First Summit Mission and Goals
The purpose of the BRIDGES Consortium is to create a network for the development of strategies for interdisciplinary collaboration in the arts, sciences, engineering and technology. Rather than just have a "conference," our goal in calling the first summit was to brainstorm with a group of experts in this area to generate tangible, usable information about interdisciplinary practice. In particular, we wanted to look at the ways in which engineering and computer science methods interface with arts, media and other cultural methods, where these correspond, collide and create new approaches. We wanted to come out of this initial summit with a direction for a draft a "framework" that would provide a quantitative and qualitative map of inter-disciplinary collaboration issues between "artistic" and "technical" disciplines. This framework would then be developed by consortium members over the next year with the goal of having a draft in place for the next summit at the Banff Centre in the Fall of 2002. As such, we defined some key areas of inquiry. Although USC and Banff initiated the discussion, it is our goal that the consortium should ultimately set its own agenda and that all members should play an equal role in its efforts. The First Summit was an attempt to make a start. Our aspiration is that, together with all the participants, we can create a working community and a set of valuable documents and resources that can be used by us, our colleagues and others desiring to venture forth into this area.
We were very pleased that the participants embraced the idea and, as of this writing, have already begun developing initiatives to support this agenda. The following report describes the results of our first Summit, held May 31st-June 1st, 2001. In the Fall of 2002, we will follow up with a summit at the Banff Centre that expands the cross-disciplinary realm to include social sciences and humanities. Our intention is that each summit will result in a published document that will be made publicly accessible for use by anyone working in the art and technology area, as well as building up an ongoing and active community engaged in ongoing initiatives that support our work.
The following are some topics we discussed and issues that we think
are pertinent to the domain. These are not in any particular order to suggest
value or priority, but are simply provided as a jumping off point for ongoing
1. Value of art/science and technology collaboration. What is the value
of art/technology interdisciplinary collaboration? What is the balance between
a critique and strengthening of the current structures and the creation of new
structures? Is there a utopian enterprise of science and art? Is it about different
kinds of economies? Is it about social critique and technology, and building
technologies that empower and enable people? How do cultural values about technology
and art weigh into the equation? In what way does the act of collaboration itself
serve as a cultural critique?
2. The payoff. What do each of the players get from the exchange? Validation?
Insights? Access to tools and knowledge that make their projects work? How is
collaboration rewarded/penalized? In what ways do our current structures encourage/discourage
interdisciplinary collaboration? What is the tension between single-author and
multiple-authored work? What should we be getting from these relationships?
How can we create methods that meet these goals? How can everyone get what they
need out of the work, even though what each member needs might be different?
3. Values & Ideologies. What are the essential ideologies and values
systems within each discipline area? How can the intermingling of these ideologies
lead to the creation of a larger ideology? Do contrasting ideologies and values
pose potential obstacles to collaboration? How can these contrasts be used to
enhance the value of collaboration? ("Ideology," according to Oxford,
is the system of ideas at the basis of an economic, cultural or political theory;)
4. Language. What do we learn from each other in terms of language?
How do we use and create language? (
the "I say tomayto, you say tomahto"
discussion.) How do the same words-for example, "grammar," "program"
and "agency"-take on different meanings in different contexts?
5. Aesthetics. What are the different sets of aesthetic considerations
in various fields? "Elegant" code is differentiated, for example,
from visual composition. How do we compare "under the hood" aesthetics
with exterior, visible aesthetics. How are these two integrated in a cross-disciplinary
context? Is there a consistent, aesthetic in art and science collaboration?
Some say that the machine takes over, others that there is not enough critique
of whether projects work as art or not, yet others feel that there needs to
be an aesthetic that combines the social and the ethical with the sensory. A
strong aesthetic or series of aesthetics have emerged out of technology/art
collaboration, whether by design or by accident. What about procedural and emergent
forms of aesthetics? What types of "purities" can help or hinder aesthetic
development? In some disciplines, the whole notion of aesthetics is held under
suspicion, disdain, or completely ignored as a consideration. How do we discuss
aesthetics when some members of the team are not even aware of them as a consideration?
6. Disciplinary Goals: What is the objective of our work? What is our
work product? What is the definition of success? By whose values are we judged?
In each discipline, how is our work evaluated? Who are we trying to impress?
In what way will collaboration support or impede these goals? In what contexts
is art/technology collaboration itself viewed as a central objective? It was
context is that evaluated/judged? When is it viewed with disdain? Can collaboration
ever harm us?
7. Methods. What do we learn from each other in terms of working methods?
How can we make our work more effective? How can we change our methods to include,
for example, intuition, or formal evaluation, in order to learn from other disciplines?
How can we learn to respect methods that are different from our own, understand
their strengths and weaknesses, and then perhaps combine differing methods to
create new hybrid approaches?
8. Emotional & Affective. What are the emotional and affective qualities
of working together? How is this expressed in the actual work made? How can
we make our methodologies more open and honest? How do we deal with conflict
as well as success and pleasure? Where do gender-, culture- and discipline-based
ways of dealing with emotion and relationship impact on working methods? How
can we develop coherent tools and methods for bridging potential gaps in this
9. Organizations, Institutions and Alternative Structures. What types
of institutions and structures have we have created or used, both casual and
formal, that facilitate interdisciplinary practice? What are the roles of academic,
artist-based, presentation, research, corporate and other institutions in creating
this kind of work? What are the circumstances in which these structures support
or impede collaboration? How have we managed in spite of these? Which types
of institutional or organizational structures work? Which don't? What sorts
of subversions do we employ?
10. Models. What can we learn from successful models? What were their
goals, what did these achieve, what can be transferred? How can we best document
and share this collective knowledge and wisdom for the benefit of others?
11. Time & Effort. Working together takes more time than working
alone. How do we deal with having enough time to collaborate effectively and
with due process and critique? In what ways are the investment of time and effort
worthwhile? In what contexts is time and effort actually saved as a result of
collaboration? (Such as the example where a methodology from a different discipline
creates a more efficient or effective solution than the classic or traditional
12. Mutual Understanding. To what extent does collaboration require understanding
each other's fields? How superficial or deep does this knowledge need to be?
To what extent do we need to "package" our expertise for those we
work with in other disciplines? For example, to what lengths should an engineer
go to explain processes to artists? To what extent do artists need to know/understand
technical detail? To what extent does an engineer want to understand the conceptual
or aesthetic issues of a project? What "levels of detail" are necessary?
How can we explain what we're doing without getting caught up in unnecessary
detail? How can we express mutual respect for each other's expertise while acknowledging
our own gaps in knowledge? What role does "patience" play? What enables
communication in these contexts? What is the balance between enough communication
and too much?
13. Power & Conflict. What are some of the nitty-gritty issues of
cross-disciplinary work? What happens to projects when one discipline or another
takes the lead (the artist, the computer scientist, the designer, the engineer,
the sociologist, the marketing department)? How is power shared? How is it exploited?
What happens when power shifts (as often happens from one stage to another)
or is usurped? How are conflicts addressed/resolved?
14. Collaborating Across Institutions. How can we construct projects
that span a number of institutions? How can we stage these through effectively?
What is needed in terms of production organization? What is needed in terms
of breaking out research goals and production goals, also short and long term?
How can we effectively manage projects over time? What types of collaboration
tools and technologies can help facilitate these interactions? What kind of
documentation is needed? What staff, infrastructures and roles are required?
15. Remote & Network Collaboration. Network collaboration is a key
ingredient in the equation. Of course the original net was designed for scientific
and technological collaboration and information sharing. But now, such methods
are commonplace, involving file sharing, collaborative tools, and even virtual
shared work spaces. The need for specialization and "unique" skills
configurations makes remote work relationships increasingly important. It also
provides the opportunity for more inter-cultural activities. What have we learned
about working at a distance over networks? When is presence necessary, if ever?
How has the network become not only a means, but also a focus of critique? In
what ways is the medium the message? How do we create new modes and forms of
communication, new languages specifically geared towards effective remote collaboration?
What tools have developed that enable collaboration over networks? How can we
encourage the sharing of these? What about issues such as open source management?
16. Nervous Break-Down. How do we deal with project and communication
breakdown? For example, if we are looking at commercialization of an open source
software project, we might run into all kinds of questions around locking down
rights, access. What happens when projects where one or both members have volunteered
their skills goes commercial? Since code can be copyrighted, but concepts can't,
how is ownership of collaborative works negotiated? What happens when artistic
goals cannot be technically achieved? When money runs out? When research institutions
or funders decide that they will no longer support research? What about credit?
Ego? What are some of the signs of imminent breakdown? How can we avoid it?
How can and have broken projects been fixed in the past? What can we learn from
breakdown? How can we document or share breakdown so that others can benefit
from our experience?
17. Funding. Who funds art and science collaboration? How does the funding
work? How is funding obtained? What are the criteria for funding? How can we
better influence structures such as foundations, university research environments,
and granting agencies that fund research? How do funding systems reward or penalize
interdisciplinary work? Are there fundamental changes that could be made? How
can we streamline this process? (One suggestion is to create a standard proposal
template that 'ports' proposals into institution-specific formats so that researchers
or artists only have to fill out a single, simple, form for each project.)
18. Difference. How do we design methodologies that take into account
fundamental differences such as sex, gender, race, location, generation, globality,
etc? How do we address the profoundly different ways in which different groups
or cultures relate to technology and art and their essential value to both individuals
19. Knowledge Sharing. How can we best share our experiences with others?
Is there a way to document experiences, methods, processes? Some of us have
written papers and books that explore our processes. How can we create framework
for development of a knowledge base so that others can learn from our experience?