This blog serves as a student’s perspective on the educational content provided by the study program Cross-Disciplinary Strategies at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Hopefully, this blog can help gain a detailed impression of the study program’s content. Since I want to give an insight into the various disciplines and strategies and their connectedness, I will upload course information and share my projects.
The classes I attended as part of my studies include various introductions into disciplines such as Science, Technology, Arts, Economy, Politics, and Philosophy. You can find the study areas either at the end of this page or on the right side.
What does studying "cross-disciplinary" mean?
With Cross-Disciplinary Strategies, a Bachelor’s program was developed for the first time that structurally crosses the boundaries between science, philosophy and art, and focuses on the reciprocal relationships between forms of knowledge. To the widespread paradigm of specialization, the program adds a generalizing approach to generate interdisciplinarity and make it productive. Innovations in the sciences and technologies are always examined in their socio-political conditionality. (1) In other words, cross-disciplinary research combines disciplines and adds the value of experience to the new findings so that connections can be drawn that would have been otherwise overlooked or ignored.
I am convinced it is our responsibility to reflect critically on, e.g., technological, biological, social, political, and artistic developments, and respond with actions for ourselves (and others who refuse to take on the responsibility). We need to take a critical stance towards the multiple challenges of our time and address relevant issues and strategies for change processes beyond disciplines’ boundaries.
For further details on what disciplines are and how the notion of them changed throughout time, I would recommend reading An Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research: Theory and Practice (2).
(2) Keestra, Machiel, Lucas Rutting, Ger Post, Mieke De Roo, Sylvia Blad, and Linda De Greef. An Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research: Theory and Practice. Edited by Menken Steph and Keestra Machiel. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016. Accessed October 26, 2020. doi:10.2307/j.ctt1bc540s
Why I study Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
I concerned myself with graphic design. Of course, I knew what a pixel is, this little square, usually distorting visual content that is considered inappropriate, because it is either too sexual, too violent, or perhaps even too personal for us to see. I concerned myself with graphic design only. Of course, I had no idea, what a pixel is, this little square, meticulously sized, measured and calculated by various political agendas, laws, and decisions.
It was not before I encountered Eyal Weizman’s work in general and the investigations conducted by his research lab Forensic Architecture, that I was forced to ask myself what a pixel actually is, and what the answer to this allegedly simply question means for me, for us – that is, those that have the privilege of being, at least physically, relatively unaffected by the answer –, and for everything and everyone else who is constantly at risk of being divulged, and made visible by the pixel. What does it mean that we travel across virtual geographic space via Google Maps, enabled by satellite imagery and the possibility of sharp resolutions, and encounter different resolutions in different locations? How is it possible that even the highest resolution images degrade to a pixel that translates to 50cm by 50cm, precisely the size needed to hide a human body? In other words, whom or what does a pixel protect if it renders the human body invisible? Our privacy? Certain political agendas, or perhaps, as Weizman suggested in one of his investigations, a drone strike? Who has the power to decide who and what is visible, and who or what is not? And what is the role of design?
Questions like this have fascinated – and frightened – me ever since. With globalization and the commence of the so called digital era, with the development of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, as well as scientific research that changed our perception of life (for example genome editing), the entanglement of technological means, biological matter, geopolitical matters, political agendas, data circulation, and legal decisions became more and more pertinent.
And so did our responsibility to reflect critically on precisely these developments. As Weizman shows in many of his works, and as is reflected by the work of Forensic Architecture, what is at stake is the (material, political, and social) world in which we live, in which some lives are protected, and others are not.
It is hard for me to imagine that consequential contemporary challenges like climate change or economic inequality can be addressed by individuals, in the course of isolated disciplines, or by means of specified knowledge acquisition. Rather, we have to acknowledge our interconnectedness, the fact that nobody can exist alone, and that we bear responsibility for each other, as well as for the earth we inhabit.
The question of how to respond is precisely what I am convinced to be able addressing together with the faculty and the colleagues in the Cross-Disciplinary Strategies study program.