The Cooperation Destination

Concepts and creations converge at the Collaboration for Humane Technologies

When artists, scientists and scholars collaborate to tackle some of our most pressing challenges, the creative spark is undeniable.

For the Collaboration for Humane Technologies, a cross-disciplinary network of some of the most innovative thinkers in their fields, it is that creative spark that makes new, inspiring ideas for a better future possible.

“We’re bringing together multiple collaborators, scientists and artists to make discoveries we can only make together,” said Norah Zuniga Shaw, professor and director for dance and technology and the principal investigator for the Humane Technologies research.

Pop-Up events bring together artists, humanists and scientists, including faculty, international artists, current students and alumni, to explore what it might be like to work, share, play and think in more dynamic technological mediums that access our full multisensory human capacities.

The roster of lead partners on the projects bears out this expansive collaboration: the Departments of Design and Dance, ACCAD (Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design) and the Champion Intergenerational Center (Colleges of Medicine, Nursing and Social Work), all joined by students and contributing faculty from design; dance; music; theatre; engineering; architecture; Spanish and Portuguese; English; women’s, gender and sexuality studies; nursing; medicine; social work and ACCAD.

Each year they tackle a different theme: In 2017 it was “Livable Futures,” and for 2018 it is “Well-being.”

Working in tandem, these Humane Technology partners join a growing movement in the technology industries toward putting human concerns at the forefront of innovation. Research topics include robotics for assisted living; simulations to improve empathy in dementia care; games for well-being; stress reduction through mindfulness in virtual reality; data humanism and health insurance in artificially intelligent futures; and more.

While the topics are weighty, the approach is one that merges the rigorous work needed to tackle these ideas with a sense of play designed to ignite discovery and surprising insights — it is both work and play. The project’s arts-driven approach — many of the projects revolve around creating games, VR experiences, performance, animation — opens the door to novel solutions.

“Because it’s rooted in the arts, we allow for imaginative leaps,” Zuniga Shaw said. “It is that sense of playfulness and openness that breaks open traditional modes of thought and makes the collaborations at ACCAD so unique.”

She continues: “This approach runs counter to the habitual desire for fixed categories and clear hierarchies, which is a 20th century headache. It creates what appears to be a messier process at first, but it works every time and people end up relating differently to each other and discovering powerful new connections.”

These are forged in various ways, including a forward-thinking, collaborative Pop-Up Week, held earlier this year. The Pop-Up Week hosted a formidable roster of Ohio State researchers, alumni, students and visiting innovators — including acclaimed sound artist and technology visionary Pamela Z — for a fast-paced week of flash talks, prototyping, open discussions and performance, all designed to focus on well-being and igniting the spark that lights the best and most productiove collaborations and partnerships.

As Humane Technologies continues to grow — next year looks to see more intersections with the newly established Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme at Ohio State, including medical arts and humanities programs and expansion of Livable Futures projects — it is important to keep focused on effective strategies for bringing these diverse disciplines together. Zuniga Shaw says it is all part of ACCAD’s and Humane Technologies’ groundbreaking work.

“That’s what it is entirely about: fostering these collaborations and enhancing collaborative experiences to created sustained engagement across the board, right now and beyond.”

Learn more about Humane Technologies at humanetechosu.org and ACCAD at accad.osu.edu.