Case Study: Tourism New Zealand website
New Zealand is a small country of four million inhabitants, a long-haul flight from all the major tourist-generating markets of the world. Tourism currently makes up 9% of the country’s gross domestic product, and is the country’s largest export sector. Unlike other export sectors, which make products and then sell them overseas, tourism brings its customers to New Zealand. The product is the country itself - the people, the places and the experiences. In 1999, Tourism New Zealand launched a campaign to communicate a new brand position to the world. The campaign focused on New Zealand’s scenic beauty, exhilarating outdoor activities and authentic Maori culture, and it made New Zealand one of the strongest national brands in the world.
A key feature of the campaign was the website www.newzealand.com, which provided potential visitors to New Zealand with a single gateway to everything the destination had to offer. The heart of the website was a database of tourism services operators, both those based in New Zealand and those based abroad which offered tourism services to the country. Any tourism-related business could be listed by filling in a simple form. This meant that even the smallest bed and breakfast address or specialist activity provider could gain a web presence with access to an audience of long-haul visitors. In addition, because participating businesses were able to update the details they gave on a regular basis, the information provided remained accurate. And to maintain and improve standards, Tourism New Zealand organised a scheme whereby organisations appearing on the website underwent an independent evaluation against a set of agreed national standards of quality. As part of this, the effect of each business on the environment was considered.
To communicate the New Zealand experience, the site also carried features relating to famous people and places. One of the most popular was an interview with former New Zealand All Blacks rugby captain Tana Umaga. Another feature that attracted a lot of attention was an interactive journey through a number of the locations chosen for blockbuster films which had made use of New Zealand’s stunning scenery as a backdrop. As the site developed, additional features were added to help independent travellers devise their own customised itineraries. To make it easier to plan motoring holidays, the site catalogued the most popular driving routes in the country, highlighting different routes according to the season and indicating distances and times.
Later, a Travel Planner feature was added, which allowed visitors to click and ‘bookmark’ places or attractions they were interested in, and then view the results on a map. The Travel Planner offered suggested routes and public transport options between the chosen locations. There were also links to accommodation in the area. By registering with the website, users could save their Travel Plan and return to it later, or print it out to take on the visit. The website also had a ‘Your Words’ section where anyone could submit a blog of their New Zealand travels for possible inclusion on the website.
The Tourism New Zealand website won two Webby awards for online achievement and innovation. More importantly perhaps, the growth of tourism to New Zealand was impressive. Overall tourism expenditure increased by an average of 6.9% per year between 1999 and 2004. From Britain, visits to New Zealand grew at an average annual rate of 13% between 2002 and 2006, compared to a rate of 4% overall for British visits abroad.
The website was set up to allow both individuals and travel organisations to create itineraries and travel packages to suit their own needs and interests. On the website, visitors can search for activities not solely by geographical location, but also by the particular nature of the activity. This is important as research shows that activities are the key driver of visitor satisfaction, contributing 74% to visitor satisfaction, while transport and accommodation account for the remaining 26%. The more activities that visitors undertake, the more satisfied they will be. It has also been found that visitors enjoy cultural activities most when they are interactive, such as visiting a marae (meeting ground) to learn about traditional Maori life. Many long-haul travellers enjoy such learning experiences, which provide them with stories to take home to their friends and family. In addition, it appears that visitors to New Zealand don’t want to be ‘one of the crowd’ and find activities that involve only a few people more special and meaningful.
It could be argued that New Zealand is not a typical destination. New Zealand is a small country with a visitor economy composed mainly of small businesses. It is generally perceived as a safe English-speaking country with a reliable transport infrastructure. Because of the long-haul flight, most visitors stay for longer (average 20 days) and want to see as much of the country as possible on what is often seen as a once-in-a-lifetime visit. However, the underlying lessons apply anywhere - the effectiveness of a strong brand, a strategy based on unique experiences and a comprehensive and user-friendly website.
The Painting Fool is one of a growing number of computer programs which, so their makers claim, possess creative talents. Classical music by an artificial composer has had audiences enraptured, and even tricked them into believing a human was behind the score. Artworks painted by a robot have sold for thousands of dollars and been hung in prestigious galleries. And software has been built which creates art that could not have been imagined by the programmer.
Human beings are the only species to perform sophisticated creative acts regularly. If we can break this process down into computer code, where does that leave human creativity? ‘This is a question at the very core of humanity,’ says Geraint Wiggins, a computational creativity researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London. ‘It scares a lot of people. They are worried that it is taking something special away from what it means to be human.’
人类是唯一能够常规性地完成复杂艺术创作行为的物种。如果我们可以将这个过程分解成为电脑编码，那把人类创造力置于何地呢?“这是一个关乎人性最核心的问题”，伦敦大学金史密斯学院的一位计算机创造力研究学者Geraint Wiggins 这样说。“它让许多人感到恐惧，他们担忧这会从人类中剥夺某些特殊的本属于人类的东西。”
To some extent, we are all familiar with computerised art. The question is: where does the work of the artist stop and the creativity of the computer begin? Consider one of the oldest machine artists, Aaron, a robot that has had paintings exhibited in London’s Tate Modern and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Aaron can pick up a paintbrush and paint on canvas on its own. Impressive perhaps, but it is still little more than a tool to realise the programmer’s own creative ideas.
Simon Colton, the designer of the Painting Fool, is keen to make sure his creation doesn’t attract the same criticism. Unlike earlier ‘artists’ such as Aaron, the Painting Fool only needs minimal direction and can come up with its own concepts by going online for material. The software runs its own web searches and trawls through social media sites. It is now beginning to display a kind of imagination too, creating pictures from scratch. One of its original works is a series of fuzzy landscapes, depicting trees and sky. While some might say they have a mechanical look, Colton argues that such reactions arise from people’s double standards towards software-produced and human-produced art. After all, he says, consider that the Painting Fool painted the landscapes without referring to a photo. ‘If a child painted a new scene from its head, you’d say it has a certain level of imagination,’ he points out. The same should be true of a machine.’ Software bugs can also lead to unexpected results. Some of the Painting Fool’s paintings of a chair came out in black and white, thanks to a technical glitch. This gives the work an eerie, ghostlike quality. Human artists like the renowned Ellsworth Kelly are lauded for limiting their colour palette - so why should computers be any different?
“绘画愚人”的设计者Simon Colton 非常热切地想要确保他的产品不会引来同样的批评。不像Aaron这样的早期艺术家，“绘画愚人”只需要极少量的指令，就能通过上网搜索材料而产生自己的创作理念。这个软件启动其自身的网页搜索功能，浏览各个社交媒体页面。它现在也开始展示出了某种想象力，能从草稿中创造出完整的画作。它的原创作品之一是一系列朦胧风景画，描绘的是树木与天空。虽然有些人也许会说这些画作有一种机械感，Colton却反驳说，这样的反应是出于人们对待软件创作和人类创作的艺术的双重标准。毕竟，他这样说，要考虑到“绘画愚人”是在没有参照一张照片的情况下画出了这些风景。“如果一个孩子从自己的头脑中描绘出一副新的景象，你就会说这个孩子有一定的想象力水平的”，他说，“放在一台机器上也应当一样。”软件漏洞也有可能会造成意想不到的效果。“绘画愚人”描绘一把椅子的一些由于技术故障作品成了黑白色。这赋予了画作一种怪诞、诡异的感觉。有一些如Ellsworth Kelly般著名的人类艺术家因为非常克制地运用自己调色板上的色彩而广受传颂——那么放在电脑身上为什么就应当有所不同呢?
Researchers like Colton don’t believe it is right to measure machine creativity directly to that of humans who ‘have had millennia to develop our skills’. Others, though, are fascinated by the prospect that a computer might create something as original and subtle as our best artists. So far, only one has come close. Composer David Cope invented a program called Experiments in Musical Intelligence, or EMI. Not only did EMI create compositions in Cope’s style, but also that of the most revered classical composers, including Bach, Chopin and Mozart. Audiences were moved to tears, and EMI even fooled classical music experts into thinking they were hearing genuine Bach. Not everyone was impressed however. Some, such as Wiggins, have blasted Cope’s work as pseudoscience, and condemned him for his deliberately vague explanation of how the software worked. Meanwhile, Douglas Hofstadter of Indiana University said EMI created replicas which still rely completely on the original artist’s creative impulses. When audiences found out the truth they were often outraged with Cope, and one music lover even tried to punch him. Amid such controversy, Cope destroyed EMI’s vital databases.
像Colton这样的研究者们并不赞成将机器创造力直接与人类创造力相提并论互相比较，因为“人类已经有几千年的时光来发展我们的技巧了”。另一些人则着迷于这样的前景：一台电脑也许能跟我们最好的艺术家相媲美，创作出同样富有创意而精巧的作品。到目前为止，只有一个接近了这个目标。作曲家David Cope发明了一个程序，称作“音乐智能实验”，简称EMI。EMI不仅创作出了Cope风格的乐曲，而且还仿制出了最受尊崇的古典音乐作曲家们的作品，包括巴赫、肖邦和莫扎特。观众感动得泪流满面，EMI甚至还骗过了古典音乐方面的专家，让他们以为自己听到的是真正的巴赫作品。然而并非所有人都对此表示了惊叹。有一些人，例如Wiggins，就猛烈抨击Cope 的这项创造为伪科学，还谴责他对这个程序到底如何运行的解释刻意含糊不清。与此同时，印第安纳大学的Douglas Hofstadter认为，EMI创作的这些复制品仍然要完全依赖于原创艺术家的创作灵感。在观众们发现了真相以后，他们对Cope 感到异常愤怒，有一位乐迷甚至想要打他。在这样的一片争议声中，Cope销毁了EMI的关键数据库。
But why did so many people love the music, yet recoil when they discovered how it was composed? A study by computer scientist David Moffat of Glasgow Caledonian University provides a clue. He asked both expert musicians and non-experts to assess six compositions. The participants weren’t told beforehand whether the tunes were composed by humans or computers, but were asked to guess, and then rate how much they liked each one. People who thought the composer was a computer tended to dislike the piece more than those who believed it was human. This was true even among the experts, who might have been expected to be more objective in their analyses.
Where does this prejudice come from? Paul Bloom of Yale University has a suggestion: he reckons part of the pleasure we get from art stems from the creative process behind the work. This can give it an ‘irresistible essence’, says Bloom. Meanwhile, experiments by Justin Kruger of New York University have shown that people’s enjoyment of an artwork increases if they think more time and effort was needed to create it. Similarly, Colton thinks that when people experience art, they wonder what the artist might have been thinking or what the artist is trying to tell them. It seems obvious, therefore, that with computers producing art, this speculation is cut short - there’s nothing to explore. But as technology becomes increasingly complex, finding those greater depths in computer art could become possible. This is precisely why Colton asks the Painting Fool to tap into online social networks for its inspiration: hopefully this way it will choose themes that will already be meaningful to us.
这种偏见到底来自哪儿?耶鲁大学的Paul Bloom提出了一个见解：他认为我们从艺术中得到的愉悦有一部分来自于作品背后的创作过程。这能为它赋予一种“不可抗拒的精髓感”，Bloom说。与此同时，纽约大学的Justin Kruger 所进行的实验也显示：人们如果认为创作某件艺术品需要更多的时间和精力，就会更加欣赏它。类似地，Colton 认为当人们去体验艺术时，他们会不禁去好奇艺术家当时正在想什么，或者艺术家正在试图向他们表达什么。因此，这一点似乎就很明显了：当创作艺术的是电脑时，这种遐思就被打断了——因为没有什么可探索的。但是随着技术变得越来越复杂，在电脑的艺术创作中找到那些意义深邃之处可以逐渐成为可能。正是因此，Colton才会指示“绘画愚人”去搜索各社交媒体网页来获取灵感：希望通过这种方式，它将会选取那些对我们来说已经具有意义的主题。