STEAM

Why

Just over three years ago, WÆRK was founded as an inclusive antidote to the single-minded tech- and data- focused approaches to business processes and innovation (and limited ideas of “progress”). The world has changed dramatically since then, and today we are even more convinced that art - the inclusion of art, in all aspects of life - is what will help humans to transform the world for the better.

It’s been a while since our last post, but we hope you’ll “thumb” our archives and continue to visit. We’ll post more regularly soon.

In the meantime, we’d like to share our manifesto with you again.

If you’d like to continue the conversation, please drop us a line at hello@waerk.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

WaerkManifesto-03.jpg

Hot Links | STEM Overhyped? | Critical Thinking in Crisis | Scientific Subjectivity | Sensory Lexicon Gaps

Getty Images

Getty Images

The Sydney Morning Herald asks: “Are STEM Skills Overhyped?” , while Strategy+Business posits that the lack of executive empathy is due to a dearth of so-called “soft” skills – like critical thinking.

This piece on Medium’s UX Planet highlights the importance of humanities perspectives in design.

This caught our eye: NPR explores the limits of Western languages, when describing scent.

In AEON, Margaret Wertheim’s piece on dimension showcases subjectivity in the sciences (we’ve been saying all along that subjectivity is not the exclusive provenance of the arts)!

Hot Links | Math and Music | STEAM Power for Indy | Design Powered Innovation | The Arrival of AI

All musicans are subconsciously mathematicians
— Thelonious Monk

 

Some are new, some are not.  Nonetheless, all of the articles linked to below are currently fueling our ideas for/discussions on arts-led innovation.

A late, transcendent discovery from 2017: Josh Jones on the mathematics of music in Open Culture.

The Indiana-based Lilly Endowment is offering grants up to $10 million for ideas that will strengthen "Indianapolis Through Arts and Cultural Innovation".

Forbes explores the relationship between triple bottom line design and successful innovation.

Take note: Oracle's CEO Safra Catz says that "AI is finally here."  With this in mind, we ask: how will we manage this in ways that meaningfully improve the circumstances of the planet and its people.

 

 

 

Hot Links | Art and Next-Gen Innovation | Spongy Cities | A Call for Data Innovation | More AI Alarm Bells

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

Some are new, some are not.  Nonetheless, all of the articles linked to below are currently fueling our ideas for/discussions on arts-led innovation.

More proof that qualities inherent to arts practice and education are crucial components of transformative innovation.

Climate change has come and it is STEAM that may save us.  The idea of “spongier” cities brilliantly exposes the potential for human-made solutions to human-made problems.

In revealing the tricks of the Ad Tech trade, this “whistleblower” shines a spotlight on the necessity of prioritizing the consistent human management of emerging technologies. 

The Census Bureau is seeking innovative collaborators, to help them to gather and interpret data.  What an incredible opportunity, for human-centered technologies!

We’re at it again!  Here’s another great read, this time by Yarden Katz in SSRN, on the dangers of unchecked Artificial Intelligence.

 

Hot Links | Changing the Landscape of Good Business | Rethinking Our Systems | Standing Up for the Human (Over the Machine)

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Some are new, some are not.  Nonetheless, all of the articles linked to below are fueling our ideas and discussions this week.

The Guardian sounds the alarm about the tech sector's influence on urban development (focusing on Google’s Toronto project), with a reminder that "Cities are real places with real people who have a right not to live with whatever “smart solutions” an engineer or executive decides to unleash."

It is time that we eschew the status quo and transcend mere problem solving?  Robert Ransick makes the case for radical reinvention of our current systems and their underlying structures - led by artists, but incorporated into multi-disciplinary approaches.   

More reports on the dangers of Artificial Intelligence: a report on a machine that can learn without human intervention and Elon Musk's worries about those who would create "AI Gods".

Oh another note - who needs machines, when you have musicians? Pacific Standard shares research on the profound connection between musicality and memory.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that fewer people are donating to charity, and the influence of those who do donate is increasingly outsize.  Although this may alarm many non-profits, it may represent tremendous opportunity for social-minded entrepreneurship and human-centered innovations.

Independent Sector is aiming to amplify the influence of innovation in the social good sphere, through the creation of Upswell - a "SXSW of the social sector”.

We're Back!

Create the things you wish existed.

I am delighted to announce the refresh and relaunch of the WÆRK blog!  It’s a crucial moment for innovators, businesses, governments and, above all, citizen-consumers, who should all be asking: “what are we buying?  What are we selling? And what is the impact of our purchases on the Earth (and one another)?” 

We plan to challenge the idea of so-called disruption, and encourage the standardization of products and practices that prioritize people first.  We believe that the contemporary innovators’ dilemma can be resolved through the holistic incorporation of art and humanities perspectives into business, technology and scientific innovation.

Each week, we will share insights from creative minds who are leaders in human-centered business, connect our readers to articles on topics that we find enlightening (or of concern), and offer critical perspectives on the necessity for art in business. 

We hope you’ll visit us regularly.

 

With gratitude,

Sacha Wynne

Art as the Crux of Human-Centered Innovation

Image via Sacha Wynne

Image via Sacha Wynne

Notes from our Founder and President's recent talk at the Pratt Institute in New York City.

The Arts at the Crux of Human-Centered Innovation

I’m not sure how familiar you are with business jargon, but industry has largely co-opted terms from the art and design world, and pulled them into what McGill University’s Nancy Adler calls the “dehydrated language” of management.  Creativity, design thinking, and storytelling - are buzz terms used widely in the corporate world, but few businesses are actually putting their actions, or their money, where their mouths are.  Art/culture/design, after 30 years of culture wars, is undervalued or devalued in a culture that is currently obsessed with STEM and big data. 

In 2006, Adler asked the business sector “now that we can do anything, what will we do?”   The answers she proposed illuminated how crucial the artist’s perspective is to meaningful innovation in business.  The answers, provided by the private sector since were apparently: continued focus on STEM and Big Data, to increase efficiency and convenience. 

But should efficiency be prioritized over all else?  How many Frankenstein’s monsters has this quest for convenience birthed?  It’s acknowledged that big data is subject to human error – it’s not infallible – so why the blind trust?

We need business to turn to artists, because only they can lead the private sector forward in ways that that secure the future for nature and humanity.  Artistic ideas are grounded in universality, in reality, in the communities they serve.    Artistic innovation creates at its core: to teach and learn more about life, science must destroy.  It is art that builds and rebuilds as it teaches and learns.

For businesses seeking to reach customers, this perspective is crucial.  We cannot be explained through statistics, but we can be understood through our stories.

So, where do we go from here?  How can artists challenge the business paradigm?

1.     There is always room for more narratives that offer solutions, so don’t hesitate to create a new one, no matter how far out it may seem initially

a.     STEAM initiatives have powerful potential - The strengthening of an ecosystem in which the arts, humanities and sciences, along with the public, private and non-profit sectors operate symbiotically would be incredible. 

However, art need not be viewed as something that enables STEM. We need to articulate its inherent value.  The intrinsic needs to stop apologizing for lack of “rigor”. Instead, perhaps we need new measurement tools to gauge impact. 

b.     There aren’t enough human-centered solutions that expand upon the idea of “social good”.    There are so many needs that remain under-adressed and are ripe for innovation – from low employee morale to lack of work/life balance, from systemic racism to intra-cultural bias.

2.     The art/culture perspective fills gaps in the dominant narrative, by providing access to a plurality of perspectives and encouraging empathy

a.     The disparity between the election results and the prediction from mainstream media outlets exposed the chasm between stats (numbers) and stories (people).  Communities are real and vital.  There is a difference between the real self and the digital self, and art is provides ways of reaching people meaningfully.

3.     The symbiotic relationship between the arts/culture and business shouldn’t be approached as “selling out”, but rather in ways that create opportunity for generating and sustaining arts practice, which in turn bridges gaps between people.

a.     In a fairly recent New York Times article on tech innovation, writer Allison Arieff quotes Jessica Helfand – author of Design : The invention of Desire – “ empathy, humility, compassion, conscience are the key ingredients missing in the pursuit of innovation”.  It is the artists who can bring these “key ingredients” to the fore.  

b.     Silicon valley has made a mint from building businesses upon algorithms that target human behavior, but they are formulas and life is anything but formulaic.  This signals opportunity for artists to create new paradigms that replace focus on shareholder value with prioritizing stakeholder value.

Technology has changed the way we (and the speed of how) we discover, but there are billions of dollars invested in products and services that have no real meaning or value.  This is an opportunity for artists and designers – to co-create alongside the traditional industries (or on our own), in ways that do more than just produce distractions and insta-millionaires.  We have the power to create in ways that benefit and bring together all segments of society.


Solidarity at standing rock showed us the power of culture and community to bring about positive, human-centered change.  It’s no surprise that artists from within and beyond the community played integral roles on-site, helping to spread awareness and expand the sense of shared goals.  To quote Patti Smith – people have the power.