Extra Credit - Michael Century Presentation - Miki Koga

For our last DESMA 9 class, Michael Century joined us at CNSI for a presentation on “Modes of Interdisciplinarity in Art and Techno-Science”. It served as an appropriate and exciting culmination of the past ten weeks. In physics, we often refer to resonant modes when we talk about waves; modes are one half-wavelength or a half a period of a sine wave. More generally, a mode is a form or style in which something exists. Century seemed to have used the word in both senses: waves and forms.

During the latter half of the lecture, Century described three contemporary modes, or forms, of interdisciplinarity: integrative (synthesis), service (instrumental), and reflexive (ontological). For example, he described the case study of the avant-garde German Bauhaus that unified art and technology, or the case study on the Digital Harmony Hypothesis and John Whitney, who famously repurposed military hardware for film animation. However, I was most interested in Century’s talk about modes, or waves, of innovation. I learned that according to Schumpeter’s wave theory, there have been five waves of innovation since the Industrial Revolution that have gradually grown shorter. We are currently part of the 5th wave, beginning in the 1900s and characterized by digital networks, software, and new media. Its major difference from past waves is that the driving force is no longer steel and iron. Furthermore, all of the “hard problems” have been solved, so it is truly about innovating and taking existing knowledge to the next level. We are in the process of filling in the dots of the present wave. Thus, we can only speculate what the 6th wave will be, if there will even be one.

Schumpeter's Waves of Innovation

Schumpeter's Waves of Innovation

As in making most substantial predictions, we must first study general trends in history. Thus, let’s take a closer look at wave 4 and wave 5. Those who started to experiment with digital media, the Internet, etc. in the 4th wave anticipated what established prevalence in the 5th wave. This appears to be a common and logical pattern in past waves, so we apply it to our present situation. Innovative scientists and artists are currently experimenting with nanotechnology, robotics, biotechnology, and other areas that we have explored in our very class. So we wonder if that is the corresponding techno-economic paradigm to come. Will the so-called 6th wave really be an epoch of nanotech, robots, and biotech? If the modes predict anything, then it seems so. It is interesting to consider because this may manifest in our lifetime. Through all of our current artistic, scientific, and technological explorations, we have direct control over the future of a post-information age. With respect to Century’s diagram reflecting periods of compartmentalization and decompartmentalization, he leaves the future as a question mark: Stability (Middle Ages) → Threshold (Renaissance) → Stability (Modern Age) → Threshold (Information Age) → ? (Post-Information Age). It can either be a threshold continuation or entry into a new era of stability. These are all thought-provoking theories to leave this class with. DEMSA 9 has introduced me to a sea of emerging technologies, art-science collaborations, and pioneering ideas. The culminating guest lecture helped me realize the importance of taking all these things and looking at what is happening in the wider perspective of things, including history. We are constantly trying to get our hands on the latest gadgets and we hear of new technologies and research in the media daily, but let’s continue to take the time to consider all of the implications.

So with that, goodbye DESMA 9 blogosphere! It’s been nice sharing and hearing what you all had to say. :D

By: Miki Koga

Here’s a link to Michael Century:

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