It’s common practice that a column reflects the personal point of view of the writer. However, as a Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan once stated, ‘A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding’. As this is my first contribution to Innovation Origins, I would like to take the opportunity to devote this article to the intersection of Art and Science. Not only is this a subject that defines my professional career, it offers me the possibility to briefly introduce myself as ‘the new kid on the block’ of columnists that regularly contribute to Innovation Origins.

Storyteller

Having been educated at the Amsterdam School of the arts, I travelled the world as a filmmaker -or modern-day storyteller- for fifteen years. Subsequently, I went to work for the Dutch national police as chief of several covert operations sections. During this time, I earned my PhD based on combining art and science to anticipate criminal behaviour. Only recently, I have been appointed Professor of Practice at Tilburg University as head of the department Data Science in Crime and Safety at the Jheronimus Academy of Data Science in Den Bosch.

Some people (including artists and scientists) find the territory where art and science meet difficult to navigate. While artists are primarily concerned with the subjective realm of emotions, scientists are concerned with the body of knowledge that can be rationally explained and reliably applied. However, in my opinion, the ‘common source’ of the two disciplines should be appreciated.

Social creatures

By nature, humans are fearful social creatures. From our bare existence, we have been terrified by things we don’t understand and (maybe, therefore) have become social creatures that want to communicate and describe our experiences. Both art and science are attempts to understand and describe the world around us. One might argue that science is primarily related to the process of understanding, while art is related to that of communication. But in my opinion, understanding the world and describing the experience are essential for a successful scientist as well as a competent artist.

My exploration of the common ground between art and science has enhanced my appreciation for the wonders of art and deepened my recognition for the wisdom of science. To me, art and science are best to be seen as two complementary perspectives on the world. Both artist and scientists operate at the verge of what is known, and by their curious nature aspire to understand that which is unknown. Moreover, artist and scientists share fundamental characteristics: a natural curiosity, a drive for experimentation, an ability to doubt, a fearlessness to make mistakes, and to learn from their failures. However, while the similarities may be obvious, the two disciplines rarely integrate, and that is unfortunate. For where two rivers meet, the strongest current occurs. Integrating art and science provides a deeper understanding of the world, beginning in wonder and ending with wisdom.

I do realise that I may have introduced a dangerous luxury by confusing ‘point of view’ with ‘insight and understanding’. But then again; wasn’t Marshall McLuhan just another fearful social creature? It’s not that he predicted the Word Wide Web thirty years in advance.

Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980). McLuhan used the metaphor ‘global village’, to describe a situation in which all ‘participants’ had more or less equal access to public information. It was not until about thirty years later when the internet was invented, that McLuhan’s metaphor was fully realised.

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Jan Wouters, Katleen Gabriels, Maarten Steinbuch, Mary Fiers, Carlo van de Weijer, Lucien Engelen, Peter de Kock, Tessie Hartjes and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally supplemented with guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous episodes.