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  • BRIDGES I:Interdisciplinary Collaboration as Practice
  • Celia Pearce, (research manager) (bio), Sara Diamond, (arts executive) (bio), and Mark Beam, (research executive) (bio)

Today, a worldwide community of innovators is engaged in the convergence of art, technology and science, as are a number of vital and active organizations, yet there seems to be very little discourse about the process of doing interdisciplinary work. The BRIDGES Consortium seeks to create a collaborative forum for the study and development of interdisciplinary collaboration as a practice. At the first Bridges Summit, held in June 2001, participants discussed a broad range of topics, including: preceding historical developments, the role of language, institutional hurdles to collaboration and the value of art/technology-based research. The event concluded with recommendations for aggregating, validating and strengthening the interdisciplinary community through the creation of a new form of collaborative organization.

The increasing complexity of technology requires both deeper levels of specialization and greater levels of collaboration between disciplines. Differences in work and communication styles, priorities, educational principles, institutional frameworks, funding models, temperaments and even fundamental values have the potential to become either obstacles or stimulants to effective collaboration. The greatest challenge for those involved in the communication revolution is not technology, but communication between people.

The BRIDGES Consortium was formed in 2001 to create a network for the development and dissemination of strategies to improve and support the practice of interdisciplinary collaboration in the arts, sciences, culture and technology [1]. The consortium, initiated jointly by the Annenberg Center for Communication of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California, and the Banff Centre New Media Institute (BNMI), in Banff, Alberta, Canada, seeks to create an international forum and think tank to study and enhance the process of interdisciplinary collaboration in the arts, sciences and technology.

The BRIDGES Consortium think tank brings together top experts from educational, research and funding institutions; the private sector; and independent artists, technologists and scientists—experts with a known track record in this area—to explore art-and-technology collaboration, with its own unique set of issues, challenges, opportunities and skills. BRIDGES pinpoints collaboration itself as a skill to be identified, studied and learned, and proposes practical strategies for including collaboration as a vital component in education, creation and research.

The BRIDGES Consortium is structured around an annual summit. The first of these was held 31 May through 1 June 2001 at the USC Annenberg Center for Communication. The second, held the first weekend of October 2002 at the Banff Centre, expanded to include social science and humanities research.

The BRIDGES web site provides the general public with access to the work of the consortium, including on-line proceedings for each event and a publication. The web site also serves to encourage ongoing dialogue, networking and support, and the opportunity to form new collaborative partnerships. Our goal is to aggregate international efforts and make them accessible to anyone interested in this area.

This report is a summary of the results of the first BRIDGES summit. A full-length report as well as full online proceedings is now available at the BRIDGES web site at <>.

Introductory Remarks

The BRIDGES Consortium was formed out of a need we saw in our day-to-day activities in the field of cross-, inter- and trans-disciplinary collaboration. The field presents special challenges, largely owing to the fact that we are, in a very essential way, breaking down traditional boundaries, which are not only practical, but also culturally encoded. In Western culture, art and science have come to be largely divided. The historical context of the computer and the shift to a science-and-technology-driven culture has magnified this dichotomy. Both technical and creative expertise, as well as humanism, have come to be recognized as essential to the successful integration of technology into culture. New forms of trans-disciplinary discourse have emerged. Since the 1960s, artists and technologists have joined forces to create new forms of understanding and expression. Today, there is a worldwide community of innovators engaged in the convergence of art, technology and science, and a number of vital and active organizations are engaged in this work; yet there seems...


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pp. 123-128
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