Art + Tech
March 10, 2017
Just as art takes many forms at the museum, artists also are contributing in non-traditional venues and industries. On April 8, we host a talk with technical writer Deborah Harrison whose work with Microsoft reflects how the tech field is using the creative arts in new ways.
Harrison is an editorial writer for Cortana, Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant that can, among other things, answer questions and recognize natural voice without keyboard input. Harrison discusses how technology has opened new career paths for poets, playwrights and novelists. Here are some of her insights:
Q: You’re a writer. What brought you to the tech field?
I fell into tech by accident. With a liberal arts degree in English, I had been doing some freelance writing. I secured a technical writing internship in Seattle and eventually landed a job at Microsoft. I started writing Help content for the web and eventually landed at Windows Phone. It was there that we began to explore an evolution to the Microsoft style that was more personable and conversational. Then Cortana came along.
Q: Why to tech firms need artistic people like novelists, playwrights, comedians, poets on their teams?
For Microsoft, working on Cortana requires a deep understanding of dialog and narrative structure because Cortana has a distinct, carefully crafted personality. As best we can, we design every word to reflect that personality. The work requires collaboration, technical acuity, and a creative, expressive approach. Filmmakers, screenwriters, poets, authors have experience generating character and crafting dialog. That’s profoundly helpful in the work we do.
Q: What’s the future for writers and artists in the tech field?
The technology field is good at gathering and analyzing data. We’re now figuring out what to do with all that data. Artists—people who can inhabit many points of view, who revel in exploring alternative approaches—bring something crucial to that exploration.
Meet Deborah Harrison during
3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 8
Authors sell and discuss their work as we celebrate how reading and writing enrich our lives.