A Transdisciplinary Approach to Art and Science Research: Permeable Research Frameworks

By Brett Wilson, Barbara Hawkins and Stuart Sim.

Published by The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

We are currently experiencing a significant growth in cooperation between scientists and artists working on collaborative art-science projects. The research group Project Dialogue, for example, promotes a transdisciplinary art-science forum for enquiry into the arts and sciences, and encourages a broader examination of underlying commonalities and differences in their practices and research methodologies by interrogating their fundamental conceptual models, structures and metaphors. By making previous disciplinary boundaries more permeable, art and science can become a much more effective force for addressing major global challenges facing society today, such as energy and food sustainability and climate change. Our paper enquires into the research strategies and differing truth concepts adopted by the sciences and arts to understand and reconstruct their realities, and how modernist concerns over the objective/subjective axis are dissolving under the notion of perceptual frameworks built around Bayesian constructs. The latter accept that a degree of uncertainty in our theoretical framework naturally translates to a provisional view of the world that must be continually tested against competing cognitive alternatives rather than just new information. Both science and art are much closer than their institutionalised educational forms might suggest. They both share a similar creative impulse, curiosity and imagination, in which their intertwined approaches to perceptual and cognitive worlds now require a much broader educational base and strands of cultural reference than previously. We explore strategies by which commonalities in research techniques across the arts and sciences are able to offer a much broader vision of how arts-based, practice-led research can contribute to a cultural epistemology without being in thrall to an overly restrictive science-based methodology.

Keywords: Transdisciplinarity, Art and Science, Project Dialogue, Cognitive Frameworks, Bayesian Constructs

The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 7, pp.41-49. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 281.267KB).

Dr. Brett Wilson

Senior Research Fellow, Department of Art and Design, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

Brett Wilson is a recently-retired scientist, acting now as a scientist in residence in the Department of Art and Design at the University of the West of England, where he teaches research methods to graduate arts practitioners undertaking MA and PhD studies. He is a co-founder of Project Dialogue, which brings together research participants from across the academic spectrum to enquire into the underlying communalities across the arts, sciences and humanities. The group has developed teaching courses based on a transdisciplinary approach to the cultural history of science for presentation to both arts and science students. His personal research interests are in the philosophy of science, particularly in respect of theories of knowledge for describing science and its discoveries, and how such theories can be made accessible across a wider academic base.

Barbara Hawkins

Postgraduate Degrees Coordinator, Department of Art and Design, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

Barbara Hawkins is an arts educator, responsible for coordination and development of postgraduate research degrees in the Department of Art and Design at the University of the West of England, UK, following several years’ service as the head of Faculty Graduate School. She has held a number of senior management roles involving institutional teaching and learning, curriculum and research committees, and frequently serves as a panel member on new course validation events, curriculum reviews and research training audits. Her increasing interest in transdisciplinary modes of teaching and research led to the co-founding of the research group Project Dialogue, working to stimulate novel approaches to interdisciplinary art and science research and practice. She organises regular research training events for the department’s PhD cohort, has responsibility for research degree governance, and has supervised a number of doctoral studies to successful completion.

Prof. Stuart Sim

Professor of Critical Theory, Department of English and Creative Writing, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK

Stuart Sim is a professor of critical theory and long eighteenth century English literature in the Department of English and Creative Writing, Northumbria University. He is the author of 31 books. His work has been translated into 17 languages. He was elected a Fellow of the English Association in 2002. Amongst his recent publications are The End of Modernity, and The Lyotard Dictionary (both Edinburgh University Press). His research interests extend from recent critical theory through English prose fiction, to aesthetics and philosophy of science.