Artistic thinking

Pedagogy, Andragogy and HeutagogyLeave a Comment

A few months ago I attended a new media arts forum at RMIT. This triggered me to explore art thinking as a framework for educational development.

Last week I flew up to Brisbane to meet the Ars Electronica people who are partnering with Queensland University of Technology on a range of projects. I met Gerfried Stocker, the Artistic Director to Ars Electronica. He was in Brisbane to give a presentation to Queensland University of Technology executives about artistic perspectives and approaches in science and innovation.

Gerfried makes the case that artists can help ensure more humanistic determinants on technology, to help counter technological determinism and its unintended consequences. Gerfried was in Brisbane to support their Future Lab’s exhibition Shared Space Bots at the World Science Festival, as well as the growing relations Ars Electronica is forming with QUT.

The Shared Space Bots exhibition was a performative presentation delivered by the Future Lab’s Director of Research and Engineering, Christopher Lindinger, who’s team has been working with Mercedes Benz and their Driverless Car Project.

Mercedes Benz commissioned AE’s Future Lab to explore different cultural responses to the ideas and questions of the Driverless Car project. Specifically,

‘how are humans going to communicate with the self driving car of tomorrow?’

At the exhibition opening was Lubi Thomas, a digital and new media arts curator who has been working with AEs Peter Holzkorn and QUT’s Jared Donovan from the Creative Industries Faculty to develop educational programs about artistic approaches to innovation. Our conversations centered around art thinking, and I’m looking forward to recording these conversations, as I did recently with Kris Minski – also working at the Future Lab.

The conversation turned to how expensive it was to facilitate physical educational arrangements between Australia and Europe. We discussed whether more emphasis on a range of online interaction would be viable. Initially, we agreed that face to face interaction was critical for the beginning and end of the program, but we challenged that presumption a little longer. We considered how many people we each knew who had met and married someone that they had met and come to know online. Each of us knew at least 2 people, confirming that deep sensory connection is possible online. With that in mind, could we conceive of such online connectivity in an educational arrangement? And if it was a stretch, why was it?

As an aside, but related to this consideration, of deep emotional connection through technology, I met a fascinating fella named Nathan Hayes earlier in the day, who threw out a verbal manifesto at the Shared Space Bots performance earlier that afternoon. Nathan had this remarkably optimistic outlook for the future, but not a futurist I had experienced before. His main website is its fascinating reading. I rate his work as visionary, formed in part by a type of artistic imagining. It would be very interesting to apply his conversational priorities into a technological project, or simply to find such visionaries and try to help realise their ideas experimentally.

On Nathan’s site he embedded a Shots of Awe video: Hacking the Flow State. Its a video talking about that mental zone we sometimes feel ourselves in, where barriers dissolve and synchronicity seems to take hold in an effortless flow of action… art thinking. Next to this video is another by the same channel, Why do we fall in love. A beautiful celebration of codependency and our need for social companionship. Somehow I see these ideas intersecting with art thinking, perhaps helping to give it more relativity to the broader human experience, giving us more confidence in these sensory experiences, and to thus try and determine our technological surroundings more.

Back to the dinner conversation and the challenges around online learning, we discussed each of our experiences in networked learning, observing that our most notable experiences learning online were informal and not within a university setting. We decided that we had not yet seen a good example of online educational experiences from the education sector. Furthermore, we discussed the apparent blindspot universities generally have toward significant knowledge creation projects like Wikipedia, and other similar work that follows over arching principles of open source governance, research and development. I mentioned my open research project, Defining Networked Learning (formally called Networked Learning a Biomass Heat Transfer System), and it’s attempt to quantify informal networked learning.

The discussion seemed to be of interest to the group, and I like to think it was an example of art thinking on a micro scale. We pursued counter ideas, alternative perspectives, allowing contradictory and wildly “off topic” ideas to be being pushed into our conversation space, trusting that everyone there was capable and flexible enough to hold the broad conceptual collage we were all weaving. We trusted that something new between us would emerge, and that in itself was valuable.

Such conversation risks alienating and offending some people, in my experience. Particularly in cross disciplinary discourse, or when time and money is being closely watched. This is what leads me to believe that art thinking is a category of capability, sadly not well understood and too rarely used. I agree with Gerfried, it just might save us. Actually, we know it will. History shows it.

I’ve started compiling a video playlist for Art Thinking, and for now, will attach the longer discussions I record with people to that same playlist.

Feature image licensed Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) by Pedro Ribeiro Simões

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