Tuesday, August 22, 2017

[Yasmin_discussions] STEAM to STEM: art, anxiety, and the rapport sector


Cheers from sunny Maine, where I'm helping to organize October's 2017 Digital Humanities Week on the theme of STEM to STEAM (more on that later).

The question Roger raises of whether the culture of science can be enriched by incorporating artists and their ways of thinking has of course a parallel in the tech sector. Can the companies of Silicon Valley can be enlightened by hiring liberal arts majors? Recent months have seen a spate of articles and books on the rise of the "rapport sector," where poets have the edge over engineers:

* STEM or STEAM? Tech Firms See Ties Between the Liberal Arts and Long-Term Success [1]

* George Anders, You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a "Useless" Liberal Arts Education [2]

* Randall Stross, A Practical Education: Why Liberal Arts Majors Make Great Employees [3]

In his New York Times book review "Don't Panic, Liberal Arts Majors. The Tech World Wants You," Timothy Aubry looks behind the buoyant messages of these cheerleaders and discerns a deep anxiety that the value of a liberal arts education portends for the future:

"The reality that apparently favors liberal arts majors is precisely what makes the current job market so forbidding: extreme precariousness. Trained to be flexible and adaptable, these students are well equipped, according to Anders, to navigate an unstable job market, where companies, fields and sometimes whole industries rise and fall at a nauseating clip, where automation is rendering once coveted skills redundant and where provisional short-term jobs, freelance assignments, part-time gigs, unpaid internships and self-employment are replacing long-term, full-time salaried positions that include rights and benefits protected by unions." [4]

While Stanford liberal arts majors may eventually earn $2000 more per year than their classmates with STEM degrees, Aubry asks whether this means only upper-class kids can afford liberal arts degrees, given the extra career time it takes them to find gainful employment.

As a misfit who jumped from a STEM B.A to an Arts MFA, I see that the combination served me well in retrospect. At the same time, I can't imagine anyone (including myself) replicating the brownian motion that got me from my post-graduate catering gigs to a tenured professorship. For me the goal of being an artist was not to make a paycheck but to make a certain kind of life for myself.

If we could overcome the class issues, I suppose that's why I would like to see artists breathe more humanity into high-tech firms. NBC recently reported a study claiming the solar eclipse would cost America $700 million in lost productivity. I was pleased to see this retort from a Twitter user by the name of Lipstick Socialist:

"God fucking forbid anyone look around and notice the natural world when they're supposed to be making the boss richer."

Artists remind us to look around and notice the world.

Jon Ippolito
Professor and Program Coordinator, New Media
Co-director, Still Water
Director, Digital Curation graduate program
Does Anyone Actually Read These Titles
The University of Maine

1. https://qz.com/1034720/tech-firms-are-forgetting-about-stem-and-focusing-on-steam
2. https://www.amazon.com/You-Can-Anything-Surprising-Education/dp/0316548804
3. https://www.amazon.com/Practical-Education-Liberal-Majors-Employees/dp/080479748X
4. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/21/books/review/you-can-do-anything-george-anders-liberal-arts-education.html

> On Aug 16, 2017, at 7:52 AM, roger malina <rmalina@alum.mit.edu> wrote:

> In an earlier yasmin discussion post I presented a provocation that we
> need to think of stem to steam in the other direction or STEAM to
> STEM- and specifically how the arts, design and humanities can work
> with stem to redesign science itself, both the scientific method and
> the way science is embedded in society.

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