radical Dreaming Movement presented by Vuyolwethu Reoagile, Mahlohonolo Chalatse and Ilze Mari Wessels.
  8. Politics of representation: How can screen dance be used as a tool to reframe the black female body? presented by Sasha-Lee Setzin.
  9. Innovating Festivals: new formats, new measures, new possibilities presented by Prof Jen Snowball, Dr Roberta Comunian, Dr Jonathan Gross, Mr Delon Tarentaal and Ms Fiona Drummon.
  10. New skills for a new era: Shifting South African industrial design education through the integration of virtual reality and 3D printing in student projects presented by Ashton Moseley and Oratile Mokgatla.
  11. Rogue Processes: Speculative Techno-Visions on the Post-Pandemic South African Art Scene presented by Minè Kleynhans.
  12. Arts as a leading force in the marathon of 4th Industrial Revolution presented by Lehlohonolo Peega.
  13. Investigating an interaction between machines: A case study using Facial Expression Recognition and Virtual Avatars presented by Keenan van Rooyen.
  14. Panel Discussion looking at the response to the 4IR Commission of the Presidential 4IR Strategic Commission (PC4IR) moderated by Dr Tegan Bristow.

The full programme for both days is available on the conference website https://futuresandbeyond.uj.ac.za/.

As with the 2021 ‘Futures and Beyond Forum’, the event aims to develop better understanding of the modalities of responses to changes within the creative industries and how to keep up with 4IR skills. These responses may offer generative approaches which can be adopted by policymakers.

4IR is still very much in conceptualization, and the range of terms that define it is still in debate. Even more in debate is the impact it is likely to have on all spheres of human life, as well as on the creative sector more specifically. Furthermore, the specificities of industrialisation on the African continent require unique approaches that respond to the context and needs of African societies. These approaches will define the future for the cultural and creative sectors while at the same time re-imagining a new future for Africa where humanity and technology meet.

‘Futures and Beyond: Creativity and 4IR Conference’ is a virtual conference

Date: 30 -31 August 2022

Tickets: Free

Visit www.arts.uj.ac.za to register to attend.

About UJ Arts and Culture

UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA), produces and presents world-class student and professional arts programmes aligned to the UJ vision of an international university of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future. A robust range of arts platforms are offered on all four UJ campuses for students, staff, alumni and the general public to experience and engage with emerging and established Pan-African and international artists drawn from the full spectrum of the arts.

In addition to UJ Arts & Culture, FADA (www.uj.ac.za/fada) offers programmes in eight creative disciplines, in Art, Design and Architecture, as well as playing home to the NRF SARChI Chair in South African Art & Visual Culture, and the Visual Identities in Art & Design Research Centre. The Faculty has a strong focus on sustainability and relevance, and engages actively with the dynamism, creativity and diversity of Johannesburg in imagining new approaches to art and design education.