CORE CONCEPTS: A MODEL CURRICULUM FOR COLLABORATIVE CREATIVE RESEARCH IN ART, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, AND SCIENCE

Meredith Tromble,
Associate Professor
School of Interdisciplinary Studies
San Francisco Art Institute

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The paper began with a proposal for flexible coursework guidelines, intended to seed knowledge of methods and models of cross-disciplinary collaboration in the creative communities of art, design, engineering, and science. In preparing the guidelines, the authors identified the additional need for a “map” that could be used to efficiently alert researchers to the potentials of cross-disciplinary collaboration, organizing the history of such knowledge co-production. The guidelines and map are intended as tools to enhance communication and stimulate vision, making it easier for researchers to jump over the obstacle of disciplinary “silos.”

1. We suggest that a consortium of universities and art schools sponsor a year-long collaborative research project joining researchers knowledgeable in the “science of science” with scholars of art, science, and technology, and information designers, to undertake the scholarly and visual mapping of the themes and paradigms of collaborative art, science, and technology work over the past twenty years. (cf the “Map of Scientific Paradigms,” Kevin W. Boyack and Richard Klavans, SciTech Strategies, Inc., from the “Atlas of Science,” Visualizing What We Know, Katy Borner, MIT Press, 2010).

2. We suggest that the consortium present the resulting research and visual map professionally, targeting a cross-disciplinary academic audience by supporting the presentation of papers at the widest possible array of conferences, with the goal of reaching professional meetings in all four areas of creative research (art, design, engineering, and science).

3. We suggest that the consortium present the resulting research and visual map publicly, targeting widely-read science and art publications and sophisticated general interest publications with images and analysis written for an informed general public.

4. We suggest that a cross-disciplinary symposium, co-sponsored by institutions recognized to be leaders in each of the four areas of creative research, be organized with sessions patterned on the content guidelines set out in this paper. The proposed symposium is envisioned not as business-as-usual, but as a meeting with a degree of “art” (surprises and challenges) in the form of the meeting. In critical theory terms, the meeting would be conceptualized as a “text” synthesizing research that is also in and of itself, a form of creative work and not simply a “report” on work that has already taken place. The overt goal of of the meeting would be to test and develop the guidelines and address the field mapping research; while the subtext would be to create meaningful, exploratory cross-disciplinary encounters.

Appendix: Coursework Guidelines (intended to serve as a minimal skeleton for coursework ranging from workshops to full courses, or, potentially, a longer program of study.)

1. As we propose core course elements for preparing artists, designers, engineers, and scientists for collaborative research, the first idea to communicate is that categories of knowledge such as “fine art”, “graphic design,” “astrophysics”, or “mechanical engineering” are themselves the collaborative creative productions of our society.

2. Convey a cultural overview that relates students’ study of collaboration to contemporary conditions and the currents of change in all knowledge fields.

3. Offer participants an understanding of creative practice that relates their domains, acknowledging key points of similarity and difference, and considering the multi-dimensional factors involved in creative success.

4. Stimulate awareness of the models of “good science”, “good art,” “good design” and “good engineering” participants have in play through discussion of their aspirations (their values) and exemplars (best practices).

5. Build students’ repertoire of decision-making models by presenting varied historical examples of cross-disciplinary collaboration.

6. Define project groups and give participants an active experience of working together, at whatever scale circumstances allow.

7. Ask participants to articulate in verbal or visual form the failures and successes of their work together by the standards of other group members, as they understand them, and exchange with the group regarding their conclusions.

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