“Crossing Art & Science” is a new series of events organized by the “Kraftwerk – Center for Interdisciplinary Research” and ACADEMIA SUPERIOR for the exchange of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, which will take place twice a year at the Tabakfabrik Linz. A topic is illuminated from different perspectives in art and science. “Crossing Art & Science” brings together artists, academics and actors of the practice to initiate exchange, networking and potential cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. On 6.11. The kick-off event for the new series took place.

Interdisciplinarity is the key for understanding the world

At the opening-event, Rektor Univ.-Prof. Dr. Meinhard Lukas from the Johannes Kepler University Linz and member of the advisory board of ACADEMIA SUPERIOR and Rektor Univ.-Prof. Dr. Reinhard Kannonier from the University of Art and Design Linz, talked about interdisciplinarity in the Upper Austrian university-landscape: “Interdisciplinarity lies in the genes of our universities, now we are working to intensify this even further”, said Meinhard Lukas and Reinhard Kannonier added: “There is enormous potential for science in the connection with art, and I am convinced that if the universities in Linz cooperate more, then this will go up like a rocket.”

“The world has become too complex to be explained only from one point of view.” – Azra Akšamija

Further impulses could be obtained from MIT professor Azra Akšamija. She heads the Future Heritage Lab at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, interdisciplinarity has been successfully integrated into research-work for decades. The internationally renowned MIT Media Lab even uses anti-disciplinarity as an approach to consciously attract those topics and researchers that do not fit into traditional academic disciplines.

Plea for a new research culture

For Azra Akšamija, interdisciplinarity is the “key to answering the questions of the future, because the world has become too complex to be explained only from one point of view”. The collaboration of the scientific disciplines also brings new challenges at the level of research-infrastructure, interpersonal-work and different scientific methods. Especially in an artistic approach, the internationally renowned artist with Bosnian-Austrian roots sees “a possibility to bring the different research paradigms more in harmony”.

Additions to the subject of speed

The launch of Crossing Art & Science #1 was themed “Speed”. Four scientists from different disciplines gave seven-minute insights into their research from the perspective of speed:

Ass.-Prof. DI(FH) Marianne Pührerfellner, Visual Communication Department of the Art University of Linz, explained that visual communication needs a pleasant rhythm to function well. Visual symbols are normally used to make human communication quicker and easier. For example, three strokes – the so-called Hamburger Menu Icon – have established on the Internet as a visual code in order to quickly find the menu of a website. Simply inventing new symbols often overstrains visual communication. To use and re-occupy of already well-known symbols usually works better, said Pührerfellner. “The crucial question, however, is whether interpersonal communication will be able to keep up with the much faster communication between machines in the future”, the researcher emphasized.

Univ. Dr. Anna Minta, Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture at the Catholic Private University Linz, said that excessive speed can lead to a standstill in space. Especially in architecture, people are afraid of radical innovations. Often the visual desire for old and familiar architectural styles dominates. This may be a backlash to “the perception of acceleration and inexorable progress in modernity”, says Minta. Historical associations could have an important psychological function for humans in dealing with or processing with rapid technical and social changes.

Sander Hofstee, BA, Creative Robotics Lab of the Linz Art University, introduced the difficulties of teaching robots to play guitar and explained why it all depends on deceleration and acceleration as well as perfect interaction. One problem is to transfer the movements of the human hands and the ten fingers to two robot arms without fingers. In addition, the arms must move in harmony with each other in the right tact to produce music.

Dr. Karin Bruckmüller, Institut für Strafrechtswissenschaften at the JKU Linz, discussed the different speeds of technical innovation and legislation. She posed the question of how quickly the law must be able to change to promote and not to hinder technical innovation. This was made clearer by the example of criminal law issues in the case of accidents involving autonomous vehicles. For example, as the question of guilt in an accident involving a self-driving car has not yet been clarified, developers have to work in a legal gray area. This hinders innovation in this field. Bruckmüller made it clear: “We need to clarify who will be to blame for an accident in the future: the driver who can not intervene, the programmer who wrote the algorithm, or maybe the artificially intelligent car itself, because nobody could predict why the artificial intelligence has made this or that decision?”

The entertaining presentations were followed by a joint discussion with the audience about the challenges interdisciplinarity poses for the universities of Linz. It was emphasized that researchers have to reflect the boundaries of their disciplines to be more open to dialogue with others.

The event series “Crossing Art and Science” will take place twice a year in cooperation between the Kraftwerk – Center for Interdisciplinary Research, Art & Science and the ACADEMIA SUPERIOR – Gesellschaft für Zukunftsforschung