Saturday, July 14, 2012

[Yasmin_discussions] roadblocks to trans/inter disciplinary collaboration between science/engineering and arts/design


Thanks for your email- and like you I am not interested
in old debates about bringing disciplines together. There
are very good reasons why we have disciplines and they
will continue to thrive. Its a lot of work to work across
disciplines- you really have to be sure the investment of
time is warranted.

I am just finishing a workshop here in Marseille with
the International Network for Transdisciplinary (post doctoral) Research

There is a large literature now on the methods and production
of both inter-disciplinarity and trans-disciplinarity ( see Nowotny on the
potential of transdisciplinarity, researchers such as Julie Klein
on problem solving and trans-disciplinarity,Basarab Nicolescu,
Repko, Newell etc ).

This literature enphasises that certain problems (your example of climate
change is apropos) give us no option but to cross couple science/engineering
with arts/design humanities. addressing climate change requires redesigning
our cultures and their values. We have entered the anthropocene and live
as if human activity was a minor perturbation on the biosphere.

In other cases issues and concerns arise that require transverse analysis
(such as in the case of how the big data era is transforming all disciplines
both in science/engineering and in arts/design/humanities)
and techniques and concepts can sometimes be usefully translated across

One of the roadblocks you clearly identify is the fact that in general
scientists and engineers are largely ignorant of arts/design/humanities
and dont believe there is any benefit to science and engineering of
such collaborations..

you say:
" But scientists do not generally understand what art can do in
> this respect beyond some artists adopting scientific or engineering methods
> and producing objects that reflect and deal with environmental problems.
> This is neither integration nor collaboration between art, science and
> engineering."

Indeed most scientists look to the arts to 'illustrate science' or the
to analyse the past but not affect the future of science. So a major roadblock
is convincing scientists and engineers of the value to science and engineering
of such collaborations. Can we argue that such collaborations can lead to
better science and better engineering ? I believe so. Can we provide exemplars
or good examples that illustrate this ?

Finally as argued by many including Nowotny science is in deep trouble
today. The basic social contract of science and society was established
after world war II ( see vannevar bush: Science the Endless Frontier).
This social contract is now collapsing. Nowotny calls for 'socially robust
science". See for instance how governments prioritise their budget cuts
in the economic crisis today-

In the case of Spain:

"Spanish scientists' hopes that the long-delayed 2012 national budget
would spare their research funding were quashed today as the
government announced a 25% funding cut compared to last year."

There is no longer a shared social consensus of how science
contributes to healthy
economies and economic growth.

So one of the roadblocks to more collaboration between Science/Engineering and
Arts/Humanities is that the 'cultural imaginary' no longer associates
increasing scientific
knowledge and the general welfare. To build a cultural imaginary does this will
not take the work of artists illustrating science, but a deep
collaboration to articulate
possible futures (for instance dealing with climate change) .

You state also:

"While most artists are trapped in the idea of art as what can be
> institutionally recognized, with their shows in galleries and museums,
> scientists cannot think outside their academic practices at a level where
> their work can be comprehended and turned into a tool for the change which
> is now needed within both the academia and the real life."

Agreed- so one of the roadblocks is how both artists and scientists need
to work outside of their disciplinary/institutional ghettos and engage
the world at large.
Do you know of approaches that succesfully do this ?


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Paul Fishwick <>
Date: Sat, Jul 14, 2012 at 3:33 PM
Subject: Re: [Yasmin_discussions] consilience and trans-disciplinary
bridges asenablors

You make some really good points and I wonder if we can use your post
as a point of departure to see where it leads? See below...

On Fri, Jul 13, 2012 at 6:56 AM, Rasheed Areen <
> wrote:

> Dear Roger
> I have been reading with great interest the exchanges about the
> collaboration between art, science and engineering, and it seems there is
> not enough explanation or understanding why we should need this
> collaboration beyond the old debate in the academia about bringing
> different
> disciplines together, now through the networking of digital or information
> media. I do recognize the facilities provided by the new media, but the
> networking of the media itself cannot give rise to an inter-disciplinary or
> trans-disciplinary practice; nor can this practice in itself create any
> value unless we are able to define its content. In my view, this content
> cannot emerge from or defined only by the academia. It has to emerge from a
> common and integrated pursuit in which practicing artists, scientists and
> engineers are involved together, based on the trans-disciplinary mutual
> understanding of the aims and objectives of this collaboration. And here
> lies the problem.



> I say all this because I have been involved as an artist in a project with
> some eminent scientists (including a Nobel Laureate, if I may mention) who
> are concerned with the problems of climate change, and who know what should
> be done in this respect. I fully understand all their proposals or
> propositions, and that without science and technology these problems cannot
> be resolved. But scientists do not generally understand what art can do in
> this respect beyond some artists adopting scientific or engineering methods
> and producing objects that reflect and deal with environmental problems.
> This is neither integration nor collaboration between art, science and
> engineering.

Let's use this is a base: climate change. We can pick receding glaciers or
melting of part of the polar caps in our discussion. You say "...scientists
do not
generally understand what art can do in this respect beyond some artists
scientific or engineering methods ...." So my question to you is: what can
do? I ask this purely as a way to obtain more information on your concern
as I
recognize that artists can do a lot. While I could point to other examples
successful collaborations, knowing more precisely what you feel artists can
for climate change would be a great start to a conversation. We can only
begin to more carefully study what each person brings to the table.

> I have mentioned the above as an example of the problem. This problem is
> about the way artists, scientists and engineers work within the prevailing
> culture.

Can you clarify what you mean by "for the change which is now needed within
both the academia and the real life" ? Are you referring to the change
to foster better sci/eng/artist collaborations?


> Rasheed Araeen
> , cts bothnot only about the difficulty of finding in practice a mutually,
> comprehensible common ground for the integrated work by artists, scientists
> and engineers, but it is also about the nature of what they do when they
> find themselves together. They may satisfy themselves in producing
> something
> collaboratively, but it often, if not always, not only comprises top-down
> models incomprehensible to most people but is imposed upon them with an
> assumption that it should be accepted without questioning, which raises the
> issues of philosophical and ideological nature, without the resolution of
> which I don't see any value in trans-disciplinary work. My point is that
> these issues can be resolved if art is allowed to go beyond the making of
> art objects and is recognized as a conceptual framework in which people
> become trans-disciplinary bridges with their own productive work, which
> then
> also provide a framework for science and engineering to make their
> contribution.
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