STEAM > STEM

We’re delighted to host this guest post from Matthew Smith (AKA @Smiffy), a technologist based in South Australia. The post was prompted by a Twitter discussion with a curator a few weeks ago, which persuaded him that despite seeming to not work in the humanities he should definitely sign up as curator (we agree!). He’ll be taking over the account in the summer but in the meantime here are his thoughts about what’s missing from the STEM collaboration.

STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. In an academic context, this term equates to taking certain, overlapping, areas of human knowledge, and lumping them together in one single mass – but at the exclusion of other disciplines that may also overlap, in a fairly significant way. Whilst the component disciplines of STEM do have fairly obvious overlaps, I feel that, from the perspective of a non-academic, trying to take an objective view, excluding other overlapping disciplines is not at Good Thing.

In this, I have found I am not alone; what I write here is not a random idea, but the conclusion of a number of discussions on both the @WetheHumanities and the @realscientists rotation/curation Twitter accounts. (Thanks to @DrSMMorgan for the early discussions that got the ball rolling here.)

So what’s missing from STEM, that makes me so uncomfortable? The answer is the letter A – representing Arts. I don’t know who came up with the term first (wish I could say that it was me!) but STEM plus Arts becomes STEAM.

One example of where STEM really needs to be STEAM (and would have to assume it actually is, in practice,) is architecture. I’m not quite sure how much S(cience) you need to make a building stay up, but there’s physics underpinning the essential E(ngineering) which also requires M(athematics.) But nobody wants ugly buildings; do I see aesthetics anywhere in STEM? No. That’s where we need A(rts.) I actually have an enormous respect for architects (the good ones, at least) – being able to engineer well with artistic vision is no mean feat.

Another example is this web thingy that we all consume day in, day out. Originating at @CERN, one of the most awesome S facilities in the world (in my opinion!) it takes T, E, and M to make it happen, and to fully understand it. But our interactions require design. Designing for the web requires an insight into the T(echnology) but, as with architecture, requires A(rts) to make it acceptable and not cause offence. (Hey, I’m not saying it’s always done well.)

Recording engineers, car designers, all those clever people at Apple giving us shiny new technology – the list goes on; whilst some of these examples may involve teams of STEM plus Arts people, for a team to be truly effective, members need to have at least some insight into each others specialities.

So, where am I leading with all this? I feel that the artificial segregation of areas of knowledge is unwise, and possibly harmful (teaching people, then sending them out into the world unprepared for important bits of it.) If we can’t get institutions to change, and be more inclusive in their disciplines, we can at least make those studying there aware of the fact that they may need to be reading outside of the scope of their own courses – and we can do that by keeping the STEAM > STEM conversation going.

26/05 – 02/06 Katie Rose Pipkin

Meet your next curator, artist, gardener and itchy-footed traveller, Katie Rose Pipkin. She’s just been curating a big show which I’m hoping she’ll talk about, and is interested in tensions between understandings of physical and virtual worlds. Feel free to leave questions for her here or tweet her at @wethehumanities from 10am BST ON Monday.

Hello Humans!

I am a young artist and curator working across media, with a focus on digital connectivity and net-art futures. I make drawings on paper and on the internet. I grew up in the woods, spent my adolescence in the suburbs, and have since migrated back to the woods.

My focus at University of Texas was Art and Art History with a minor in Philosophy (my thesis work was on gender and aesthetics). I keep a succulent garden and cook, and travel as often as I am able. I have a tabby cat and spend a large amount of time on the Internet and in books. I operate with a DIY attitude that is often helpful and sometimes gets me in trouble. There is no place like home, and home is a tidy desktop environment.

I am currently playing with ideas regarding the intersectionality of video-game landscapes and the physical environment. I am particularly tickled by the conceptual scale-shift that happens when thinking of the outside (big, unconstrained) as opposed to the virtual outside (small, contained within a screen). This is in opposition to the fact that such virtual worlds, if rendered into physical space, would bury the human earth thousands of times over. So far my meanderings have resulted in 6 foot wide tapestries of collaged video-game worlds; print-on-demand plates, mugs and other ceramic vessels with ‘idealized’ google streetview images; a 50 foot by 6 inch looping ‘eternal mountain’, generated by software used to map heavenly bodies as well as gaming backgrounds, and printed on a modified laserjet printer; a 2-evening performance of a baroque reinterpretation of the pokemon world; a solid pile of sketches.

I make drawings with my hands, the internet, and sometimes my words. I’m interested in fragments, remnants, memory, and working along the fault lines. This week, I’ll be discussing some of the ideas and questions that are generated by this sort of play. I’m looking forward to talking with you!

19/05 – Rosanna Cantavella

We are returning this week to academia with Rosanna Cantavella, who will be focusing on my own favourite subject – literature – with a look at her work on medieval Catalan writings, and also a well-timed consideration of digital humanities.

Hello all! I’m delighted to participate in the @WeTheHumanities project. I believe more people than we think are interested in the Humanities, and they would read about them if only they had this kind of reading in their reach. Traditional media (the press, TV and radio) do not seem to share this belief, as they are not offering the public almost anything of real cultural value – especially if it’s not commercial. Luckily, we’ve got the social networks now, so we had better take advantage of them by trying and offering some alternative cultural news for those many potential readers.

My name is Rosanna Cantavella (@Cantavestrella on Twitter), and on the week of May 19th-25th I’ll be tweeting for @WeTheHumanities from the Valencian land (Spain), in the Western Mediterranean coast.

I’m a 57-year-old tenured professor of Catalan philology at the Universitat de València. Ours is one of the largest and most important universities in Spain, and a destination of preference for Erasmus students. We’ve got a strong European vocation, but are also open to the rest of the world; have traditionally taught many visiting students from the United States, and now receive a significant amount of visiting Chinese youth too.

My main field is medieval Catalan literature, of which many texts have been preserved (about as many as in other medieval Romance languages like Castilian, Tuscan or even French), but which counts on too few researchers – would you be tempted into becoming one of us? Within this field I’ve published on different works and authors, including our greatest poet, Ausiàs March; I’ve also devoted many years to the study of women as a subject in medieval texts, and to Valencian writer Isabel de Villena.

Furthermore, I’ve also been for a long time a keen user and learner of many of the tools with which the digital humanities make our work much easier. I also follow eagerly commentaries on the evaluation and indexing of research in Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH), as I feel the SSH researchers are being evaluated with formulas created for other areas, and would need their own parameters for their evaluations to be conducted fairly.

I am also the editor of an online journal, Magnificat Cultura i Literatura Medievals. We’re calling for papers now! Are you interested?

Open culture, and the open sharing of knowledge, and particularly research, in the present world, is yet another of my interests, as well as the area of ebooks and the corresponding digital transformations in publishing.

So what can you expect for me to tweet about this week? Well, especially, but not only, these subjects: Catalan language and literature, the medieval world, digital humanities, research evaluation in SSH, and changes towards ebooks in the publishing area. You can get an idea of what I focus on by leafing through The Humanities Researcher, a Flipboard selection of web articles.

I’m looking forward to my time as curator the account of this excellent initiative. See you on Twitter!

12/05 – Paul Stallard

This week, we are taking our first foray into the world of business, as Paul shares with us his take on the humanities. I look forward to hearing about how the humanities are used in business, what business leaders think about humanities subjects and students, and how their skills can work together. And probably a bit about football too.

 

Hello everyone.

I’m Paul Stallard and I have been invited to curate the We the Humanities for the week of Monday May 12th. It’s a key week for me as it’s my birthday on May 17th!

I currently run my own company – The Story Consultancy. We the Humanities co-founder, Krissie West, works with myself and my business partner Claire Little helping us tell stories for our clients – FTSE companies, SMEs, creative agencies, academic institutions and individuals. It’s quite funny that when Krissie asked me to write for We the Humanities, my first reaction was what on earth am I going to write about!?

I reminded Krissie that my English teacher at Smithills Grammar School in Bolton gave me 0 out of 20 for my first ever English A Level essay. The teacher, Mrs Bardsley, said that ‘Never has so much been written and said so little!’  Some would say that, nearly thirty years later, nothing has changed. I was mortified but also amused at her wit and it spurred me on to actually put meaning into what I wrote.

From as far back as I can remember I have loved to create and tell stories, designing and writing comics with friends in my school days in Bolton.  I went on to write articles and create cartoons for the university newspaper when I studied History at Warwick University. I also studied broadcast journalism and had the honour of being interviewed by Sir Tom Hopkinson, the legendary founder for the world famous Picture Post. He gave me a place at the internationally renowned Cardiff Centre for Broadcast, Media and Cultural Studies, where I learned all about print and broadcast journalism.  I attained the Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma to better understand marketing and I am a member of The Marketing Society.

In my media and business career, I have learned how to get the message across as succinctly as possible, often under great time pressures and deadlines.

Also I love sport of all kinds (from football to karate) and have learned that the discipline and team spirit required can be translated into the business world to overcome any challenge. Sport is also rich with legendary stories which can be funny, moving or inspiring…just like life!

I moved to London in 1987 and worked on the launch of Design Week magazine for publishing house – Centaur Communications.  Over the next few years, I moved in to the design world, working initially for Michael Peters – often called the University of Design.  I have since then worked for many creative world class agencies and also the BBC. I’ve had the privilege of working for BBC Radio Five Live with Mark Saggers and Mark Pougatch and for BBC Radio Berkshire as a producer for Maggie Philbin. Throughout my career I’ve loved working with world class creative and strategic people.

While working at Omnicom, the world’s greatest and, at the time, biggest marketing services organisation, I decided to start my own company, The Story Consultancy, on the 1st June 2005. The company aims to help people, companies and brands tell their ‘story’. We bring together leading broadcasters, marketing and creative talent to explore the best way to tell the story of a company, a brand, a person.

We are inspired by the outdoors because that is where we are free to dream, explore, imagine and think. This feeling creates all kinds of possibilities:

‘Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road’

Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road, 1855

The Story Consultancy firmly believes that people love to hear and tell stories, as they keep our culture alive, through the arts and media of course and in the business world.

Mankind has thrived because of its ability to tell stories, share wisdom (with or without the spoken or written word) with pictures, symbols and now with technology in all its forms. Early man used cave paintings. North American Indians told their stories to the tribe, but never wrote them down, apart from using symbols (the totem pole, costume etc) or through smoke signals.

In the 21st century, who knows what technology can do to help people and companies communicate with each other? In the age of the internet where transparency is key, people want to know the truth behind companies and brands. It’s all about TRUST! Often, though, technology gets in the way of the message. As Brian Palmer (who said to me when I interviewed him fifty years after he produced the very first television commercial for Gibbs SR in 1955):  ‘The message will always be the same, but how we tell it through new technology will change.’

I love the whole concept of We the Humanities and think that it will get more popular as people in the humanities share and learn from each other. During the week ahead, I will explore what the humanities are, why they are important, how business and humanities need each other, how you can make your own aspect of the humanities more relevant to today’s society and how I have used my knowledge of the humanities in my own career.

In my view, the humanities are vital to help us all understand, relate and communicate with each other.  The humanities enrich our lives, helping us grow as people and make the organisations we represent more prosperous.

I hope you find what I write this week merits better marks than 0 out of 20!

 

 

 

 

05/05 – Stacey Bagdi

This week depart academia and get behind the scenes at the museum – Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Pen Museum, to be precise.  As Stacey’s able to tweet at work I’m especially looking forward to hearing what the day-to-day work is like at a museum as well as hearing about studying abroad, volunteering as a way into humanities work and lots of Egyptology snippets.
Hello! My name is Stacey Anne Bagdi and I will be tweeting from Birmingham in the United Kingdom! I am so grateful for We The Humanities for creating this huge platform to expand my networks and grow confident as a future curator in the making!
I recently graduated (Oct 2013) with an MA in Egyptology from The University of Leiden, The Netherlands and prior that I graduated with a 2.1 BA with hons in Archaeology and Ancient History at The University of Birmingham. I mainly specialise in Ancient Egyptian religion. The dream one day will be working in Egypt managing their museum collections, preferably in Cairo Museum or the GEM. Dreaming big of course…
After graduating and returning from the best year of my life in Holland, I knew I was returning to a job in retail. However after getting a Masters under my belt, I definitely thought it is now time to kick start my career and get out of the job I had since I was 18! So I started volunteering at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the curatorial department under the curator of World Cultures, Mr Adam Jaffer. He took me on straight away and after knowing I specialised in Egyptology gave me most of the Egyptological work to do. At first I did all the admin tasks but since then I have assisted with object handling, object labelling and a de-installation of the Egyptian Gallery.In addition to that I started volunteering at The Pen Museum in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter, right in the heart of the city centre. The Pen Museum compared to Birmingham Museum is a lot smaller and everyone who works there are all volunteers. I started volunteering there as their Learning Co-ordinator. As the museum is small we hope to bring in more money by increasing school visits. So far I have got the ball rolling and will be there once a week to not only assist with the every day front of house duties but over the next few weeks I will be making new plans for school visits, devising structured programs and booking school visits.

I did both of these volunteer opportunities alongside my retail job over the Christmas period; it did go a bit crazy as I found myself working/volunteering from the early hours of the morning to very late at night. I then saw a job offer at Birmingham Museum for a front of house position. I knew I had to apply already working in the museum gave me that advantage but I was just so ready to move on with my museum career than serving people at tills. After getting the interview, I finally got the job! I still continue volunteering alongside my new job because I love it getting the experience and it keeps me busy!

Therefore as you can see I am very much starting my career but setting up Twitter was the best thing for me after graduating as it has allowed me to make new friends and strong networks and be more aware of the world of museums and humanities in general. I usually tweet about museums/archaeology/Egyptology or anything I find that is intriguing or something I just wish to share with the world.

I will be working at the various museums during my week so I will be tweeting live from the museum, hopefully increasing awareness of their collections and sparking interest. I will also be asking advice and questions on the world of humanities and museums at present. I look forward to your intellectual replies but most importantly, interacting with great people who love doing what their doing! Thank you, see you Monday!