Visual Creativity in Academia / by Jack Viere

Tepper's and Kuh's Biography in Context piece on creativity caused me to reflect on how my own educational experiences have been impacted by creativity. Right now, social science in grad school hasn't presented me with any obvious opportunities to explore my creative side. I think that comes with certain pressures and expectations.

But before grad school, there was the open-ended, explorative four years of undergrad. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland. I was really into shooting photography at the time and was looking to make some sort of connection between art and academics. Visual Sociology--an emerging field I was completely unfamiliar with--was a crude combination of "visual" and "sociology." Go figure. After reflecting on similar fields, like photojournalism, the course culminated in a visual essay. The slideshow is my visual essay (that actually connects back to my name tag origin story from the first day of class).

Tepper and Kuh give unsurprising numbers to describe how students in science feel like they lack a sense of creativity. This seems to be a reoccurring theme in our class discussions. (And perhaps there's not only the omnipresent fear of not meeting expectations, but also a complicity in that problem). On the flip side, I think that the authors give lofty attributes of what it means to be an art major. I think there's a happy medium to be found.

 Check out the full gallery  here

Check out the full gallery here

With the academic buzzword "transdisciplinary" flying around, there's hope for creativity to actually thrive in all types of educational settings. For the scientists who think that their work doesn't allow for traditional art media, I think that these might be the same scientists who fail at communicating their work to non-scientists. The subsequent discourse that responds to that problem is actively being shaped by innovative, creative means of communicating complex topics in visually effective ways. Does that mean "transdisciplinarian" looks like the crude combination of "visual" and "biology?" I'm not sure. But today's world does have a strong emphasis on the visual. With students' time spans decreasing, visual + [insert field here] might be a start at creating a space for creativity and capturing students' attention. 

Visual Sociology is a good example of social sciences getting in touch with their creative side. I can't remember the exact name for the example of creativity in "hard science," but it's roughly known as microscopic cell art. I don't have any background in biology, but I do think that creating these images takes a lot more than textbook-defined "science." I'd imagine that the instrumentation and engineering involved could invoke non-science types who feel left out to also be creative...