Saturday, August 24, 2013

[Yasmin_discussions] How does art science practice contribute to successful scientific practice

danny bronac and colleagues

I agree that the way that I have phrased the yasmin discussion as "how
does art science practice contribute to scientific research; sets
up the very dichotomy I am arguing against

but I also have a deep problem as does with Danny with the 'third
space' discourse- brockman etl al's third culture , E O wilson's
i am just not convinced this approach is interestingly generative- i
am less concerned about its positivist heritage but that I think it
contextualises our activities in a world that doesnt exist any more

I personally think there are very good reasons to have disciplines and
that we train discplinary experts - i would be hard pressed to explain
to a nano technologist working on how to build space elevators how the
history of film would really help find the new approaches needed-
except in some very vague theory of creativity- its a lot of work
bringing different disciplines together and you have to be really
its worth the effort

on the other hand there are some hard problems ( science of
consciousness ?) where connections between the sciences and the
are generative. I am just reading Randall Collins' book " The
sociology of philosophies; a global theory of intellectual change"
which concretely
shows how communities of practice bring together disparate approaches
to tackle hard problems- and the cognitive sciences today are
engaging the art science community ( the new european network on
Cognitive Innovation- COGNOVO has just been

When we were working on the SEAD white papers final report (
we very very naturally found ourselves tying our thinking to prior
movements in systems theory, cybernetics, complexity and emergence and
we titled
our report very deliberately:
Steps to an Ecology of Networked Knowledge and Innovation:
Enabling new forms of collaboration among sciences, engineering, arts,
and design
in hommage to bateson's Steps to an Ecology of Mind but also drawing
ongoldberg and davidsen's future of learning institutions in the
digital age

we had somewhat of a gestalt switch when we moved from thinking of a
Tree of Knowledge ( one of whose branches in STEM)
to a Network of Knowledge- you make connections beween branches in a
tree in a different way that between nodes in a network,
tree structures grow topologically in different ways than networks,
and information flows through trees in different ways than through
to cut down a tree you do it in a different way than to destroy a network

in a dynamic evolving network of knowledge the separation between
nodes evolves as hard problems bring researchers from
different communities together- in our community the art and
technology movement brought into proximity researchers that
20 years before would barely have met at cocktail parties-and we now
have industries based on computer arts= but bringing
together the art and technology communities around the steam engine
would not have been very generative and to my knowledge
theromodynamic art never happened

today the art and biology community of practice is thriving around
deep issues of the nature of life etc- and we now see hybrid practices
in a way that would have made little sense in the age of Pasteur

in some cases forrmerly separate disciplines merge ( in my case
astronomy became so joined with physics that astrophysics resulted)

anyway- i dont like the Third Culture discourse any more than the Two
Cultures Discourse- and feel we need to develop networked knowledge
metaphors and language and think in terms of disciplines within an
evolving dynamic network

this line of reason is one of the reasons that perhaps the concept of
"STEM' is one that is no longer useful because it is so firmly
perched in a tree of knowledge metaphor

and why the way I phrased this yasmin discussion perhaps sets us on
the wrong track


Hi all

It is indeed old ground but always fruitful precisely because so
intractable. The limitations of the third space discourse from my
point of view are mostly that it carries the positivist legacy that it
is possible or desirable to define new spaces for practice, rather
than pursuing better descriptions of the incommensurability of
practices and discourses. Critical art practices of the avant-garde
have traditionally worked in a more negative direction of departure,
so many artists would find the question of how their collaborative
practices contribute to scientific research pointless or even
offensive (it is also true that many would find it similarly unhappy
to be asked how their practice contributes to art history).

With the insertion of artistic research into the techno-scientific
university there are indeed new modes of practical collaboration and
interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary practices being
institutionalised, for myself the most interesting collaborations have
had a kind of indisciplined quality where both artist and scientist
are in a state of departure from their very different modes of

Of course some people are better working across the two cultures (or
more than two) than others but it's hard to believe we are really at
any state of departure from that paradigm when the question can still
be asked "How Can History of Science Matter to Scientists?"
Maienschein et al, Isis, 2008, 99:341-349. My preferred conversation
is "how can art-science collaboration contribute to discourses of
artistic autonomy and interrogation of form"? Yes there have been a
few interesting interventions made there but the hyphen in art-science
is far from disappearing and there's nothing wrong with that IMO.


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