Why a “Third Culture”?

It’s easy to say that what we do and think is informed by everything in the world. So what makes the relationship between artists who use technology and scientists particularly significant? With both professions, the technology used is constantly changing, but is that enough to create a mutual understanding between the two fields? I can’t quite get behind the idea that scientists can better understand artwork which utilizes familiar computers and technology. I agree that the medium of technology can initially allow an artwork to seem easier to approach from the standpoint of a scientist, especially compared to say, Paul McCarthy’s “Class Fool”. However, I’d worry that the means of technology in art would begin to function as a gimmick for scientists. Are scientists genuinely appreciating the conceptual message of an art piece in the correct cultural context or are they merely appreciative of technology applied outside of the science realm? My mother is a cell-biologist and while she would love thisbio-artist article, she’d also enjoy a Philip Guston painting. For her to form an accurate and comprehensive understanding with each piece, she would need to be educated in how these two artworks exist in different contexts of their respective medium’s history. As Alan Sokal’s article “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” shows us how scientific references taken out of context pose as a huge problem, we need to be equally conscious of the possibility that scientists may observe art through a filtered lens.

If a “Third Culture” succeeded in bridging the “gap between literary intellectuals and scientists”, what would be the real benefit other than creating an “atmosphere of collaboration and mutual respect”? If it’s an issue of respect and acknowledgment, then artists and scientists should both be held as researchers, creators, and innovative thinkers. But is it necessary for a “Third Culture” to lead us to that conclusion? If a scientist who devotes his life to cancer research doesn’t believe the Museum of Modern Art is equally important as The National Cancer Institute, I’d understand why he’d make that distinction. However, it would be like comparing apples and oranges. Trying to convince the public that science and art are comparatively important seems so complex that the relationship emerging from the triangular bridge of art, science, and technology is not a complete answer.

One hindering factor preventing the merge of the studies of sciences and humanities is stereotypes. Stereotypes such as a white-haired mad scientist and a drunken ear-cutting artist limit the idea of what an artist or scientist can be. Humans are multifaceted and should be expected to have interests other than what their occupation calls for. Artists and scientists are also capable of thinking and functioning outside their realm of expertise with enough education. Having a constant communication between “south campus” and “north campus” would allow for a more thorough and informed vision of the world. I don’t think it’s constructive to think of a “Third Culture” as a hybrid but more of a continuous development of all studies. I have to confess that I’m still confused by all this talk of art, science, and technology. I especially find it hard to reach a concrete conclusion for all questions posed by the lecture and text, especially with the influence of the article written by Stephen Wilson, who I assume considers himself as part of an evolving “Third Culture”, and is therefore probably biased. However, the blurring of the definitions of art and science is beneficial for a more a well-informed education and substantial progress in any field. Thank goodness it’s only week one.

-Tammy

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