Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] One-Sided STEAM Argument

Hallo Paul -- some musings...

> Since STEAM is on the table of discussion, this may be relevant - just posted it:

I got to your presentation on "System modeling at the Art Museum" which I
thought was an effective approach. (Wouldn't it be 'systems' though, plural?)

[a link to your presentation:]

The list of questions about the Incan tunic appear to address the wider problem
of ignorance surrounding the provenance of 'technological' artifacts. Winding
back the artifact to its material genesis can be combined with an exploration
into the conceptual genesis of its design, its purpose, the creative impulse
that sparked it. There is still the difficulty of the segue to more
esoteric/indeterminate questions, but I think the process has to start
somewhere, and your list of questions seems to open such a discursive space.

I have attempted such in my art/technology workshops (for engineering, art, and
design students) -- not overtly invoking systems thinking, as that in itself is
another challenging intellectual concept -- but, for example, simply connecting
things in a framework of 'product' (specific material manifestation), 'process'
(actions, flows embedded in a wider field), and 'praxis' (a/the holistic
expression of lived presence).

With my background in hard science, I do take every opportunity presented to
engage non-science folks with scientific principles -- for example, when working
with students, when delving into water catchment landscaping --
speaking about (and experimenting with) basic fluid dynamics. So few of my art
students had any clue as to extremely basic physical laws coming from mechanical
physics, or earth (geophysical) systems.

The applied examination of praxis attempts to look at the embedded complexity of
individual and collection human presence which often defies the all-too-often
invoked references that tend to box us in here -- STEM, STEAM, etc, etc. Every
individual, in deep relation to the social, has a multi-dimensional relationship
with the world, often despite(!) their 'formal education'. By facilitating a
discursive space where the fruits of this idiosyncratic experience can surface,
the disciplinary boundaries may more easily be erased. (Although this outcome is
generally *not* the goal of any STEM/STEAM programs, as erasure is still too
much a challenge/risk to the existing inertia of social institutions.)

As an alumni of Mitcham's school, graduating some decades back, the educational
indoctrination into engineering generally proceeded as the solution to all the
world's problems via highly-paid jobs upon graduation. (We were required only
four one-semester humanities elective courses, as they were clearly extraneous
to saving the world with technology!!). Of course no engineering education looks
like that now, but myopic human hubris does maintain a steady and tenacious
presence in most engineering (and design!) programs.

From that rather extreme initial education, lacking any critical reflection, I
have come to have a much broader perspective (thanks to the influence of many
folks, living and dead, and transdisciplinary/transcultural life-experience). I
no longer consider myself an engineer, nor scientist, though I maintain a
somewhat bifurcated sense of interacting with the world (analytical versus
intuitive perhaps?). I do recall an influential professor of mine, George
Keller, a principle figure globally in electromagnetic geophysics, saying in the
field one day "If you really want to know what is below the surface of the
earth, you have to do this," as he squatted down and laid his palm on the ground...

huh? where's the data? This expression completely perplexed me, though I was
intrigued by his work in groundwater hydrology *and* dowsing...

Ultimately, I look at technology (and humans) as being (merely!) another
expression of life on the planet: where that Life alters the (energy) flows
around it simply because of its presence. Of course there are questions that
fall under concepts of altruism, intention, scale, and so on, but these all rest
on the basic condition of Life altering the wider system around it. And, with
humans, no reason for hubris, as we more often than not have *no* clue as to the
gap between the material intentions of our engineering and the cumulative
effects of those imposed changes to wider (Gaia) flows, anyway.

Engineering, specifically, does raise the question of material scale -- how the
particular form of Life, humans, have wrought their organism-specific
alterations. Perhaps this is the source of that hubris -- (Donna Haraway touches
on the hubris in her talk "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with
the Trouble") -- the globe-girdling flux of human presence. However, in the
larger picture, humans are a transitory upstart presence, and only one
manifestation of life on the planet. As with others, we evolved, found energy,
waxed in numbers, and, when the 'easy' energy sources are gone, will wane in

Anyway, thanks for that posting...


Dr. John Hopkins, BSc, MFA, PhD
grounded on a granite batholith
twitter: @neoscenes
Yasmin_discussions mailing list

Yasmin URL:

SBSCRIBE: click on the link to the list you wish to subscribe to. In the page that will appear ("info page"), enter e-mail address, name, and password in the fields found further down the page.
HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE: on the info page, scroll all the way down and enter your e-mail address in the last field. Enter password if asked. Click on the unsubscribe button on the page that will appear ("options page").
TO ENABLE / DISABLE DIGEST MODE: in the options page, find the "Set Digest Mode" option and set it to either on or off.
If you prefer to read the posts on a blog go to