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Thinking Through The Relationship Of Art, Science And Business

How can boundary-crossing practices change how we approach problems?

Lisa Baldini
Lisa Baldini on May 26, 2010.

Liz K. Sheehan for Art21 recently wrote about the issues surrounding the polarity between artists and scientists. Sheehan describes how approaching the two fields in a binary manner complicates and hinders innovation:

Thinking pragmatically, perhaps one of the most crucial reasons to keep artists and scientists coming together is the wider audience that naturally follows interdisciplinary projects, paramount for the global scale of today’s concerns (C.P. Snow was at least correct on that count). You can preach about the benefits of environmentalism, for example, but maybe experiencing Chris Jordan’s photography or Brooke Singer’s Superfund365 archive or Amy Franceschini’s Futurefarmers projects (all on the syllabus), will not only inspire action but new methods of acting. I hope to show my students examples of makers and thinkers who approach the lab as a studio and the studio as a lab. These boundary-crossing practices can open up discussions about how we learn, think, approach problems, and process information – in short, how we navigate our surroundings.

This argument is pertinent when we consider the zeitgeist of technology that has been adopted since the industrial revolution. In some sense, we place a premium on scientific endeavors to move our economies and rule our previous social activities outdated. Just think about how the pace of business decisions have had to change and how that has changed the length of the workday when email and mobile communication were adopted as standard business practices.

We may view the consequences of this rapid pace as presently being felt in the global recession. For instance, the current databases that we use to measure employee productivity as well as make recommendations for our music listening tastes are based on Knowledge Discovery Algorithms that try to make sense out of disparate information–the accuracy of which has still yet to be proven. Consequently, we have people receiving loans they unrealistically could never afford with the decisions based on parameters generated by these database functions.

I bring up this example because while art may be viewed as often arbitrary and unreliable, a scientific knowledge system may also offer a similar unreliability and arbitrariness. However, this is not to say that “artistic” endeavours would revolutionize the business world. As Sheehan states, there is more than one strategy for responding to a change in an environment. While each knowledge system offers benefits and drawbacks, it is perhaps in a cross-disciplinary approach that we might find the best solution.

Art21: “On teaching art to scientists”

image via DIS

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Lisa Baldini is a regular contributor to PSFK.com. As a student of Graham Harwood, Luciana Parisi, and Matthew Fuller, Lisa's interest in technology lies in how culture is changed from the bottom up through history, materiality, databases, user experience, and affective computing. A student of social media marketing, she sees how people try to engage consumers through technology and how much failure is at hand by misunderstanding the medium. A teacher at heart, she writes and curates in an effort to link the knowledge derived between the academic, art, and business worlds.

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