THE MAST CHALLENGE 2018/19:
The project MAST (Master Module in Art, Science and Technology)* invites students to respond to this challenge with a unique and innovative solution that may become either an industry product or a public service, an art piece or an experimental design — or anything in between. Students are expected to present and pitch as well evaluate their solution eventually not with a crowd of fellow interdisciplinary innovators, but also with potential employers, opinion-leaders and decision-makers.
AIMS, METHODS AND CONTENT
In the face of quickly developing technologies and abrupt social changes, is it not about time to start questioning ourselves about the way work should be shaped in the future?
This year, the challenge is about:
The Future of Work.
How is work — its conditions, tools and methods — to be rethought and redesigned in order to meet the challenges of the future, and how can this bring about a new and positive European citizenship?
Is it necessary to ask the old questions anew — or indeed to articulate new questions that are truly relevant today, in the face of an unprecedented technological development? As Europe (and the world) is being destabilized and disrupted by digital technologies, ranging from cloud computing and big data to artificial intelligence and increasing digital telecommunication, it is a must to create a digital future that reinforces and reinstills the best parts of our society, its best legacies and most positive futures. How can hard-won values — like social justice, strong labor, gender equality, and quality culture — be woven into the fabric of new digital innovations?
What kind of solutions does such a better future of work need in order to do justice to human body, nurture positive cultural interactions, foster true creativity, and eventually provide economic and social fairness? All this in the face of the facts that the human body is becoming both increasingly sick and obsolete, that the space on earth, in nature and in most critically in cities is becoming limited and contested, that the technologies while pretending to be (user-)friendly — increasingly seem to take our privacy and sanity; and not least that economic inequalities and global as well as local (social) segregations are increasing aggression and killing peace among people, social groups, cultures, countries and religions.
How can work, collectives, or enterprises be designed to ensure a more inclusive, supportive, verdant, and open society? Along the way of developing efficient solutions to meaningful challenges, the MAST community should explore how key choices in art, design, and technology can help or harm a virtuous circle of progressive European social values. Among many other policies, documents, proclamations and practices on both European and national as well as local and non-governmental levels, these values are well reflected in the current European Pillar of Social Rights that is about delivering new and more effective work-related rights for citizens, built upon 20 key principles along three chapters:
- Equal opportunities and access to the labour market
- Fair working conditions
- Social protection and inclusion.
And not least, should the future of work belong to (or at least be dominated by) profiles who are able to think about future independently and freely, in trans-disciplinary manner, inserting and transforming existing solutions and products into new scenarios that would be solved or transferred to industry realms, ranging from Creative&Cultural Sectors to high technologies and social services)? Bringing together the sustainability and social equity values that bind together (again) the decomposing social tissue, the future worker — or indeed the MAST graduate — should act as a coordinator and an integrator, who can boldly accept the challenge from the environment, or even articulate it autonomously! S/he integrates knowledge and skills from various disciplines, organizes a team and coordinates it to jointly arrive at a possible (even if speculative) scenario as responsive to the challenge, emerging from the paradox between the obviously disparate agendas of Europe’s ambition towards innovation on the one side, and the need for social equity on the other.
Interdisciplinary teams of MAST are thus invited to develop their own meaningful queries — and respond to (or indeed hack) them with truly innovative solutions!
>> Students will be able to autonomously and in small interdisciplinary groups refine and articulate a topical problem or question in a way that instigates innovation
>> Students will be able to gradually conceive, participate in and (co-)coordinate a complex innovation project, responding to a challenge
>> Students will be able to prepare and implement a competitive pitch of their project, prototype or complex idea, to a disciplinary mixed committee
The international academic experience of students from three universities will, along the two semesters of 2018/19, travel through the realms of interface and experience design (Funchal, Madeira in November), interdisciplinary entrepreneurship in digital technologies (Budapest, Hungary in January), a choice of current new-media (art) topics such as biotechnology and (post)internet artistic practices (Nova Gorica, Slovenia in March), and studies of space design as pertaining to the human body (Graz, Austria in April), to eventually culminate at an “Interfacing Academy” event in RIjeka, Croatia (June/July).
>>Assessment of projects will be done in each iteration, and eventually by a mixed topic.-relevant committee (within the “Interfacing Academy” event; see below)
- What makes a good solution:Besides integrating the most relevant aspects of several disciplines, thinking-styles, methodologies, sets of skills, knowledge and data, as well as mixing them boldly into new speculative, blue-skye exploring and moon-shooting ideas — the developed solution must eventually become ready for implementation!The challenge solution should as far as possible progress along a so called” Technology Readiness Level“ scale that correlates to the real protocols typical for industry processes, which will assure that the module teaches students how to describe and plan what they are truly able to deliver. In case of the MAST module, the 10-step challenge solutions method can be applied to the whole TRL scale (1-9) or to a single TRL level.
At the same time however, the solution must observe a wide and inexhaustible range of positive European values such as social justice, gender equality, intergenerational cooperation, fair mobility, social protection and inclusion, good work-life balance, quality employment, multiculturality, minority rights, and even user friendliness or ergonomics, and of course economic, technological and social sustainability, etc.
> Course materials will be made available to students under each of the workshop events (see below).
COURSE FEATURES (short entries with number or two words max.; examples given in brackets)
- LOCATION (several locations)
- DURATION (9 months, October-June)
- WORKSHOP (3-6 day workshops)
- CREDIT VALUE (4-8 ECTS, as a two-semester course unit)
- LANGUAGE (English)
- LEVEL (postgrad., MA)
TEACHERS AND MENTORS
See teachers/mentors named under individual workshops below.
(provide any longish documents or content that may already be available or sure to be used — give each a 3-10 word description/title, and we shall merely list them)
Rationale of MAST and its Context:
Normally art, science and technology (AST) are perceived as separate areas, where art navigates implicit knowledge, science explicit knowledge, and technology an applied kind of knowledge. In MAST these boundaries are to increasingly oscillate across different bodies of knowledge, widening a realm of togetherness as a field of disciplinary intersections, where empirical, theoretical and applied methods meaningfully interact. Artistic and scientific basic research tends to lead towards important technological developments, that is only in further stages designed toward applications, and concrete solutions. While in basic research the knowledge realm is more important than products, while asking of the right questions is the key — applied science (technology) seeks for the right answer to these questions, while an efficient and sensible product is fundamental. Applied research seeks to solve problems and questions, whereas basic research is theme oriented and often speculative (“blue sky” research, “moonshot” design etc.).
Thus MAST steers away the conventional way of education for innovation, but rather combines research, exchange, dialogue, discourse and investigation, opening up a safe laboratory space, where responses to the challenge may be safely and boldly developed, tested, questioned — abandoned, and reiterated! Knowledge is not a fetish, and knowledge production not a goal, instead MAST seeks to become an experience around the boundaries of knowledge between disciplines, and interactions among them. Multidisciplinarity takes into account the necessities of the different disciplines without considering what is common to them, while true interdisciplinarity on the contrary seeks to generate a discourse across the different disciplines. This is why MAST aims at producing a deep, fastidious and focused research on a particular theme on the one hand, but also novel applied innovations on the other!
Looking at artworks that are dealing with the impact of new technologies, one must admit that artists very often correctly foresee the potential boundaries as well as indicate at possibilities that certain technological applications are bringing with them — and these then very soon start shaping our everyday realities! Through a good interdisciplinary artwork one can often discover the actual or even new capacities of certain technological applications as well as understand the ideology that is inscribed in their technological architecture (otherwise addressing a buyer or customer who is understood by these mercantile ideologies as a passive user, since most of these practical ideologies are motivated exclusively economically, for bringing profit to technological providers). In the recent EU policy directives innovation and creativity are featured increasingly as much needed assets that the artists with abundant technological literacy can contribute through their non-conformist, out-of-the-box, intuitive thinking. Thus artists are becoming most welcome in the processes of research and development in various industries, and not only anymore in the Creative and Cultural Sectors. While R&D departments in some companies are already familiar with design thinking approaches that help them create more plausible and usable applications, the key asset that MAST seeks to add to the R&D process is the “art-thinking” approach in creating more profound, plausible and sustainable solutions. Thus, MAST embraces both the “new” artistic and the “conventional” design thinking, combining them into an ever revolving spiral of questioning and answering the paradoxes of innovation between science, technology and art!
The MAST study course:
Mostly focussing on the practical competencies, trans-disciplinary knowledge and transferable skills, the MAST challenge strands will be strategically set up to continue each on its own base, from year to year, and after the project finish in the autumn of 2020. The sustainability of the project aims at the graduates gaining a lasting skills base in their professional development through individual work as well as through the peer-to-peer community feedback loop. Together with their mentors students will explore the ways which foster innovation and creativity through concept development, visualization & prototyping, and thus enrich their professional profiles in the realms of AST.
AS one ofts key outputs, the MAST project* develops a “MAST module”, a course structured around a central “backbone” course of 8 ECTS in the format of a “challenge”. Thus the two-semester (academic year) cohort of MAST module students experience the entire process from refining the challenge query, over developing an idea to pitching and evaluating it, and thus responding to the original challenge. After first refining it down to a concrete query, the challenge is approached with an idea that is gradually developed into a solution (possibly a product or service), and eventually pitched to a relevant audience, possibly the investors and/or employers, civic society groups and leaders, etc. This time&space-distributed (partly blended) course is running along most of the winter and the summer semesters, with the main concluding joint event in June/July, when the best solutions are disseminated (as showcases, talks, conferences..) along the summer semester, culminating at a summer “Interfacing academy” event. Hosted each year by a different partnership of MAST consortium members at this event most of the methods and results of the academic year of the MAST module are being featured and discussed for further development.
The methodology is based on combining the “LAUNCH” https://www.launch.org/process (network-centered innovation platform) holistic step-wise approach and the IDEATE http://howto.ideate.me academic – interdisciplinary – entrepreneurship course toolbox. Around this course the rest of the module is organized, in a distributed way across all three academic, but also all other contributing partners of the consortium. The stages along which the innovation solution (of the challenge) is to be paced and developed, should be based on a unique combination of the best from the above two methods, and both the Technology Readiness Levels in the European Commission and the Technology readiness levels in the United States Department of Defense (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_readiness_level).
The rest of the MAST module is represented by courses ranging from 4 to 8 ECTS such as workshops, seminars, tandem mentorships etc., mostly focussing on the practical competencies, trans-disciplinary knowledge and transferable skills. Mobility schemes would cover 10 to 30 ECTS (depending on the final thesis or project curriculum) of MAST concluding graduate (master-level) work. Students thus experience the entire process from responding to a challenge with an idea, refining it, and eventually presenting an innovation solution, as well as pitching it to a relevant audience, with an actual impact on not only own career prospects, but also the European reality!