NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Edition 27

Professor Ben Shneiderman is one of the leading researchers in the US. He is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Computer Science, Founding Director (1983-2000) of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory and a Member of the UM Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) at the University of Maryland.

The social sciences have had a fruitful relationship working closely and collaboratively with creative artists … But as enthusiasm for ‘creative’ modes of knowledge gain traction, the role of creative researchers, and the levels of their involvement in collaborations needs to be carefully considered.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis gripped the globe the creative arts were facing serious challenges. In the UK there was widespread dismay at the Augar report proposal that university tuition fees could be linked to graduate income, a move that would massively disadvantage arts and humanities courses … As the world faces the possibility of a Great Depression to rival the 1920s this diminishment of the importance of the arts is likely only to intensify.

It’s interesting how labels can shape perceptions. Often, we pay special attention to these as important pieces of information that become amplified in their relevance to reveal something about ourselves as well as the object to which they are applied.

How might creative writing help a group of counter terrorism officers go about their job? This might sound provocative, but it was a real outcome of a recent workshop that we ran for the 2020 Sydney Festival … ‘Scripting the Future’ drew on our collective experiences in screenwriting, speculative fiction and story world building to help participants imagine a personal, political, social and/or environmental future.

Since the Age of Enlightenment ... education systems have engaged students of science in learning to understand objectively - at arm’s length - the world out there: the material world of naturally occurring objects and events. Today, this immensely powerful materialistic, and rapidly globalising, worldview is producing very mixed results. So, how can the Arts contribute to shaping this worldview as it ushers in the ‘fourth industrial revolution’?

Although governments and funding bodies seem determined to place academic teaching and research into neat (measurable and quantifiable) boxes, academics themselves are starting to breach the historical silo walls that have constrained collaboration and understanding. Leonardo da Vinci is reported to have said: “Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else.”