— This is the second MAST Challenge edition, to view the previous MAST Challenge (2018/19) follow here —
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
THE MAST CHALLENGE 2019/20:
— This is the second MAST Challenge edition, to view the previous MAST Challenge (2018/19) follow here —
Solidarity: the politics of belonging
‘Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.’ – Robert Schuman, 9 May 1950
The challenge in Fall 2019 revolves around the European value of Solidarity. Solidarity is at once a value, an aspiration, a sensibility; is felt by Europeans, debated by Europeans, and is a motivation for policy. Solidarity can be leveraged for exclusionary nationalism (US versus them), but also as a rationale for welcoming immigrants. Events like the economic crisis and Greece’s sovereign debt crisis, and its subsequent forced austerity, call Europe’s solidarity into question, while Brexit seems to reinforce it. As the quote from Robert Schuman above shows, solidarity was seen as a necessary infrastructure to be built for Europe’s survival. A central question of Europe’s future is: How do we want to live together?
The Internet has done little to reinforce solidarity, and social media has certainly facilitated some of the rise of right-wing ethnonationalism. In the realm of AST, then, there is clearly work to be done. Media art has not focused much on solidarity or empathy since important early works like the 1980’s projects like Hole in Space, or Wodyczko’s 1992 Alien Staff. Similarly, the dominant tech scene, once a proponent of “making the world smaller,” and promising the internet would bring people together, has largely abandoned that project in favor of simply making some activities (renting a room, shopping, being driven from here to there) slightly more convenient or less expensive. Much more fundamental questions must be asked by technologists, questions like: How long do you have to live somewhere to become part of a community? What forms of togetherness, cohabitation and conviviality could we imagine? What practices of daily life do exist for a peaceful cohabitation?
As MAST founder Franziska Hederer describes it:
“Lived solidarity is actually an experience between the permeability of globalisation and the wall building of identity politics and the securitisation of boundaries. It’s necessary to develop a Europe of transnational domains delineating some kind of identity, which is created by the experience of social and cultural differences by the movement between places and the exploration of the values and criteria associated therewith. This would be a Europe consisting of liminal spaces, which provoke the debate on the correlation of the confidant and the foreign.”
If Europe can thrive only with solidarity, how can AST contribute? What are the technologies and experiences that will help Europeans to see that we are on this continent together? Does solidarity stop at Europe’s borders, or does the existential climate catastrophe extend our idea of solidarity? What must we learn from each other, share with each other, expect and demand from each other? What art projects will help us to recognize, complicate, and strengthen our solidarity? What technologies, products, or services might extend our ability to live, work, and think together?
The MAST Challenge is an opportunity to address these questions. Lived solidarity needs open spaces of thinking and acting. These are spaces beyond interests of economy and political interference like profit maximisation and party political restrictions and control. Lived solidarity needs open laboratories, fields for experiments and platforms of discussion. This Challenge is such a laboratory.
The MAST Challenge for 2020 is to reference solidarity as an active topic in your masters degree. It can be considered as a factor in your experience design; a topic for your artwork; a lens through which to model your thesis; a mission of your next startup. You can work with solidarity at any scale, from solidarity in your student union to solidarity in your city or the planet. Solidarity is, however, a social phenomenon: it can’t happen alone.
>> 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 compley 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 2019/20, travel through the realms of interface and experience design (Nova Gorica, Slovenia in November) and studies of space design as pertaining to the human body (Graz, Austria in May 2020), to eventually culminate at an investigative and post-humanist art in both theoretical and DIY dimensions”(Ljubljana, Slovenia, July 2020).
>>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.
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!