A Composite Mapping

Written by Miha Turšič

*Waag Society, 2018

“Only new alliances between natural, life, social and human sciences will stand a chance of finding solutions for the irreducible complexity of problems like climate change, extinction threats, the depletion of natural resources, global migration and global social justice.” Rosi Braidotti, 2013

Civilisational development is constantly emerging not just within established domains, but also from the collisions between them. New practices, methodologies and relations are emerging and immediately shaping one another. The complexity of these new developments require new tools with which we can gain a better overview, understand their relations and develop new forms of socio-technological utilisations.

As we observe a variety of knowledge maps, we can indisputably recognise multiplicity of relations between different types of knowledge. For our purpose, we won’t go into identification of the general structure of the knowledge as we could fall into a trap of different categorisations, traditions and cultures, but mainly seek to research the relations and new forms of knowledge that emerge between established domains. To observe these relations and compare their qualities and capacities of different domains we plan to use a Composite map of domains. It offers a basic overview of a knowledge separated by the target of observation (human or surrounding), the method of observation (objective and subjective) and levels of its maturity (emerging or established).

Pic 1. Composite map of domains.

For this occasion, we aim to focus mainly on knowledge about arts. Knowledge mapping is usually produced by connecting the references in published articles, but since arts and nonacademic knowledge production doesn’t share the same form of manifestation as a unifying common ground, we propose to use Readiness Assessments. RAs were first introduced to map the maturity of emerging technologies in a complex landscape of space engineering by NASA and ESA as Technology Readiness Levels. With TRL we can observe, develop and manage all types of emerging developments. However, methodologies for technological development are mainly self-referential, reductionistic and lack subjective and societal perspectives. As a response we have seen the development of Societal Readiness Levels (SRL) within different national and Europe-wide projects. SRL is considered as a counterpart of the established technological notion of social development. SRL emphasises the social appropriateness of new knowledge and technologies, rather than technical/operational feasibility. It is less interested in isolated marketability or commercialisation potential, but rather focuses on the alignment between the processes and products of R&I on the one hand, and broader societal demands and expectations—social, political, environmental, and economic—on the other. SRL is thus also about degrees of societal controversy and contention; adequate legislation and governance arrangements to mitigate adverse effects, and the existence of mechanisms to ensure involvement of citizens and societal actors in the production and assessment of new knowledge and technologies.

For the understanding of arts in relation to other domains, we propose to develop Art Readiness Levels (ARL) to be used as a diplomatic tool in establishing and understanding of relations with other domains. ARL should contain the scope between fundamental artistic research and artistic manifestations within established cultural patterns. Different readiness levels of arts relate to different types of methodologies and practices. First ones relate mainly to the foundational research of humanness, medium ones relate to experimentation in technological and societal contexts, while last ones get embedded and recognised in mainstream environments. For example, artistic research done at artistic residencies at scientific institutions often doesn’t reach out to the broader audience, but it does challenge participating scientists in rethinking established methodologies, practices or even their scientific subjectivity. On a level of methodological experimentation or manifestation, recently mostly media artists methodologically experiment with technologies or specific societal aspects with which they achieve authentic affect but don’t bother with utilising its functionality—except for empowerment of those in need. And there are artworks, which make even historical recognition by establishing an accepted perspective of our humanness.

Pic 2. Draft of Art Readiness Levels (ARL)

It is important not to consider ARLs as a classification of arts, but as an interpretation that expands an overall knowledge production. We understand that sciences, technologies and applications are constitutional part of our humanness, and arts (with humanities) should step on a mutual ground to establish functional relations.

We can conclude, that emerging knowledge, like the majority of art-science productions, doesn’t have to be displaced and alienated from established knowledge practices. When placed on a map of mutual understanding and in clear relation to other existing domains it is just knowledge in becoming, extending the knowing into the void of the unknown. Just like human space exploration—the further we go, the more we become something else.