This article introduces the programme “Hybrid Innovation” Creating the Future: Transcending Boundaries through Multi-Communication, a new collaboration between Tokyo Tech and Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (scroll down for English text).
A new collaboration was launched between the Tokyo Institute of Technology, a leading science and technology university, and Central Saint Martins (CSM), University of the Arts London, a world leader in art and design. The fusion of science and art can create a great wave of innovation in society and industry, beyond research and education. Following this approach, we have been engaging in various unique activities. → READ Prof. Nohara’s interview “Encouraging technological innovation through ‘translation'”: Tokyo Tech’s surprising research: a new discipline that enables the fusion of science and art, on Toyo Keizai ONLINE 2021.1.16 (in Japanese).
Our Science & Art Lab “Creative Flow” started in 2009. We have been running joint workshops on “Concept Designing” in collaboration with Musashino Art University and promoted dialogue between science and art in the Creative Café series. Collaboration between students and researchers from both disciplines has been shown to improve soft skills such as creativity, team management, communication, and problem-solving.
In 2017, the Tokyo Institute of Technology and CSM teamed up again to further promote the integration of knowledge across disciplines through speculative and interdisciplinary research activities such as: “the Experiment” Symposium (2017), the research project “Existential Wearables: what are we going to wear in Tokyo in 10 years’ time?” (2018), the joint workshop “Becoming Hybrid” (2019), and the design workshop “Hacking Hearts” (2019) about biotechnological research on the heart. This collaboration is recognized as a WRHI Satellite Lab at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, a centre for interdisciplinary research and creative practice between science and art.
At the point of contact between science & technology and art/design, we find ourselves bound by assumptions and habits as we encounter “others” who are different from us. We recognize alternative language cultures, ways of thinking and values. By leaving a comfort zone that is protected by homogeneous culture and placing ourselves in an interdisciplinary space, we can translate ourselves and embody a shift in thinking. Against this backdrop, we are implementing a program for companies that integrates human resources and information from different fields.
In a time of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity), we cannot face future challenges with a fresh perspective if we remain complacent in existing fields and rely only on formulaic, conventional thinking. Innovation must be implemented in a social sense, not only in a technological sense. This requires innovation in our way of thinking. What is needed is a roadmap to think flexibly and overcome the segmentation of knowledge.
In this program, participating companies will experience a “Hybrid Innovation” process to establish a culture and methodology for creating innovation and transforming ideas. They will work with a diverse range of staff from Tokyo Tech and CSM, including scientists, engineers, artists, designers and philosophers, to provide a range of dynamic activities that connect science, technology and art. The participants will experience a multi-communication space and discussion where ideas reflect values, feelings and psychology without being bound by existing frameworks, and will gain insights for planning and executing strategies for creating unique innovation in their companies.
Program period: October 2022 – April 2023 (pre-season event in August/September 2022)
Application period: June 1, 2022 – September 15, 2022
Program contents: Seminars, workshops, manufacturing, experiments, and creative community activities that will be carried out flexibly face-to-face and/or online. The program will be concluded with a final symposium (limited to participating companies and open to the public).
The ON The BorderLINE exhibition was held at Shibuya QWS, Tokyo, on 25-28 February 2021. In this post, the participants of this first student-led project of the STADHI Satellite Lab at Tokyo Tech reflect on the experience of creating artworks and share lessons learned from the event.
“I chose this lab because it was called Science & Art Lab,” Masamune Kawasaki, the 2nd year master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course who directed the event, talked about his motivation in organizing the exhibition. After gaining experience in creating artworks and managing exhibitions outside the university in the previous year, he led the team of students from Nohara laboratory of the Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering Department at Tokyo Tech. “[…] I thought we could do it, so I suggested holding it at Tokyo Tech.”
The student-centered event was partly supported by the Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI) through a programme that aims to integrate science/technology with art/design. Visitors were invited to experience the feeling of standing on various overlooked borderlines by engaging with a total of nine works purposefully made by nine students. Acting as both artists and management staff, the students carried out the project mostly online. The exhibition itself was held face-to-face in February 2021 under strict preventive measures put in place against COVID-19 infection in Tokyo. Despite the situation, more than 160 people visited the space and many expressed a great interest. Reflecting on the event here, some students share their honest views on the experience of holding the exhibition.
“Although before creating I thought it seemed too difficult, it was not difficult to create when I started.”
ON The BorderLINE was born from the urge to re-examine various ‘borders’ in the current uncertain and chaotic modern times. Trying to capture their own unique ‘borderline’ perspective, each artist translated it into exhibits. Utilizing their knowledge and field of expertise from studying at Tokyo Tech, each also aimed to achieve certain individual aspirations.
“I was trying to capture my feelings towards science and technology,” said Chihiro Wada about her work entitled 126.96.36.199. Her artwork stemmed from her research at Tokyo Tech as a 2nd year Doctoral student with a specialization in gender studies. Her knowledge of cultural signs and text helped in the creation of the artwork: “I tried to evoke a culturally general mental reaction towards the work while at the same time trying to create a confusing effect to stimulate people’s interpretation.” Her final piece resembled mushroom clouds in black and white, which was intended to create an ambiguous, unstable and indescribable psychological landscape. While the making process was relatively simple, she felt that deciding on the final design of the work was a major challenge.
Some visitors shared their impressions of the artworks on a board purposefully prepared for the occasion. Their comments reflect thoughts born after interacting with the students during the exhibition. “I realized that the ‘white feelings’ are not always ‘pure white’ […],” was mentioned after understanding the detail behind color used in the 188.8.131.52. Chihiro Wada was filled with awe by new and interesting interpretations of her work. “Through hearing their comments, I also re-interpreted my artwork,” she stated.
Rei Sato, a 2nd year Master student of the Global Engineering for Development, Environment, and Society (GEDES) course, was inspired by a London-based quantum music project for his 複雑系の音色/Complex Network Tones. “I tried to create state-of-the-art artworks based on science (physics research) and art (music), which is a completely new concept all over the world.” Based on previous studies, he tried to implement the algorithm from scratch and developed the programming by himself to create an original music piece. A visitor asked, paraphrasing the artist: “So this is the sound of this (natural) world?”. Sato reflected on his participation in the show, “Although before creating, I thought it seemed too difficult, it was not difficult to create when I started”. One of the challenges that required much effort was to visually present his non-tangible work through a digital visualization of the music.
In her Your Touch Makes Me Fragrant, Yuke Wang, 2nd year Master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course, applied her theoretical olfactory research to interaction design. “I want to let people think about the relationship between humans and man-made things,” she said. Her interactive installation gave out an aroma when touched. She described the aroma as a metaphor for emotion and attachment. “Attachment makes artificial things emotional and special.” On a practical level, she especially pointed out how her technical background helped her in solving the problems she met in the making process.
The students spent months ‘translating’ their concepts into artworks, by sharing and discussing among each other while at the same time progressing with the overall event plan. Several WRHI members served as advisors, including Heather Barnett from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, and Prof. Masahiko Hara and Dr. Giorgio Salani from Tokyo Tech. From them, the students received valuable feedback, technical hints to solve any bottlenecks, and overall guidance in materializing their ideas.
“Through hearing their comments, I also re-interpreted my artwork.”
During the event, visitors could enjoy the exhibits while interacting with the students at the space. Serving as hall staff, the students were ready to explain each artwork to the visitors. Sometimes the talks went beyond simple explanations of individual works and reached a re-questioning of various underlying concepts and thoughts.
“Although I think my idea was easy to understand, there were still many in the audience who did not understand the concept until I explained it to them,” said Yamei, who was in her 2nd year of the Engineering Sciences and Design master course. Her piece, 私たちの間/ Border Between Us, was a clay sculpture based on the concept of the ever-present border of communication. While she was comfortable to be totally free in expressing herself, she felt insecure at the same time. Without a proper background in art, she wondered how far she managed to successfully convey her message. However, comments from visitors helped her become more confident. “Oh, although it sounds sad that we cannot truly understand each other, the relationship between us is still warm just like your work shows,” was one of the meaningful responses she received from visitors. “I suppose that most of them (visitors) did feel it (the message).”
“[…] I am very glad I could have chance to apply the science communication theory I learned at Nohara laboratory,” Farah Fauzia, a 1st year Master student of GEDES course commented. Her work 社会apparatus/Society Apparatus was meant to convey the message that ‘it is fine to preserve our own color’ through unmixed colorful liquids inside laboratory vessels. Originally graduated from Chemical Engineering major before coming to Tokyo Tech, she tried to give a simple explanation of the scientific reason why the liquids could not get mixed to the visitors. “[I] wondered if there is also something in society that plays the role of surfactants,” one of the visitors commented on the work by using the technical term mentioned by the artists during the explanation. “I learned how to interact with visitors, especially using simple language […],” Fauzia reflected. Another memorable comment from some foreign-national visitors was: “They said they can relate to the concept. It (this artwork) was rather a ‘brave’ message to the Japanese society that was possible probably because of our diverse background.”
The numerous visitors to the exhibition included students, researchers, designers, creators, journalists, and business people. Some were foreign nationals, who enjoyed talking with students using a language other than Japanese. “I thought I had to prepare my business card and portfolio…” one of the students admitted when asked what they would do differently next time.
“I learned that we had to pass lots of processes to exhibit artworks.”
“Attending the exhibition is not only about creating a fine work,” Rei Sato reflected. “[…] I think most of us did not consider them at all at first.” Most members of the 9-strong team acted as both artists and management staff for this exhibition and struggled to find a balance between working on personal pieces and planning the event. “I learned that we had to pass lots of processes to exhibit artworks,” one stated. Most students identified time management as the most challenging aspect of the whole experience. “It was truly hard work,” Masamune Kawasaki – who led the team – admitted during the final evaluation meeting.
Under the COVID-19 infection risk, they needed to figure out how to smoothly carry out most of the production work online. For example, the team relied on the virtual layout of Shibuya QWS Playground to design the exhibition floor—since only limited people could visit the place during the preparation phase, and some trouble arose on the spot. “[…] You should leave enough time to test and adjust it in the exhibition space,” Yuke Wang reflected on her experience of taking long a time to find and fix a problem with her interactive installation that did not work well after its installation. “[…] Anything could happen during the exhibition time,” Farah Fauzia added, “It was very important to stay aware of overall exhibition space so we could respond swiftly.”
Another voiced a different opinion, “I think the most difficult part is generating good ideas”. The students spent months shaping their concepts into exhibits and went through a process of problem finding and solving in expressing their ideas. Chihiro Wada explored different ideas before finally settling on her [184.108.40.206] work. “I just kept thinking and thinking through creating my piece. It was a lot of work, but I believed it was necessary to the current me,” she explained.
When asked whether making the artwork helped them become a better researcher, some students were unconvinced. “I am not sure that they are related but […] I think it makes me better person,” Yamei expressed. Yuke Wang, who produced two pieces for the exhibition, pointed out the difference between the two activities: “Doing research is trying to figure out “why” and trying to express clearly to let other people understand. No ambiguity. But making artwork is more about expressing yourself. And different people can have different understanding of your artwork. There can be ambiguity.” However, most of them also agree that there are similarities between artwork production and research activities. “I think the process of finding a question and solving it is similar,” Wang said. “It was practically a trial and error, or experiments,” another added. “By not giving up and facing the challenge, we will equip ourselves with the necessary skills to become a good researcher,” Fauzia argued.
“I just kept thinking and thinking through creating my piece. It was a lot of work, but I believed it was necessary to the current me.”
FINAL REFLECTION, FUTURE THOUGHT
The students also shared personal impressions on their own pieces. “I like the texture and delicacy of my piece,” one of them honestly said. While others also stated they like their own pieces in terms of idea and quality, some felt not quite satisfied, “if I have more time, I can make them better.” Another student also added, “Next time, I would like […] to enhance the impact and message of the artwork.”
Some enjoyed receiving feedback and wanted to enable more interaction with the audience. “This experience is priceless,” one of the students summarized. For another student, through talking with various people with various background, one can also sell his/her own name. “This experience gives us a wide view not only of our artwork but also trigger future plans,” Rei Sato stated.
If there were opportunities in the future, all the students involved in the show agreed they would love to make artwork again. “Of course. I always have [a] strong desire of creating something,” Yamei eagerly stated. “I feel I need to express my thoughts not only through academic articles but also through art,” Chihiro Wada added. Another student also mentioned that this kind of experience is something that she probably could not easily come across in the future.
On the final evaluation meeting, event producer and director Masamune Kawasaki said he was glad this time there were some members who said they would want to experience the process again, “I think it was a good thing. We have experienced it once so we should be able to proceed more smoothly next time.” As all concerning issues (especially on the management side) were being evaluated, he hopes the event can be held annually. “We should collaborate with other universities,” one argued. During the event, some visitors from the architecture and literature department of another university came to talk about the overall exhibition with great interest. “It would be interesting to collaborate with them,” Kawasaki agreed.
He also pointed out his opinion that there might be something that can only be possible to be produced here in ScienceXArt Nohara Laboratory. “Unlike other laboratories, each individual has [a] different specialty, so the output will be different.” Different from art colleges who usually have a decided fixed output, university students (especially in non-art related majors) attempting to make artworks from original concepts may introduce interesting scientific innovations.
“This experience is priceless.”
Borrowing Prof. Kayoko Nohara’s words, through this exhibition, the Tokyo Tech students who specialize in science and technology have been trying to communicate with audience in a way that differ from your usual language. By integrating science/technology with art/design, they tried to explore media and tools that can capture the potential behind the organized chaos of the borderline. Reflecting on the experiences, they hoped the baton could be passed on to invite more audiences visiting whole new perspectives in future events.
Written by Farah Fauzia, based on an interview by Dr. Giorgio Salani. Edited by Giorgio Salani.
Contributor: Chihiro Wada, Yuke Wang, Rei Sato, Farah Fauzia, Yamei
また、Science x Artラボである野原研究室でしか作れないものがあるかもしれないという観客からの反応もありました。このイベントでは、科学・技術を専門とする東工大生たちが、いつもの言葉ではない形で、コミュニケーションを図ろうとしています。科学・技術をアート・デザインと統合することにより、彼らは境界線の組織化された混沌の背後にある可能性を受けとめ発信できるメディアとツールを探求しようとしました。
“ON the border LINE” was an exhibition based on re-examination of “border” in the current uncertain and chaotic modern times. Boundaries divide anything into two: this is science, this is not science; this is art, this is not art; this is seeing, this is hearing. What about the border itself? Much ambiguity is expected where boundaries are drawn. Students from the Dept. of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering at Tokyo Tech explored and translated this concept into exhibits, and invited visitors to take a look at the world from various borderline perspectives.”
The exhibition was held on 25-28 February 2021 at the Playground of Shibuya Scramble Square QWS in Tokyo. Despite strict preventive measures put in place against COVID-19 infection, more than 160 people visited the space during the 4-day face-to-face exhibition. The project aimed to re-frame various ambiguous boundaries in modern times under the current disarrayed global condition.
In 2020, our ‘normal’ everyday activities were suddenly disrupted by the spread of COVID-19. Since then, human life has been significantly affected. Countless visible borders, such as masks and social distancing, have become indispensable. At the same time, the ‘new normal’ has redefined various views of the world. However, amidst these uncertainties and disorder, there must be something that can only be captured at this very moment. Based on this feeling, this exhibition was held to invite visitors to experience the feeling of standing on various overlooked borderlines.
The show was directed by Masamune Kawasaki, 2nd year Master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course. A total of nine works from Tokyo Tech students were exhibited.
“If I didn’t see this work, I probably wouldn’t have encountered the world of quantum for the rest of my life…” (impression from anonymousvisitor)
Making use of knowledge from his field of interest – physics research – Rei Sato brought the visitors to listen to his mysterious ‘quantum music’. Referring to music that operates in quantum mechanic ways, quantum music has been recently recognized as a new music technology mainly in Western Europe. These tones enabled visitors to hear previously unperceived quantum interaction through music. This works as a border that connects people and complex systems.
“…we probably have been living while struggling to deal with this kind of dual opposition.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Using a black and white theme, Chihiro Wada expressed her personal view of science and technology. The title represents the atomic bombing that happened on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 in her hometown of Hiroshima, which was also the birth of her complex feelings toward science. Specializing in the field of Gender Studies of Humanities, her view toward science and technology gradually changed after enrolling in Tokyo Tech, a concept she tried to convey through this work.
“The scent of artificial flowers was very mysterious. Just like a science fiction!” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Through this ‘cyber flower’ interactive installation, Yuke Wang tried to explore the relationship between humans and artificial things. The ‘dead’ flower would become ‘alive’ with emotion and give out fragrance just like a real flower when coming in contact with a human. Having been working on olfactory research, Yuke Wang designed this artificial flower to give out a rose scent after being directly touched by the visitors.
“Border Between Us (私たちの間)” by Yamei
“I can watch this forever…” (impression from anonymous visitor)
This sculpture work represented a mass of ‘love’, which exists with an unfilled gap. Through this work, Yamei expressed how ‘words’ are an important element in building relationships between people. The various expressions of love written on this work represent any means for people to express and listen, in the effort to understand and be understood. While the gap–border of communication exists forever, people are still yearning to build ‘love’ between them.
“I didn’t know that just by having something else replaced your own face, your mind could be affected this much.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Inspired by the mask that has become part of everyday life during the Coronavirus pandemic, this interactive installation was designed as a ‘mirror’ that can show different ‘faces’ of oneself. Through this work, Ayano Nagata tried to realize the desire of ‘choosing body and fashion that can express one’s personality without being bound by natural body’ in the future. In this AR-based installation, visitors could have their face replaced by non-human avatars while still wearing masks.
“…I wonder if human also possess some kind of independent thing that will never get mixed.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Making use of knowledge in Chemistry from her Chemical Engineering background, Farah Fauzia wanted to deliver the beauty of ‘layers’ that form in society. Through this colorful installation, visitors could directly see how various liquids would not blend even if they were mixed together due to their different characteristics. With this demonstration, she tried to convey her opinion that it should be fine to stay true to our own ‘color’ in society.
“This made me realize that the boundaries in the landscape are not just those created by humans.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
By following the hundreds of photos taken along the journey from Tokyo Tech to the Shibuya QWS venue that were displayed on the floor of exhibition hall, Wang Hezheng invited the visitors to re-discover the beauty of the inconspicuous scenery in daily life. Graduated from Architecture studies, she transformed the everyday landscape into novel scenery by noticing the ‘boundary line’ that divide the materials, colors, and spaces and let visitors to enjoy new perspectives.
“It was interesting to express the current social situation and the emotions of people living in it.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
This work expressed two systems – open and closed – using the flow of water. Tomohiro Ichikawa wanted to convey his view that current society – in chaos due to forces such as capitalism and the Coronavirus pandemic, has divided people into independent subjects. Having major interest in Psychology research, he tried to re-question the whole situation by positioning the ‘subject’ from different point of view together with the visitors.
“It was beautiful to contrast technology and tradition.” (impression from anonymous visitor)
Using Kintsugi (金継ぎ) to connect traditional ceramic vessels and modern plastic cups, Kato and Wang tried to question the value of new things. As human lives become more efficient, some value is added but some is lost when things become more convenient. Is it evolution, or is it erosion? The set of new things born from different value aimed to ask such question to the visitors.
During the exhibition, visitors from diverse background could enjoy the exhibits while interacting with the students from Tokyo Tech. The communication went beyond the simple explanation of their works, and reached a phase of re-questioning of various concepts and thoughts. Among the most notable impressions from the visitors, some pointed out how the concept from each exhibit managed to be conveyed in an easy-to-understand manner compared with the usual art exhibitions. This was probably made possible due to integration of science and art as basis for the show.
This event is the first student-centered project conducted as part of the Satellite Lab STADHI of Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI), which aims to integrate science/technology with art/design and is organized by Nohara laboratory led by Prof. Kayoko Nohara. Among the supporters, Prof. Masahiko Hara and Dr. Giorgio Salani from Tokyo Tech acted as technical advisors, with Dr. Heather Barnett from Central Saint Martins, University Arts London, as honorary advisor.
Written by Farah Fauzia
「ON the borderLINE」は、先の見えない混沌とした現代における「境界：Border」を見つめ直すことに基づく展覧会でした。境界は物事を二分します。これはサイエンス、これはサイエンスではない/これはアート、これはアートではない。しかし境界線上はどうでしょうか。きっと、多くのあいまいさからどっちつかずの混沌とした世界が広がっています。東京工業大学の融合理工学系の学生たちは、このコンセプトを調査して展示に変換し、観客たちをさまざまな境界線上で世界を見ることに誘いました。
The Hacking Heart hackathon was held at Central Saint Martins, London, UK, on 4-8 November 2019 (full programme here). Prof. Nohara and the team reflected on the interdisciplinary exchanges performed during their weeklong project.
“After day one I was a bit overwhelmed by the presentations – there’s a lot to absorb”. Participants and organisers of the Hacking Heart hackathon sat down 10 days later to reflect on the event. The project was a weeklong experimental collaboration between scientists and Art & Design students, held on 4-8 November 2019 at Central Saint Martins college (CSM) in London, UK. The activities were designed to interrogate and reimagine contemporary scientific research centred on heart disease, energy harvesting and cellular sensing. Talking to the organisers Dr Heather Barnett and Dr Ulrike Oberlack, the students described the initial difficulties in accessing scientific language and content delivered by the scientists, “I had more one-on-one experience discussing the research with the scientists that cleared up a lot of misunderstandings… it helped with our research and planning before we went to discuss it with the scientists”. Researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Queen Mary University of London (Queen Mary) worked with the organisers and 12 students from across a range of postgraduate courses at CSM (MA Art and Science, MA Design Furniture, MA Graphic Communication Design, MA Industrial Design, MA Jewellery Design, and MA Performance Design and Practice). Over the course of the week, the workshops facilitated a fertile exchange of ideas between artists and scientists. Each of the three groups of students produced a performance, delivered to participants and members of the public in a symposium on the last day.
Initially, the event presented the typical difficulties of working collaboratively. “At the beginning we have a lot of ideas about the project, about the Hacking Hearts, how to show that, but, finally, we should give up some of them, some things are not very strong or some things not very connected, not very related”. The students learned to sacrifice some ideas to build up a clear outcome. “It was that phrase that consumed my mind: that a horse designed by committee could look like a camel”, the group laughed.
“It was that phrase that consumed my mind: that a horse designed by committee could look like a camel”
On the first day, the scientists shared their work in biotechnologies for the students to hack over the course of the week, ending with a public symposium on 8th November. Dr Thomas Iskratsch (Queen Mary) presented his research on biotechnological approaches for preventing and curing heart disease. Integrating biology with engineering, bioengineering solutions employ a combination of cells, signals and materials to create tissues outside the body that “will give us insights into disease processes, which in the future might aid design of novel drugs”. Dr Iskratsch researches the ways in which heart cells measure muscular stiffness by using simplified systems to investigate specific parameters in isolation, such as rigidity or shape. The students were invited to respond to his research and develop a “transdisciplinary translation” of its contents, as part of a wider effort to create a “third place bridging science/tech and art/design through communication”, as the organisers described.
The research discussed by Prof. Wataru Hijikata (Tokyo Tech) provided additional food for thought. His presentation gave a quick overview of his work on energy harvesting systems that can be implanted in the human body, such as those required to power artificial heart pumps. The students responded to this work by creating props for a performance built around the idea of natural and artificial heartbeats. This inspired a question about accuracy during the symposium’s Q&A, as according to the students, by engaging with scientific content artists can “try to accurately communicate [in a] very certain and interesting way to a wider public audience, or you can go down the route where you’re just using as a jumping-off point, something to interpret, something to inspire you”.
The experience also changed the scientists’ own perception of what could be possible through collaboration with artists. On a straightforward level, Hijikata had to censor the content of his presentation to avoid discussing ethically challenging methods, such as the use of animal testing in research. This triggered a sort of suspicion about scientific procedures but resulted in a positive artistic outcome. For the scientist, “some disturbances are necessary for making impressive emotional performances”. He admired the performance about the beating hearts, which showed the essence (if not the details) of his research had been received appropriately by the students. For him, the value of art lies in translating scientific information into emotions. He compared his experience of the performance with that of watching the Japanese martial art of Kendo, “you’re very close in that moment – there’s no distance”. This was a superb achievement for the students. “I think that a lot of artists would aspire to this”, the organisers noted.
By working with people with “different disciplinary knowledge, methods and mindsets”, the participants explored and reinterpreted social, ethical and philosophical dimensions of scientific research. In her role as Social Scientist in Residence at CSM, Prof. Nohara observed and reflected on the hybrid nature of those interactions. The team observed, “I guess the creative process generally goes through several phases of diversion, conversion, diversion, conversion, diversion, conversion. It’s sort of when you hit a problem, you then open it up and then have to close it down, and then you’ve got another problem”. The social dimension involved in collaborating with others can lead to the attempt to include all voices and “embrace everything”. But achieving a definite outcome requires some final convergence of views. This was compared to an artist’s creative process, embracing all ideas at the start only to reject, select and develop components later.
During the hackathon, thinking creatively was promoted by exercises such as exploring alternative meanings for the words used in the scientific presentations. “It was really interesting how we all had different kind of ideas about some of the words”, the students convened, pointing out differences in specialised knowledge and personal interests among the participants. “So, the strategy worked in inviting inspiration?”. A student confirmed, “I think that helped everyone open up and look at it a little bit more creatively [free] instead of just thinking in terms of […] how to interpret that research”.
“The ‘right’ is when you’re feeling connected enough to the artwork so that what you’re proposing has some sort of plausibility to it, but far enough away so that it is not a one-on-one translation”
The programme of events concluded on 8th November with a public symposium, during which the scientists presented their work to the audience and the students performed work created in response to the discussions held during the week-long activities. Four students entered the stage in the dark holding heart-like luminous objects while a projected video asked, “Can you distinguish between the different heartbeats? Healthy heart, unhealthy heart, pacemaker, artificial heart”. The audience was invited to participate in the performance and answer the question by beating different materials. Their active engagement surprised even the artists, “it was amazing that in one moment […] was interacting and it was very beautiful to see that”. This mimicked the contents of the presentation given by Prof. Hijikata but provided an alternative take on the issues.
Finally, the participants agreed on the importance of having a symposium at the end of the week, “I think that even though we know that there was no specific outcome required, there was – because of the symposium. I think without that, we may not have formulated pieces that were ready to show”. The participants appreciated the pressure given by the tight schedule and linked their productivity to it, “It wasn’t stressful. It was more trying to come up with creative solutions in order to get to a place where we were satisfied that the audience would have something somewhat finished to interpret”.
“So that was quite nice to go out of your comfort zone and I feel like I want to push that a bit further maybe in my own work”
Beyond the success of the project for the team and their audience, the experience left a mark on individual artists, e.g. inspiring further performative elements and using materials closer to those the scientists employ in their work. “So that was quite nice to go out of your comfort zone and I feel like I want to push that a bit further maybe in my own work”. The discussion concluded with positive remarks about continuing the collaboration with Dr Iskratsch, who is also based in London, and plans for a potential exhibition at the Science Museum to produce a physical body of work aside from the performances.
The Social Design Project course is taking place during the second trimester of 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, classes are offered online on Zoom for the first time. The article below provides a summary of the lectures given on Week 2 by Dr Giorgio Salani. These were attended by about 45 students, who also participated in online group exercises and completed a formal assignment at the end of the week. A description of Week 3 classes can be found here.
In line with Prof. Nohara’s working definition of Social Design as “planning and presenting services or products that contribute to our society”, Dr Salani discussed the delivery of ‘value’ through technical and design work. Week 2 classes focused on “delivering value to clients” through consultancy services, and Week 3 on “creating original value” through research. Effectively, these were used as contexts to introduce basic notions of Engineering Consultancy in Week 2 and Design Research in Week 3. Dr Salani’s professional background in both fields offered direct insights into real projects, merging theoretical explanations with practical considerations.
An Introduction to Engineering Consultancy
The class started with a description of Visibility Graph Analysis (VGA), a method of quantitative assessment of urban spaces that was initially developed in the late 1990s and quickly grew into an industry standard. VGA provides clients with measures of visibility and accessibility that can be used to directly compare the performance of proposed plans and masterplans during initial design stages. Results can also input into predictive pedestrian models to simulate the traffic expected to occur in a variety of scenarios. This is a powerful tool for transport engineers – worth discussing in its own right – but in the lecture Dr Salani primarily used it to illustrate the work of Engineering Consultants. The VGA software Fathom was developed by Intelligent Space Partnership in the UK in the early 2000s, and initially offered as a software package to architects and urban planners. Failing to attract sufficient interest, the founders began to use the software to provide evidence-based professional advice to their clients, and so the company flourished as a consultancy. A typical business success story, the company quickly grew to employ 25 staffs and was later acquired by a major engineering corporation, Atkins Ltd, itself recently bought out by the SNC-Lavalin group.
So, what is consulting? Consultants are professionals who make their expertise available to clients (Williams and Woodward, 1994). They offer technical assistance and professional advice, e.g. in the form of policy recommendations, data analysis or design work. Often working on multiple projects at the same time, they operate in a corporate environment that is highly regulated by company procedures and industry standards. The lecture discussed typical roles and responsibilities shared by a team of consultants, highlighting the need for teamwork and multidisciplinarity. Accounts from Dr Salani’s professional experience illustrated approaches and real-life conditions in which engineering consultants operate.
The Skills of an Engineering Consultant
The “1+7 model” offered by Williams and Woodward (1994) was adapted to show the multiple roles a consultant is expected to play when undertaking a project. This goes well beyond the goal of providing specialist information and advice as an expert in a particular field, and involves the multiple roles shown in the figure below.
The focus here was on the non-technical nature of these important roles. A goal of the lecture was to emphasise the need for additional skills required by engineers and technical specialists. To further illustrate this point, a recent, real profile of a software engineer from an online recruiting ad was discussed in the class, highlighting several competencies expected from a graduate applying for the position. Besides a comprehensive understanding of the profession, the employers listed skills and attitudes that included the ability to manage time, space and power constraints, being confident and responding positively in stressful situations, interacting constructively with customers and colleagues, being able to provide creative solutions, and generally demonstrating excellent communication skills. Interestingly, the assignment completed by the students after the class showed these requirements resonated with the students’ needs to prepare for a professional career. Many expressed the desire to develop further communication skills during the course of their studies. As explained in the lecture, this is seen as key to enable the implementation and application of the more strictly technical expertise acquired at university.
At the end of the first lecture, students completed concept maps of non-technical consultancy competencies. The exercise invited them to reflect on the knowledge, skills and attitudes required by employers in work that involves – among other activities – direct contact with clients and communication with diverse audiences.
The Consulting Process
The second part of the class went deeper into the analysis of the engineering consulting process. Theoretical diagrams and definitions of the various stages involved in delivering services to clients were illustrated by a real case study: a transport assessment undertaken by Dr Salani for the Royal Parks (client) in London, UK, in 2014. The purpose of the project was to monitor the use by pedestrians and cyclists of a shared path located within an important public green space in central London. This aimed at identifying current flow levels, conflicts and interactions between transport modes to provide a baseline analysis before the installation of cycle speed calming measures along the route. The project exemplified a typical transport engineering service whereby consultants provide specialist advice to a client, informed by the collection and analysis of new data. The project included an initial scoping study, surveys conducted by the consultancy team and CCTV surveys commissioned to sub-contractors. Using the project as a context for discussion, the students were introduced to key phases in engineering consulting work, which are summarised in the diagram below.
An account of the tasks involved in delivering the project for the Royal Parks provided context to describe not only the tasks involved but to highlight the technical and non-technical competencies involved at each stage. This illustrated the content of the first lecture with a practical example of the application of the characteristics discussed in the group exercise. The example of the Data Analysis phase is shown in the figure below. Negotiation, communication and critical skills play an even more central role in the last phase of a consultancy project, the Evaluation phase. The diplomacy and reliability of consultants is put to the test in this final stage, in which the project is internally evaluated to identify mistakes and lessons to inform future procedures. This can also be a period of more intense communication with clients to acquire – or at least test the waters for – project extensions.
In his seminal book Design for the Real World (1972), design theorist Victor Papanek tells the story of his young self in New York in the 1950s, invited by his new employer to describe his role as a designer in the factory. Discussing his work on a new model of transistor radio, Papanek mentioned the “beauty” of the product at the market level and the “consumer satisfaction” created by his original design. His boss interrupted him and reminded him instead of his main responsibility as a designer to create something that could be produced and sold to support the company’s stakeholders and all the workers that would flock from various parts of the US to find employment in the factory and produce his radio. Later on in his life, Papanek realised the designer has also additional responsibilities, not just towards customers and workers, but society and the environment. This simple tale set the basis for the discussion on delivering value through consultancy work, not just to clients but to society at large.
The model to assess the impact of consultancy work was developed for this course based on the 7-point radial charts utilised by Prof. Nohara in her Week 1 lectures. For Week 2, this was adapted to include the characteristics listed in the diagram below.
A final qualitative assessment of the project introduced the end of the lecture. A few concluding considerations summarised the impact of the project on various stakeholders (i.e. client, consultants, local community) and broader categories (i.e. health & safety, environment, politics). The visualisation clearly identified the project to be mostly beneficial to those directly involved in undertaking it (client and consultancy firm) and the users of the proposed solutions (the local community of pedestrians and cyclists in the park), particularly in terms of increased safety. A lower impact was identified on public welfare, politics and the environment. Although beneficial, the effect on these was considered of minor importance. This qualitative assessment provided a final review of the lecture and its relevance to the theme of Social Design discussed in the course. The standard format of the 7-point spider map used in the evaluation offered a direct comparison with those discussed in other weeks, offering an additional binder among the classes given by the various lectures, week after week.
The participation in the classes, group exercises and the completion of the assignments on Google Forms showed a notable interest in the topics among the students, and the classes greatly benefited from their active participation. The smooth delivery of the class was made possible by the help of teaching assistants Purevsuren Norovsambuu (Nasso) and Dolgormaa Banzragch (Banzai), and the professional translation support provided by Takumi Saito over the entire lecture. In addition to introducing specific topics, Week 2 classes provided students with methods and food for thought for the Social Design Project course. Read this blog on Dr Salani’s Week 3 classes on Delivering Original Value.
Atkins, 2009 Spatial Analysis of Pedestrian Movement for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Report.
Atkins, 2015a Kensington Gardens, Mount Walk. Cycle and Monitoring Study for The Royal Parks. Final report R3.
Atkins, 2015b Adelaide Riverbank Precint, Pedestrian Modelling Assessment. Report.
Betancur, J. 2017 The Art of Design Thinking: Make more of your Design Thinking workshops.
Chau, Hing-Wah & Newton, Clare & Woo, Catherine & Ma, Nan & Wang, Jiayi & Aye, Lu. 2018. Design Lessons from Three Australian Dementia Support Facilities Buildings.
Grace, R. 1997 The `chaîne opératoire approach to lithic analysis, Internet Archaeology 2
IDEO, 2015 The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design.
IDEO, What is Social Design? Video Available at:
Papanek, V. 1972 Design for the Real World
Plattner, H. 2018 Design Thinking Bootleg. D.School Stanford.
Stickdorn et al. 2011 This is Service Design Thinking
Williams, A.P.O., Woodward, S. 1994 The Competitive Consultant, A Client-Oriented Approach for Achieving Superior Performance. The MacMillan Press. The Royal Parks 2020 Movement Strategy. Report.
The 10th Musashino Art University-Tokyo Institute of Technology joint workshop was held from July 29 to August 3, 2019.
The collaboration was sponsored by Modulex Inc. and brought together students from the two schools to share their knowledge and skills. Groups of five students combined science & technology and art & design approaches to create new ideas and artworks.
Each group created a single artwork based on the theme “Right Left”.
For some students from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, communications were very difficult because they have fundamentally different ways of thinking from Musashino Art University students. However, communications went beyond the mere use of words.
Drawings of sheets of paper were used as a whiteboard to create connections between the team.
Difficulties in communication can also have positive outcomes. They force one to enter another person’s mindset through face-to-face interaction. Once the overwhelming “otherness” of the other party is accepted, a “responsible relationship” is established. When we say “I understand you”, what we often imply is “I understand you the way I can understand.” There is no threat to the underlying assumptions of one’s cognitive framework.
However, as Levinas repeatedly points out, the responsibility for responding to others lies in the overwhelming “otherness” of inviolability, or “heterogeneity” (Levinas, 1986).
When faced with the “face” of another person, we are inevitably required to take some action.
Saying “I fail to understand you” does not mean the end of the communication. We ask ourselves, “What shall I do?” because the “otherness” of other people continues to prompt a dialogue even without any questions asked.
Here, communication loses the means of understanding others in a way that allows them to understand themselves, and makes it impossible to reverse the alienness of others. In this way, while being overwhelmed by the overwhelming heterogeneity of others, by continuing to direct words and gaze to others, a “responsible relationship” with others begins. We are vulnerable to the foreign nature of the other person, but we still fail to understand her/him (but we’re here, we are here). This may be important in communication.
All the artworks the students created had a “meaning” and a “story” that were crafted by communicating with each other, and they were all original and fun to look at.
Piano Bar Oto (音):
The wonderful idea of drinking sound. It made us think about the difference between what is shaped and what is not.
AI God (AIの神さま):
The idea that a QR code connected to AI is a god. It can be used as a satire for modern society.
Humans without left and right (左右をもたない人間):
The inconvenience of not having left and right. Someone’s freedom may be associated with someone else’s inconvenience.
Seeing things from the beginning (始まりから物事を見る):
A very philosophical work with a well-defined concept behind it. Is it possible for humans to see everything from the beginning to the end?
Products that change the position of the eyes (目の位置を変えるプロダクト):
It’s supposed to be here, it’s the freshness that changes the position of the eyes that you’re thinking about. It can be interpreted as “what is always there is not always there”.
References: Levinas Emmanuel (1986) “Time and Others”, Translated by Yoshihiko Harada, Tokyo: Hosei University Press.
HYBRID INNOVATION:A VISION BUILDING WORKSHOP will be offered.
ART AND DESIGN MEET SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 13:00-16:30, 9 Jan 2020 @407A Workshop Room, South 5
We are a multidisciplinary team made of a designer, a translation/facilitation expert and a theorist working across art and design, science and technology and the humanities. We have been working together for years developing new research, educational and communication methods that bring together different perspectives from our respective fields and across several cultures. We have run a range of activities including academic symposia, hackathons, workshops and public events for different expert and non-expert audiences, in Tokyo and London. With this workshop taster we want to share with you some of the insights we have been developing to address this urgent question: how can we imagine alternate futures?
Most important for you, our guests, how can our methods and insights be mobilized to help you amplify your capacity for innovation, to think about the futures you want and to ask new questions about the values that matter to you and to your company.
HYBRID INNOVATION:A VISION BUILDING WORKSHOP
ART AND DESIGN MEET SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
The “Media Editorial Design” course took place in the 4th trimester of 2019. The overall theme was “design to prevent transmission” and the task was to produce a “graphic expression to prevent transmission”.
The students experimented with designs that “do not communicate” a message. The lecture’s goal was to understand the usability of information, the meaning of design today, and the basics of editing. Despite the difficulty of the task, all the students took on the challenge and produced bold works. It was wonderful to tackle these issues. We think that the experience of actively discovering both the difficulty and fun aspects of “communicating” thoughts will be useful in their own research in the future.
In the first half of the lecture, we discussed the nature of design and thought of a familiar “not transmitted” design.
“Art is a medium that can express invisible dynamic elements. Design is the medium that fixes the visible event”
The students received clear instructions: learn how to sketch and start creating works. Specify the location of the text, graphics and photos on a sketch paper sheet, and type specific text. The important point is to know where to put what.
During the production process, fine adjustments (e.g. number of pixels) were made with the teacher. Small differences affect the mood of the work. On the last day, the students’ work was reviewed. Each work was a masterpiece that pursued a design that was “not transmitted”. Some examples are shown below: