Protective cocoon

I was talking this morning with a fellow academic who is more in the “art” world than in the “science” world. We were discussing the fact that for many fields (such as my field of computer graphics), the distinction between “artistic research” and “scientific research” can be somewhat fuzzy. In many cases it is hard, in the case of computer graphics, to create reproducible empirical results or usefully falsifiable principles (the bedrock elements of science) without aesthetic exploration or experimentation guided mainly by inspired intuition.

Over the course of the conversation, as my colleague and I discussed the politics of funding in our respective research disciplines, it became clear to me that I’ve been using the “science” label as a form of self-protection. As long as my research is officially identified as science, it is classified as practical, useful, “good for the economy”, and therefore fundable.

In essence, I (and a lot of other folks I know) have been using the label of science as a protective cocoon, whereas in reality — in the work as it is actually practiced — a reductive labeling of the research as being “art” or “science” would do more harm than good.

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