How did “thinking” change in the Age of Enlightenment? That’s Wayne McGregor’s query in his newest ballet, FAR. This is worth several minutes of viewing:
A emeritus faculty member of our little Undergraduate Academic Program at UNCSA emailed me the other day after attending the reading of Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51 on February 15th. A scientist by training, he noted a resonance between ARTStem’s ideals and the steampunk phenomenon in which technological and aesthetic impulses commingle. ARTSteam! I love it! Of course, in the context of “steampunk,” ‘steam’ refers to the steam-powered machinery of the 19th century, which is one of steampunk’s chief reference points. But STEAM, also, is the acronym of the growing push to insert the Arts into the STEM educational agenda. So, the connection is rich, both ideationally and rhetorically.
Relatedly, I was reminded of this interesting piece from InsideHigherEd not too long ago, about the need for higher ed to continue to invest in new ideas responsive to the changing expectations of digital native generations of students. Like it or not, those featured in the article said, the age of EDUPUNK (clearly a play on ‘steampunk’ and its hybridizing, mash-up, multimedia impulses) is here. Check it out here:
Over the weekend, I learned about a new book edited by Edward Clapp, foreword by Eric Booth, titled 20UNDER40: Reinventing the Arts and Arts Education for the 21st Century. The hook of the book was its solicitation of a young generation of arts-minded educators to contribute essays regarding the “where to now?” for arts ed in the 21st century (the ‘age’ criteria apparently caused quite the kerfuffle in the arts ed world; something the book’s impressive website chronicles quite candidly and valuably).
I haven’t laid my hands on the book yet, but the promotional material looks impressive. My eyes went straight to a few chapters near the end—a lot of emphasis therein about a necessary and opportune “new symbiosis” of arts ed and science ed. . .
FROM THE WEBSITE:
. . . Chapter 16: Creating a Fourth Culture: Methods for Developing a Symbiosis Between the Arts and Sciences to Address Climate Change and Cultivate an Interdisciplinary Future. by Rebecca Potts. ABSTRACT: The arts should play a larger role in addressing environmental and climatic issues to ensure that our species endures as creative animals acting in society for centuries to come. Arts and arts education practitioners can do this by developing a symbiotic relationship between the arts and the sciences thereby fostering collaboration between artists and scientists through the education system, cultural institutions, and informally. This symbiosis can create a “fourth culture,” a term used by Jonah Lehrer to describe a future in which art and science exist in a positive feedback loop to propel human knowledge forward. Through this fourth culture, the arts can meaningfully participate in climate change solutions.
Chapter 17: Half a Million Years of Art History: How the Human Origins of Art Can Change Arts Education Today. by Jeff Lieberman and Eric Gunther. ABSTRACT: To move the arts and arts education into the future, we must look millions of years into the past, into the evolutionary history of our species and the role the arts have played in making us human. We are faced with unprecedented opportunities for a new symbiosis between the arts and sciences. For these two disciplines to assume their rightfully vital places in the education of future generations, they must acknowledge their mutual interdependence. Arts education must acknowledge and teach the science of beauty and science education, the beauty of science.
Chapter 18: The Conflicted Brain: The Impact of Modern Technologies on Our Cognition and How Arts Education can be the Keystone to Whole-Mindedness. by Jennifer Groff. ABSTRACT: In an effort to increase student learning and achievement in today’s world via standards, accountability, and high-stakes testing, arts education has suffered considerably. Ironically, new research in cognitive neuroscience—intersected with the current proliferation and presence of digital media and communication—supports the critical need to emphasize and extend opportunities to engage in the arts during the K-12 experience. Emerging research is identifying the multiple cognitive processing systems we possess, and how our own aptitude with these systems impacts performance and achievement, demonstrating the importance in learning how to develop and leverage all our cognitive processing systems—leading to whole-mindedness. This chapter explores current methods for achieving this, and includes recommendations for strategies to develop whole-mindedness in students through the arts and other forms of media, content, and experiences.
Chapter 19: The New Fundamentals: Introducing Computation into Arts Education. by Kylie Peppler. ABSTRACT: Given the advent of digital experimentation in the arts, this chapter conceptualizes the role that media arts can play in educational settings by looking to the ways that professional artists manipulate digital media. This chapter argues that learning to creatively code constitutes the new fundamentals of arts education in a digital world. The chapter presents a survey of contemporary projects that use computation as a way to manipulate the medium of the computer, outlines core programming concepts for the novice reader, and showcases what inner-city youth are already creating through the use of computer programming. . . .
“The gap between scientists … and musicians isn’t really that large. . . . It’s a conceptual chasm you have to be willing to leap across.” from the Chronicle of Higher Education article.
More on Composer Rand Steiger: http://www.calit2.net/newsroom/release.php?id=1698
I though this was a particularly notable passage articulating several factors establishing “the arts” and “the sciences” as kindred spirits:
” . . . Art and science as disciplines offer methods to understand and discover the world. Scientists and artists through their work are both challenged to communicate to others what they observe about nature or about society. To do so, each profession is trained in specific tools and methods, draw upon discipline-specific theory, engage in collaboration across professional networks, are publicly funded and supported, engage in both “basic” art or research or applied work (in the case of art, advertising or design), and are peer-reviewed or juried by other experts. Artists, like scientists, are also limited by natural laws particularly light and perspective, often deal with issues of privacy and the ethical use of subjects, and both groups are deeply concerned by the need for public understanding and appreciation for their profession.. . ”
An article from SEED Magazine, “Getting Past the Pie Chart,” took me back to some of the most interesting ideas we talked about in the first ARTStem seminar in August of 2009, which revolved around the art of visualizing information or data. That’s not a new kind of activity, of course, but digital tools offer a lot of new kinds of experimenting with how to visually communicate information. And on the flip side, modern science and new technologies for data collection are producing data sets so huge and deep that they defy (or at least threaten to) traditional modes of representation.
To my mind, this is where everything comes together–this is where the shared project of the humanities, the arts, and the sciences reveals itself. At root, we’re all working at the very complicated interstices of knowledge discovery, organization, and representation/communication. This is one of the junctions where I think all art and design practices can play a powerful role in facilitating public understanding of, and civic dialogue about, complicated issues involving global scales, big numbers, and levels of interconnection and interdependence that are near impossible to wrap our heads around.
If you’ve never looked at it before, check out this IBM project called ManyEyes. It’s geared toward the ‘democratization of visualization’ and provides tools to creatively visualize and map data sets, ostensibly to render meaningful important information that, in the absence of effective representation, never travels that last, most difficult path from being raw information to becoming human knowledge. There’s also some pretty cool links there. For example, this at VisualComplexity.com. In particular, this blog entry on different ways of “visualizing music and sound” captured my interest. Here’s a video of a music visualization of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
How excellent would it be to have an ARTStem project that somehow combined students in the sciences (or social sciences, for that matter) collecting data of different sorts on topics of importance (researching, surveying, fieldwork, etc.), learning to manipulate and mine for meaning with digital applications, thinking critically about modes of representation, and perhaps even communicating with more dramatic, performative strategies, too?
Something of this ilk has actually been done in recent years by the Winston-Salem Light Project (led by UNCSA D&P’s Norman Coates), come to think of it, which has done some awesome light projections, including some with real pedagogical content. Check that out this year if you have a chance.
This is remarkable. Composer and flutist Finn Peters is working with technology that translates his brainwaves directly into the music he is “thinking.” Read more.
Really interesting article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education about the increasing collaboration between academic science and Hollywood. ARTICLE. Particularly important–this isn’t just about filmmakers mining scientific knowledge and know-how, but about science recognizing it’s own existence within mediated fields of knowledge and its dependence on film (and other media) as a key shaper of debates and public understanding.
David A. Kirby is one of the scholars mentioned. Here’s his website, which features some interesting essays about the interaction between science and cinema.
Also of interest, the National Academy of Sciences 2-yr-old program–The Science and Entertainment Exchange. Check out the website here. Related video below, featuring Seth Macfarlane.
Other related notes:
Recent symposium at the UPenn Annenberg School of Communication on the “performative” dimension of science–featuring “a wide range of scholars and leading practitioners in the area of the history of performance, science and scientific performance to discuss how persuasive rhetorical skills and public performance are central to the business of making scientific knowledge real.“