JiscMail Logo
Email discussion lists for the UK Education and Research communities

Help for NEW-MEDIA-CURATING Archives


NEW-MEDIA-CURATING Archives

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING Archives


NEW-MEDIA-CURATING@JISCMAIL.AC.UK


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING Home

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING Home

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  2004

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING 2004

Options

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password

Subject:

Re: NEW-MEDIA-CURATING Digest - 23 Feb 2004 to 1 Mar 2004 (#2004-20)

From:

Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 2 Mar 2004 11:17:20 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (282 lines)

On 2/3/04 12:00 am, Eric wrote:

> The starting point here would be that there is a very rich history of
> art and science, and art and technology exploration in the frame of
> Western contemporary art practice, as well as contemporary techno
> culture, but that a really firm institutional basis that supports and
> enhances these kind of practices is by and large absent.
-----
There are very concerted efforts to build such frameworks now underway in
the UK with a number of high profile and relatively well funded initiatives.
Aside from the Arts and Humanities Research Board's support for artists in
research environments, based itself on an earlier pilot program run between
the Arts Council of England and Cambridge University, we now have the
Engineering, Science and Physics Research Council's equivalent program
supporting scientists in art schools and creative practice contexts.

These initiatives are not about facilitating artists access to new tools and
resources (although that is supported and does happen) nor about promoting
or diffusing scientific methods and products (such as the Wellcome Trust
Sci-Art program is setting out to do) but are rather concerned with the
development of new models of interdisciplinary research that will hopefully
go way beyond the old two-cultures debate (I am afraid that within UK
academia the two-cultures issue is very much alive and kicking).

It is early days with these initiatives but the hope must be that the long
term objective here is to build research networks that cross our cultural
divides and allow artists, scientists and social scientists to collaborate
on developing not just new research programs but new notions of value in
creativity and invention. Certainly, that is the basis of my involvement and
also of others associated with this program with whom I have discussed
things in any detail.

> Roughly summarised the argument is that the scientific approach
> provides rigorous methodology, and  constructions of arguments and
> experimental settings that have a sufficient degree of verifyability,
> but as a result of these demands lack the required flexibility to
> explore vast solution spaces, or shift swiftly between different
> possible methodologies.
> Artsitic enquiry lacks a certain methodological rigor, but adds an
> intuitive ordering of theoretically vast solution spaces to a given
> problem, which may indicate new directions for research and problem
> solving. Artistic enquiry is less strictly bound to specific
> methodologies, but can instead appropriate multiple methodological
> approaches within a single strategy of arriving at a desired
> solution. This is not to say that artistic enquiry is entirely
> "free", it is still bound to a set of conventions that can in part be
> understood as the unwritten rules of the art world, but on the
> methodological level there is a greater degree of flexibility.
-----
In the UK this is a burning issue in arts education. With the emergence of
the new universities, and research degree awarding powers for fine art
departments, during the 1990's a series of questions around what might
constitute research in a fine art context have arisen that are now being
addressed. For example, the value of the exhibition as not only a research
outcome but as part of a methodology of research assessment. Ditto, for
catalogues and reviews. The hard and social sciences have what appear to be
well established research methods but when you scratch below the surface a
little you find that the evident empiricism involved is often not as deep as
expected and the frameworks and systems for evaluation are based on somewhat
arbitrarily established "traditions". I am not saying that scientific
research is not rigorous, it is. Just that things are not always as they
seem.

The arts, with something of a tabula rasa here, have a huge opportunity to
actually develop a rigour that, in some interesting respects, is lacking in
traditional research subject areas. That might sound paradoxical, but it is
this conundrum that is at the heart of the inter-disciplinary programs I
mention above.

There is in fact an area of creative arts practice where there is a long
tradition of practice related research in the UK and that is music. Whilst
art departments in the UK, with a few notable exceptions, are largely to be
found in the new univerisities (and thus arising from the non-research
oriented educational cultures of the polytechnic system) most music
departments are to be found in the old universities. Whilst they had no
formal research council to support them until the formation of the AHRB
(which is a relatively recent development) they did benefit from close
association with research departments and the ethics they foster. I attended
a music school within an Australian university in the late 1970's and even
then this was the case. The local art school was still struggling, at that
time, with its assocation with a technical school. The music school, on the
other hand, benefitted from its association with a venerable university
(that also has its downside of course). Due to this I was able to work in a
research laboratory focused on electro-computer music years before such
facilities existed in art departments.

The reasons why art and music were treated so differently goes back to
ancient cultural tropes, where music was seen as an intellectual pursuit and
art as a branch of the guild based system of crafts and skills. As
educational institutions developed around these disciplines they built upon
these traditions and thus we ultimately had the university and polytechnic
distinctions. But there is no need for a history lesson here.

To bring us very much to the present, it could be argued that the very fact
that this list, CRUMB, exists is a function of an emerging UK arts research
culture.

> In a research context artistic and scientific disciplines should then
> be able to benefit greatly from each other. While artistic research
> can be more flexible in identifying new directions for problem
> solving, scientific methodology can provide the rigor to test these
> assumptions and provide them with some degree of reliability /
> verifyability. In the field of new media arts this connection becomes
> closer because the artists and the researchers basically share the
> same (digital) tools, which makes it more likely for their practices
> to converge at different points.
-----
All this is totally the case - although I refer once again to what I argue
above, about how new research cultures can foster new models of what
research can be - implicit within that the idea that current research
models, and the value systems they are constructed upon, are open to
fundamental questioning.

> If such a highly productive relationship in the field of digital
> media seems probable, why then is there so little substantial
> activity in this direction?
-----
Perhaps in Holland there isn't, but there is significant movement in this
direction elsewhere. That said, the amount of interest we have in our
research degree program from potential research students from countries such
as Holland and, especially, Germany suggests that within these countries
educational systems a need in this area is not being satisfied.

> Why are there no highly developed fundamental and applied research
> trajectories in which artistic and scientific enquiry stand on equal
> footing and complement each other, as pointed out in the argument
> above?
-----
These are developing now. There are also high profile precedents to this,
such as the MIT Medialab and similar programs at Stanford and other US
Universities. Mind you, I am sure that the particular flavour the US funding
system gives all its research (output led, profit driven) is not what you,
or we, have in mind here as a model of good practice.

> It seems to me that the problem is neither on the conceptual level
> (the "two cultures") not on the human level (individual artists and
> scientists are simply not interested in each other), but rather on
> the institutional level. Traditionally the access to mainstream
> research funding is located within sceintific institutions, from
> which the artistic actors (artsist and arts organisations) are
> excluded. Access to these sources of funding is entirely dependent on
> the willingness of research foundations, companies, research
> laboratories, universities, research consortia, governments and
> ministries to grant cultural actors access to these funds.
-----
This analysis is accurate, but as can be seen from what I describe above
fundamental changes in how academic and research institutions are composed
is leading to a realignment in research culture and how it is funded such
that the arts do have the chance of a look in now. It is not yet equal
footing, certainly in terms of funding, but it is a start on which there is
now the imperative to build or lose the momentum. I am not certain of exact
figures, but the amount of research money going to the hard sciences,
excluding the medical sciences which are far and away the most generously
funded disciplines, is in the tens of billions whereas arts funding is in
the hundreds of millions over the UK research funding cycle - 5 years or so.
That still represents larger sums of money for the arts than have ever been
available through the traditional arts funding channels, such as the Arts
Council.

If you look at how arts practice has developed in the UK over the past
decade, especially in those arts practices, such as new media, which are far
from the traditional arts market place and thus have always been funding
dependent, you will see that much of it has moved away from the artists
studio, perhaps inter-related with industrial activity (the 1980's and early
1990's were marked by the number of new media artists who were also active
in the media industries), towards academic environments. This is simply due
to the universities being able to offer environments where artists are
supported to do the work they wish to do. The universities do this because
there now exists a research infrastructure and funding which they are
chasing. They basically bid for artists to join their research communities
as, in the long run, the artists outputs will generate more income through
the research assessment exercise than they have cost the institution to
employ. This also encourages departments to nurture the professional
artistic careers of their younger faculty in the expectation that some of
them will be successful and result, again, in enhanced research income. It
is all down to economics.

> Research funding within the arts and culture sectors itself is by and
> large non-existent. If sufficient funding was available within the
> sector, these cultural actors could simply set up their own research
> trajectories and invite scientists and engineers to work with them.
> This is indeed what is happening a lot, but because of the limited
> fnding available for anything that is not directly related to the
> production of art works, or the mediation of art and culture to the
> audience, these projects tend to be marginal, often interesting, but
> in size, scale and number insignificant in comparison with mainstream
> academic research and industry R&D.
-----
Well, as we can see, it all depends where you are as to whether this is the
case or not. This might be an issue in Europe, and within traditional models
of arts practice in the UK as well, but it is not the whole story.

> So, the real question I would like to see discussed, not just here
> but genrally, is how to address this institutional inbalance?
-----
You need to establish a social context that sees research as valid in
diverse areas of social engagement, whether the sciences, social sciences,
arts or other areas. Once you have established that, and the political will
to follow through the implications of such a social realignment, then the
resources can be made available, with the required concensus, and the
research infrastructure required to achieve that goal established. It is a
very long process.

The UK experience was certainly difficult and, in many instances, still is.
The key events were the creation of the new universities and the creation of
a free internal market in research funding. The first allowed art
departments to have access to the same status as traditional university
research areas. The second freed up the system such that these art
departments could then bid for research which, until then, had been
something of a closed shop.

The downside of this approach is that UK academia now has to live within a
market driven, rather corporate, notion of education. That is, education is
no longer primarily about the creation of knowledge but about its transfer
and, further to that, how this can be applied to generate added value (eg:
profit) in the market place. That makes for a rather ruthless environment
where certain ethics, that I expect most people here would subscribe to, are
seriously challenged.

> Our strategy from the field of new media culture / arts is twofold
> right now. We engage policy makers, including cabinet members in the
> current (liberal/conservative) government in active debate to create
> awareness of these issues and the potential of cross-dicplinary
> activity. Secondly we will be highlighting exemplary projects that
> have been realised in recent years despite the dreary financial
> circumstances of most organisations in the field. Although nobody
> really counts on the big frameworks of research funding and support,
> it would really help to bring the field of "artsitic research' to
> maturity.
-----
Your description of the situation in the Netherlands is comprehensible from
here in the UK but functions to highlight how different things can be
between two countries that are physically, and in many ways culturally, so
close together. The issues you are addressing are profoundly different.

There are problems in the UK of course, but they are of a different
character. The main thing here has been the review of research funding that
has been carried out over the past three years. Initially, from the
recommendations that emerged last year, it seemed that by the end of this
research cycle (2007/8) things were going to be profoundly different and
possibly not good news for arts practice based research models. Now though,
as the recommendations are fed through various consultative systems, they
become so watered down that it is clear there will not be any radical change
in how things have been done. There is certainly still a lack of clarity
around unit 64 of assessment (art and design) and related creative arts
research areas, and there are some stirrings that might suggest a less
benevolent funding regime in these areas post 2008. What is clear is that
unit 64 will continue to exist in its current form and thus arts departments
will still be playing the same game (although possibly in a different,
smaller, league) as the traditional research led departments. What is also
clear is that academic funding of this kind will continue to dwarf the funds
available through direct arts funding (Arts Councils, etc) and thus we will
likely see the continued evolution in how art is practiced in the UK that we
have seen over the past decade and, central to that, the enhancement of art
based research.

The politics involved between government and the univerisities, between the
old and new univerisities and those involving other interested parties, is
such that nobody is laying any bets on anything yet. Therefore everyone is
making decisions now, many of which are going to provide the basis on which
they fight the next research assessment exercise (in the UK this is
basically a competitive process), that have to take account of numerous (and
nebulous) factors of yet ill determined character. We will see where it
goes. I know there are some people on this list, who have a better
understanding of the byzantine dynamics determining UK research funding than
myself, who might wish to clarify these matters for us all.



Simon Biggs
[log in to unmask]
http://www.littlepig.org.uk/

Research Professor
Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK
http://www.shu.ac.uk/schools/cs/cri/adrc/research2/

Senior Research Fellow
Computer Laboratory
University of Cambridge

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

JiscMail Tools


RSS Feeds and Sharing


Advanced Options


Archives

October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001


JiscMail is a Jisc service.

View our service policies at https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/policyandsecurity/ and Jisc's privacy policy at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/website/privacy-notice

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager