Extra Credit - Michael Century Lecture - Shanpeng Li

In the last lecture of the course, we were able to be joined by Michael Century at the CNSI auditorium where he lectured about his theory and proposal on Modes of Interdisciplinarity in Art and Techno-Science. The lecture was very interesting as it went through many of the past trends of technology and briefly predicted how our technology today will affect the future. Michael began the lecture by talking about the history of our society and the stages it went through. One of the  most significant idea he showed was the history of compartmentalization and decompartmentalization in the world and how it separated different periods of innovations into period of stability and threshold. On the diagram that Michael showed in class, he showed interchangeable period of stability and threshold going in the order of the Middle Ages (Stability), the Renaissance (Threshold), the Modern Age (Stability), the Information Age (Threshold), and the Post-Information Age which he placed a question mark upon in hope of experiencing this age. Looking at the trends from past ages, we can predict that the up coming Post-Information Age is a period of stability unlike the Renaissance and the Information Age. Michael’s focus was on the interaction of art and science and he realized that during the threshold periods where massive innovative ideas flourished was when artists and scientists were truly able to communicate with each other and share their ideas.

Later in the lecture, Michael proposed his 3 modes of interdisciplinarity which are integrative, service, and reflexive. For each mode, two different examples were given to provide assistance on how each mode works. The mode of integrative focuses on the combination and coming together of two methods such as art and science to reach another completely different approach similar to the third culture discussed in our class. The mode of service focuses on the use of one method by the other to create innovative designs. The last but not least is the mode of reflexive which in my opinion is the most crucial and beneficial. The mode of reflexive focuses on challenging the past methods by modifying and improving them to come to a more developed and advanced method. One of the most interesting examples that Michael showed was John Whitney who took military hardware and modified them for the use of film which is an excellent example of service mode.

One of the most important diagrams that Michael showed was the diagram of Schumpeter’s wave theory. In this diagram, 5 different waves were shown each describing a period where a new form of innovation truly took over the society. For example, the wave began with the technology of water power and then moved on to the new innovation of steam power and eventually ends with the 5th wave that consists of digital network and software. Michael pointed out that before each new waves were made, many artists are already experiencing with technology that contributes to the oncoming wave of innovation. In this sense, currently we should actually be experiencing with technology that will eventually develop into the 6th wave of innovation. In my opinion, this wave will mainly consist of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and robotics which currently is not quite advanced by developing at an amazing speed.

Michael’s lecture was very entertaining and interesting as it truly showed the infinite possibilities that can develop from the combination of science and art.

- Shanpeng Li

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