ILR Conference Center,
New York City, April 18, 2015
Sponsored by the

Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Theme Project

Richard Swedberg and Trevor Pinch, team members on Cornell’s Institute for the Social Sciences’ Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship theme project, led by Diane Burton, set out to try to bridge the separation between artists and social scientists and see how both fields can benefit from one another.  Conceived in the spirit of experimentation, Swedberg and Pinch did not have preconceived notions of what would come from the workshop, but they imagined artists and sociologists have much to learn from one another.

A sociology professor, Swedberg suspected that one possible meeting ground might be in the disciplines’ practices – how subjects are observed, motives driving the observations, take away messages through extraction, and all that precedes the final product.  Swedberg surmised sociologists might be able to learn something from artists about the way they design their projects, and vice versa. Perhaps the two fields might share a vocabulary, borrow and exchange words, such as colligation tying together elements from the two disciplines?

Similarly, Pinch, professor in science and technology studies, sought to end the schism and extract what he calls “new mix-ups and mash-ups” along the way.

“We’re trying to find ways of leveling the playing field so that art and social science seem more mundane or more exotic but above all more like each other,” he said.

Swedberg and Pinch invited nine artists and sociologists to participate in the day-long gathering.  Each was given 45 minutes, including discussion time with questions and comments from approximately 25 people in the audience.