View from the Bridge: The future of humanities, a rising star at Microsoft, and a multigenerational Car Classic

by November 14th, 2013

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President Lorne M. Buchman moderating at “The Future of Knowledge” event. Photo: John Dlugolecki

Last week I had the pleasure of moderating an evening panel on “The Future of Knowledge” with the co-authors of Digital_Humanities, a recent publication from MIT Press. Introducing the Art Center Dialogues event in the Ahmanson Auditorium was one of the book’s co-authors: our very own Anne Burdick, Chair of Art Center’s Media Design Practices. In her remarks, she mused that “our bombastic title is actually a serious proposition,” and the presentations and discussion that followed were certainly provocative and opened several important questions about teaching and research in the humanities.

Digital Humanities replaces “the paper” with “the project,” looking to the multi-modal and project-based orientation that is at the heart of creative studio practice. The authors argue that our current ideas about knowledge, interpretation and the cultural record developed in tandem with our long history with print. The digital information age upends old ideas about author, archive, memory and knowledge itself. The book positions designers (and by implication what we teach here at Art Center) as having a major contribution to make as these notions reconfigure along with the technology.

The question of how best to integrate the humanities into Art Center’s curriculum is one I care about very much, and I thank the co-authors—who, in addition to Burdick, included Johanna Drucker, a professor in UCLA’s Department of Information Studies; Peter Lunenfeld, former Art Center instructor and professor at UCLA’s Design Media Arts; Todd Presner, chair of UCLA’s Digital Humanities program; and Jeffrey Schnapp, faculty director of metaLAB at Harvard—for a wonderfully engaging evening.

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“Digital_Humanities” co-authors (from L) Jeffrey Schnapp, Peter Lunenfeld, Johanna Drucker, Anne Burdick and Todd Presner at “The Future of Knowledge.” Photo: John Dlugolecki

Further assurance that the methodologies we profess here at Art Center foster forward-thinking students is a profile of 2013 Product Design graduate and now Microsoft designer Andrew Kim on the pioneering company’s website. The article describes how Kim caught the attention of the company’s recruiters with his project “The Next Microsoft”—a rebranding of the software giant he created for what was supposed to be a popsicle redesign assignment in instructor Frido Beisert’s Creative Strategies class.

I was also happy to see so many members of the Art Center community come together last month for Car Classic: Inspired by Nature. The turnout was spectacular, the weather was perfect and it was gratifying to see the crowds enjoying both the iconic vehicles on display outdoors and the first-rate work of students on display indoors.

One highlight of the day was an historic multigenerational interview—conducted by The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno—between alumnus Peter Brock, who sketched the lines of the original 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Racing Stingray, and alumnus Tom Peters, whose re-launched 2014 Corvette Stingray was recently named Car of the Year by Yahoo! Autos.

Jay Leno (right) interviews Tom Peters (left) and Peter Brock (center) at Car Classic: Inspired by Nature.

Jay Leno (right) interviews Tom Peters (left) and Peter Brock (center) at Car Classic: Inspired by Nature.

A passion for design across generations was in full effect that day. Not only were current students fanned out across the field and sketching the works of automotive art, but a panel of very young judges also presented the first ever Car Classic Kids’ Choice Award. How many of those budding automotive enthusiasts might end up studying at Art Center? And might the new South Campus industrial design facility we’re planning, made possible by a generous gift from Car Classic attendees Peter and Merle Mullin, be the place where their own creative aspirations find fulfillment?

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’m thankful for events like Car Classic and the Art Center Dialogues series that bring our campus community together with a very enthusiastic public, including tomorrow’s artists and designers. We have much to be grateful for at this exciting time for the College.

Lorne M. Buchman, Ph.D., is President and CEO of Art Center College of Design. For more on the Art Center Dialogues “The Future of Knowledge,” visit the event’s Storify feed.

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