ABOUT OpenLab

 

Fostering Innovative Collaborative Research through Explorations of Culture and Creativity

OpenLab is a Research Center at the University of California Santa Cruz founded by Professors Jennifer Parker and Enrico Rameriz-Ruiz. The Center targets complex education issues of national significance regarding the ability of art and science researchers to collaborate on research endeavors. The goal of the OpenLab is to help change the current status by providing shared research facilities and create a network for collaborative discourse fueled by academic communities, arts and science communities, and industry.

OpenLab is pursuing the physical development of new collaborative laboratories as spaces to foster this research and establish an on-line social networking system for faculty and students to create projects. Laboratories and studios in both the arts and the sciences will be accessible to users in the OpenLab Network. Within this immersive environment, we will conduct research to acquire skills and knowledge that crosses disciplinary boundaries between science, education, and the arts while sharing expertise in collaborative research methodologies.

The following research questions will be investigated:

(1) How can we strengthen or create new methodologies that truly engage art and science thinking?

(2) Is an interdisciplinary laboratory space for cross-disciplinary and collaborative research more engaging and productive for students and faculty without these resources?

Background and Rationale

To the Artist:

During the Renaissance, art was closely tied to science. These artist scientists saw no distinction between the disciplines. DaVinci explored imaginative machines while Filippo Brunelleschi concerned himself with perspective. Both were scientists and artists at once.

As we know, there was a split in this kind of thinking. Artists fought to create art ‘for the sake of art’. The discipline was revolutionized by a plethora of new genres and ideas, studying and deconstructing art, asking the question: What exactly is art? Like science, it became known as an entity separated from whole systems thinking, removed from other areas of study. Art was reinvented, twisted around, re-represented, deconstructed, reconstructed, repackaged and refurbished. With the OpenLab Network project we hope to refuel connections between art and science by creating interdisciplinary spaces that re-integrate the hard and soft science with art into the realm interdisciplinary and collaborative research.

To the Scientist:

Science has become the backbone of our modern existence, yet most scientists behind the discoveries are isolated from all but their fellow researchers. Ideas that take so much money, time, dedication, and precision to achieve are siphoned into the market or lost in academic niches.  Even then the discoveries are not fully appreciated as anything more than a problem that have enabled the latest iPhone app, the streamlining of some process, or a household appliance. The grandeur scientific discovery is reduced to convenience features.

These discoveries deserve to be celebrated by more than the educational elite. Researchers agree that new types of experimentation could be propelled by the scientific frontier, if the information were only accessible. Researchers in many fields are becoming aware that in order to do really creative work, they may need to go back to visual approaches once again. Very high level and creative achievement in the sciences has often come from the neurological resources linked to success in the arts.

Artists work to achieve variations in visual expression, and may at times strive for the viewer to experience the emotional turmoil embedded in the art form. The artists’ tools of line, shape, form, contrast, color, scale, composition, and movement are manipulated in order to affect the emotions and, at its zenith, the passions in others.  Because objectivity and reproducibility are the ultimate goals of scientific models, scientists and engineers who create and use these models rarely allude to this psychical process and hence effectively deny the motivation and inspiration behind this creative visual experience.

With science education and outreach being a requirement for all grants given out by NSF and many other scientific funding sources, the question then becomes how to effectively give this information to the masses. Public lectures, science museums, and non-technical publications most often engage an audience that has a pre-established interest in scientific disciplines, while failing to draw anyone else. Vocabulary can make the material seem dry, inapplicable, and abstract. The OpenLab network offers a new type of production for science education and outreach with the potential to reach a wider audience, while also offering the opportunity for new and exciting frontiers of interdisciplinary and collaborative research.

It is our hope that growth and productivity of interdisciplinary and collaborative research will increase exponentially through the use The OpenLab Network project sparking a grass-roots movement toward a more open, collaborative and experimental environment for those interested in interdisciplinary learning and research.