Thanks for throwing this into the pot. It sounds like art is a nice way of
stirring the pot for you. I am quite the opposite. I like to intuit or
play with things that often look as if they are related to mathematics but
are in fact imprecise and thus imperfect in a mathematical sense.
FWIW, I don't think there is a right or wrong way to look at most subjects
per se, but I sure don't expect the same kind of compromises I relish in
making art from people who are presenting their work as science or even
math. I know some work fits well with both art and science and that's fine
with me as long as we can distinguish what the data says from
philosophical and non-scientific elements.
When it comes to STEAM (and most things) we can interpret them in an array
of ways. We can even interpret data differently, which surely complicates
things more. For example, one thing that riles me is when scientists offer
what are essentially philosophical theories and then cite other scientists
who have proposed similar philosophical theories in support of their view.
If you cite a scientist's philosophical position does that make it
science? I don't think so! Apparently they do.
Over the years I've often found that I change my views of things as
nuances that were once opaque to me become apparent. I call this cognitive
development. I figure where I am today is probably not the last word on
what I think on any subject since I'm always learning. New information and
experiences are likely to move me in new directions as I continue to grow
This statement, of course, is anecdotal. One outcome of my position is, to
overstate things, that I like Popper's idea of falsification, the kind of
dialogue (or critical thinking) that tries to poke holes in scientific
ideas and indeed every argument. So, I am put off when someone wants to
impose a truth on me that seems more about imposing another point of view
on me as if it is some kind of universal truth, or a view I once held and
no longer find viable. A good argument or a powerful artwork is another
thing and may actually move me in another direction critically or
There is a wonderful piece that John Horgan did on Karl Popper many years
ago. Hogan noted that Popper's students use to complain about his teaching
style. Popper, as you may know, wrote a book as Hitler was coming to power
called *The Open Society and its Enemies*. At that point no one knew how
it would all work out and Popper wanted to articulate the problems with
dogma, no doubt a timely book for people of our time to ponder as well.
Anyway, his students used to say it should have been called *The Open
Society BY one of its Enemies.* Apparently many of them didn't feel they
were permitted to challenge his ideas in class. Was Popper dogmatic and as
bad as those he criticized? I don't know. Perhaps things are trickier in a
classroom, if you know what I mean?
So, and I guess this is my point, if our anecdotal stories reflect our
differences, is a concept like STEAM robust enough in the academy and
within our communities? Personally I don't find its track record and/or
prospects nuanced enough, as I've explained previously. I actually feel
the effort to move art/science commonalities into a STEAM framework is a
step backwards and obscures more issues than it solves. But, of course,
this is just me …
Director, The Diatrope Institute
2342 Shattuck Ave., #527
Berkeley, CA 94704
>For me, STEAM contains possibilities of studying mathematics and
>(e.g., computer science, information/data science) through interesting
>objects. These objects do not need
>to be "A"art objects for my purpose. But Art objects are interesting.
>Paul Fishwick, PhD
>Distinguished University Chair of Arts, Technology, and Emerging
>Professor of Computer Science
>Director, Creative Automata Laboratory
>The University of Texas at Dallas
>Arts & Technology
>800 West Campbell Road, AT10
>Richardson, TX 75080-3021
>Blog 1: medium.com/@metaphorz
>Blog 2: modelingforeveryone.com
>> On Jan 14, 2017, at 1:06 PM, Ken Friedman
>> Dear All,
>> Amy Ione's note got me thinking about several issues.
>> The first seems to have a clear answer. Amy wrote, "I don't think
>>discussing educational perspectives per se is the problem, so much as
>>the level of discourse often seems more about advocacy than substance. I
>>am also amazed that many STEAM advocates seem unaware of historical
>>discussions from era to era that mirror the STEM to STEAM discussions."
>> There are two useful historical discussions. The first involves the
>>occasional STEM to STEAM discussions that make the rounds in educational
>>communities. These also appear in another guise ― the call for everyone
>>to study art as something essential to civilization. Art advocates can
>>always find a reason to lobby for art. That's the case for advocates of
>>any general good.
>> It's not that art is bad or undeserving ― one can say the same of
>>music, dance, theater, gymnastics, sports, literature, creative writing
>>… the list goes on. The issues for ― and against ― any such choice
>>involve a range of questions. How much room do we have in the curriculum
>>at any level for one subject or another? Are these subjects genuinely
>>required for a well rounded education? Do these subjects genuinely add
>>value of some kind? If so, what kind of value does it add? Are we making
>>an instrumental argument ― for example, art is vital for creativity in a
>>world of creative cities, creative industries, and so on? Or are we
>>saying that art serves some other, and deeper, purpose using the same
>>kind of argument that we can muster for philosophy, history, or even for
>> It is easy both to overestimate and to underestimate art forms, genres
>>within those forms, and individual artists. For example, I've always had
>>a taste for Westerns. Perhaps it is because I lived for two decades in
>>the American west, driving north to south and east to west many times.
>>Or perhaps it is because I was born in New England, and remember that
>>there was once a time when the west meant land west of the Hudson river
>>― Last of the Mohicans was one of the first great Westerns, and the many
>>movie versions of James Fenimore Cooper's novel each tell a different
>>story about time and history. I've always enjoyed Clint Eastwood's
>>westerns. Not the Sergio Leone westerns, but Eastwood's own productions:
>>High Plains Drifter, Hang 'Em High, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and others.
>>Nearly no one agreed with me on Clint Eastwood's virtues as an artist
>>until Eastwood released Unforgiven. Following Unforgiven and his first
>>Oscar there came a reconsideration of the entire genre. Many more Oscars
>>followed, for Eastwood, his films, and the actors in his films. With
>>this came a new look at Eastwood ― and a reconsideration of Eastwood's
>>early westerns. In the wake of Unforgiven (and the slightly earlier
>>Dances with Wolves), the genre underwent a rebirth.
>> In my view, the serious works of the Western genre are the North
>>American equivalent of Aeschylus and Sophocles. If you want to argue
>>that great Westerns are the exception, I'll agree. There were hundreds
>>upon hundreds of tragedies entered into the great festivals of classical
>>Greece. Aeschylus wrote between 70 and 90 plays, winning the first prize
>>in the annual festival at Athens a dozen or so times. Sophocles wrote
>>even more plays, winning first prize 18 times. When you consider that
>>two great play writes won the prize more than 30 times, this means
>>thirty years in which dozens of other authors competed and lost. So even
>>great Greek tragedies are the exception again ordinary tragedies. Some
>>of those now-forgotten tragedies must be excellent in the same way that
>>excellent actors such as Glenn Ford with outstanding performance in such
>>Westerns as Jubal, the original 3:10 to Yuma, or Cowboy have always been
>>overlooked in favor of the better-known John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, or
>>Henry Fonda. The solid but predictable performances that Wayne delivered
>>in dozens of movies, and Wayne's long string of B-movie horse operas,
>>cast a shadow over the genre. They even cast a shadow over Wayne
>>himself, to the degree that many people forget his occasional brilliant
>>performances, such as Wayne's final movie, The Shootist, directed by Don
>> This is a tale with a point: I'm saying that you'd have to know a great
>>deal more about the depth of these issues to argue the case for any
>>genre ― or for art in general. And don't get me started on Aeschylus or
>>Sophocles. There is scarcely anything in the modern repertoire that can
>>be measured against the surviving works of the two great tragedians.
>> So what is it that STEAM can bring to STEM?
>> Then there is the other history that we ought to consider. This is the
>>history of science, including any of the scientific fields or such STEM
>>fields as mathematics. Consider, for example Reuben Hersh's book, What
>>is Mathematics, Really? I've nearly never seen any writing on art that
>>tells as rich a story of human creativity or the growth of civilization.
>>It seems to me easily possible to compare Hersh against, say, Clement
>>Greenberg, to argue that Greenberg is justifying his own taste with
>>prose that still reads well while his value judgements look dated.
>> The history and philosophy of science tell dozens of stories that do
>>not require STEAM for the creativity to be visible. Cases in point:
>>Abraham Pais's biography of Albert Einstein titled Subtle is the Lord,
>>or Owen Gingerich's hunt for the surviving copies of Copernicus's De
>>Revolutionibus in The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of
>> On the one hand, I, too, am an advocate of art, sort of. I say "sort
>>of" to suggest that STEAM needs a little humility. And STEAM advocates
>>generally need to know a great deal more about the STEM ― this involves
>>a great deal more than demanding that physicists and engineers pay
>>attention to art.
>> Amy also asked an interesting question: "In terms of art, if someone
>>does an artwork based on a scientific idea that proves wrong does that
>>change the value of the art? I've also been wondering if and where
>>artists who are not inclined to include science in their art fit in the
>>educational pedagogy the STEAM agenda promotes?"
>> Off-hand, I don't have an answer, but this is an interesting question
>>to consider another time.
>> Warm wishes,
>> Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The
>>Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji
>>University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL:
>> Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and
>>Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University
>>Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne
>>University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia
>> Email firstname.lastname@example.org | Academia
>>http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman | D&I
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