Convergent Territories

A Clash of Culture is not a Disaster, it is an Opportunity (Alfred North Whitehead)

Dialogue can be considered as a free flow of meaning between people in communication, in the sense of a stream that flows between banks. It may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated. (David Bohm, 1990)

I think it’s very strange that ‘knowledge’ has been divided up in to disciplines where there’s really a continuum between things, and people have diverse ways of understanding (Anna Dumitriu, 2014)

Art/Science collaborations abound. The emergence of Sci/Art initiatives is growing, becoming common-place. Dialogue and collaboration between the arts and sciences has provided the potential to create new knowledge, ideas and processes beneficial to both fields. Artists and scientists approach creativity, exploration and research in different ways and from different perspectives, but when working together there is the opportunity to open up new ways of seeing, experiencing and interpreting the world around us.

How and why do artists engage with science? Why are scientists interested in collaborating with artists? What are the mutual benefits? What new forms of public access are created when scientists open their laboratories to artists? What can a designer learn from consulting a biologist? The more you look, the more you realize that the lines between disciplines have blurred.

A recent white paper emanating from MIT argues that the intersections of arrays of scientists (from many disciplinary areas) will be the next Kuhnian scientific revolution, a revolution broadly known as Convergence. Nobel Laureate Phillip Sharp, one of the authors of the MIT white paper, has noted: “Convergence is a broad rethinking of how all scientific research can be conducted, so that we capitalize on a range of knowledge bases, from microbiology to computer science to engineering design. It entails collaboration among research groups but, more deeply, the integration of disciplinary approaches that were originally viewed as separate and distinct. This merging of technologies, processes, and devices into a unified whole will create new pathways and opportunities for scientific and technological advancement.”

Are we in the beginning of a  ‘Convergence Revolution’? And how does this apply to both the Arts and Sciences. 

In this issue, we begin the first of a what will be a continuing exploration of the connections, both theoretical and practical, between disciplines, and its implications and engagements within the context of art, science, philosophy, culture and cultures.

 

Complexity, Emergence and Information

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

“Life emerged, I suggest, not simple, but complex and whole, and has remained complex and whole ever since” – Stuart Kauffman: At Home in the Universe.

“If our brains were simple enough for us to understand them, we’d be so simple that we couldn’t.” – Ian Stewart: The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World

Is the world simple or complex? Ask particle physicists and they will probably try to persuade you that the world is simple and governed by the Laws of Nature or by a single Theory of Everything. Ask a biologist, an economist a social scientist or an artist and they will tell you quite the opposite: the world is a collection of complexity and chaos. So who is right? Or is that the wrong question? Is it actually more complicated than that?

New scientific perspectives on complex systems, emergence and information have taken on wider philosophical and ‘religious’ implications. This issue explores these implications and engagements within the context of science, art and theology.

What is complexity and how does it emerge? Is there a hierarchy of complexity? Is information more fundamental than particles and can it be given objective meaning? How are artists engaging with the complex? Are we at an important point in our history in terms of how we understand complexity and information? What do these answers tell us about the nature of art, science and consciousness?

Celebrating the Imagination

The French philosopher, Gaston Bachelard wrote ‘Man is an Imagining Being’, but what do we imagine we are talking about when we speak of the imagination? Or, to put it another way, can we imagine the imagination? Where do our ideas about the imagination come from? How do brains imagine? How are consciousness and imagination related? How many ‘types’ of imagination are there? And can the imagination be ‘educated?

These are just some of the questions that are explored in the Interalia Magazine’s first issue, ‘Celebrating the Imagination’.

Modern ideas about the imagination were powerfully shaped during the Romantic Era in 19th century Europe. Romantic poets, scientists and philosophers conceived of the imagination as a primary force behind the production of knowledge of all kinds, fiercely debating about the nature of the imagination, how it worked, and why its prodigious creative potential might endanger the rationality and precision of the scientific method. Have those ideas changed and what does the future hold for the imagination?

As the author, Lindsay Clarke, has stated –

‘The imagination is an instrument of liberation, one to which we all have access and which serves to celebrate and enlarge our common humanity.’

This issue is only the beginning of the exploration, we can imagine there will be many more.