Reimagining Work: Examinations of Multidisciplinary Academic Directions (or R WE MAD?)
Prof. Diane Gromala is SIAT’s Canada Research Chair in Computational Technologies for Transforming Pain at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Her research works at the confluence of human-computer interaction, media art and design, and focuses on the cultural and embodied aspects of technology, particularly in the realm of pain. Gromala’s insistence that her theoretical work is tested in fleshy, messy, meaty milieux results in work that tends to raise and wrinkle brows. With Jay Bolter, Gromalaauthored Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Transparency at MIT Press.
Dr. Gromala’s teaching experience included appointments in a college of fine arts, a school of communications, and a school of new media studies at three large universities, each with concurrent appointments in computer science departments. In these venues, Dr. Gromala co-developed seven graduate and undergraduate curricula that combined computer science with art, design and/or the Humanities. She also had a Fulbright in New Zealand and a teaching term at Oxford University. Gromala holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Yale University and the University of Plymouth, England. She misspent her youth in the 1980s working in the Silicon Valley, mostly at Apple Computer.
Interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and/or multidisciplinary work is often lauded in our time of information growth, specialization and concurrently, overload. Yet the academic and industry structures for assessing the relative value of such work, more often than not, adhere to and replicate more traditional fields and structures. This may not be surprising, as it takes time for real change to reverberate through embedded structures, practices and habits. At the same time, certain aspects of interdisciplinary work remain invisible and unaccounted for, such as the additional time and effort it takes to produce work that extends across formerly distinct disciplines, especially when those disciplines, at their core, operate according to fundamentally different assumptions, ways of producing knowledge and assessing it and ways of articulating its value. Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Art & Technology (SIAT) is one site where such problems play out on a daily basis. What would happen if the challenges we face— especially those that are less visible and seemingly intractable—were identified, articulated and hung out in the sun (or rain) for thoughtful and incisive examination? This tripartite talk is an attempt to collectively define the issues that face any program, department or school such as SIAT. The first part of the talk will be devoted to defining some of the well-known issues. The second part will be a speculative exercise that examines what a class that all SIAT grads might take would or should cover. The final part will be an articulation of less visible issues and concerns that haunt our daily work, gnaw at what we believe our futures could be, and twitch under the covers of unspoken and under-examined opportunities.