Does Art-Science Collaboration Contribute In Any Way to Successful
D.L. Marrin, Ph.D. (Biogeochemist and Water Scientist)
Although I have only been collaborating with artists for about 6
years, there are three fundamental ways in which those interactions
have assisted me in my scientific work or in designing my applied
research to serve its target groups. The first is providing me
a broader range of options for presenting and applying my basic
science. This includes not only more comprehensible and relevant
ways to portray water to laypersons, but also a different perspective
on interpreting and expressing my data and observations.
Specifically, I learned to discern patterns and rhythms within data
and models that permitted me to transcend conventional and entrenched
techniques for analyzing and interpreting my work.
The second is a reminder that science
provides only one of many valid ways of "knowing" the natural world.
While this may sound more humbling than useful, it has provided
me opportunities for talking science with groups whose primary
connection to nature is more sensory, intuitive, or spiritual than it
The third way is in altering a traditional approach to my applied
research, which consisted of defining a problem or conundrum in terms
of its description in the scientific literature and then crafting a
strategy based on past successes or on general principles. In working
with artists, who were more interested in how a problem affected the
balance or integration of seemingly unrelated factors, I realized
that my approach was sometimes too narrowly focused. Hence, even if
I were to "solve" the immediate problem, the underlying issue
would likely continue to arise in modified forms. In my opinion,
this is why many technological "fixes" to water quality and quantity
problems have been only marginally successful. I am beginning work on
a watershed project in Mexico that is based (from its inception) on
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