ArtPlace Could Make the Difference In Communities Across America

After some months (it could be argued, years), Rocco Landsman, Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has put together a national organization dedicated to building creative places in cities around the country, demonstrating the vital link between the arts and economic development....

Nurturing Arts Districts for the New Economy

The economy is in the toilet and it is hard, some would say impossible, to talk about the future. "Arts districts"? You have got to be kidding. In spite of the pessimism, ULI San Diego/Tijuana http://ulisd.org/ hosted a seminar earlier this month entitled "Powering Innovation Economies,"...

This Is Your Brain On Art (sizzle sizzle)

September 12, 2011 By

She’s not the only one.  But unlike many of the others, she decided to do something about it.  So on October 30, 2010, Shumaker pasted a bunch of electrodes to her forehead, hooked them up to a computer, and tracked her brain’s electrical signals while watching a live performance.  She recorded the humming of her synapses, so to speak, and now she’s trying to figure out what it means.

This is a follow-up post to an earlier post, “Syncing Brainwaves Through the Fourth Wall.”  After I wrote that, I heard about someone right in my own backyard who was actually attempting to examine brainwaves in conjunction with theatrical attendance.  Pretty cool stuff!  A version of this will appear in print in Theatre Bay Area magazine in October.

Working in conjunction with the psychology department at Humboldt State University, Shumaker is attempting to to use electroencephalography, more commonly known as EEG, to measure what’s the science world calls “affect,” and what most laypeople would call “emotion.”

“I’m looking at what are called alpha asymmetry scores,” Shumaker says.  “When you take readings of electrical activity through electrodes on the skin above the prefrontal cortex, you can tell by the changing differences between the scores on the left and right sides what is happening with affect, or emotion—so the actual emotional experiences of a person can be tracked, in a way, using these asymmetry scores.”

Shumaker believes that research like this may actually be able to shed some light on some of the fundamentals that make theatre so unique and transformative.

“Theatre is an excellent medium for helping us start to understand aesthetic experiences that are extremely complicated,” says Shumaker.  “Unlike simple conversation, which is complex enough, theatre combines everything from physical movement to auditory and visual stimuli.”

For what is viewed as a largely passive group, the audience is actually very active during any sort of interaction.  Think about it.  What is it like when you’re in a really good theatrical event?  Your body and your brain are on a sort of stationary rollercoaster—you experience emotions, physical responses, things both so big you can’t ignore them (a jerk when surprised) and so small you’d never notice (an eye twitch, a smirk).

What’s hard is that our standard methods of trying to assess an audience’s experience generally fall short in terms of being able to accurately gauge immediate response.  This can happen for a variety of reasons, ranging from general politesse to a wish to avoid quantifying their experience.

The way Shumaker puts it is, “Post-performance surveys and lobby chatter, from a social psychology standpoint, just aren’t super useful.  People have all kinds of tricks of memory and biases that they reflect when they talk about something.  Getting to something physiological gives us a clearer picture of what people are actually experiencing.”

In a way, brain research is the hard-science twin of Theatre Bay Area’s ongoing research into the intrinsic impact of art.  Whereas with intrinsic impact we’re talking about abstract concepts like empathy, emotion, social connection and intelligence, the avenues being explored in neural research are actually attempting to show the development of pathways, of connections.  And each strengthens, or has the potential to strengthen the other.

Kindermusik ~ A Whole Brain Activity

So what can your family do to provide a “whole-brain”, “whole body”, “whole child” experience? Be involved in musical learning and moving. For your youngest member of the family sing, dance, feel the beat, play instruments to the beat and expose them to a variety...

Mayors With a New Vision of Creativity and Innovation Wanted

John M. Eger – Huffington Post

Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy, San Diego State University

Posted: 08/16/11

 

Almost 20 years ago, when San Diego Mayor Susan Golding was just elected, she had the foresight to launch a “city of the future” committee. San Diego really didn’t know what a city of the future looked like, but knew then you had to have fiber optics — lots of bandwidth in the ground. So it was fiber optics and bandwidth that was on everybody’s lips.

Today, understanding the challenges of the new global economy and knowing what it takes to succeed in the workplace of the future, we know it is not bandwidth in the ground that is so important as the bandwidth in people’s heads.

Within the next several months there are countless mayoral races that present an opportunity to talk about a new path for the future of cities.

It is the worst of times to have such a conversation, many would say, with pension deficits looming, services being cut and unemployment at an all time high. Yet, as the Cheshire cat said to Alice in Alice in Wonderland, “if you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”

It is time Americans know the road they must take. It’s also time we talk candidly about the connections between art, commerce, education and economic development and importantly, what communities everywhere must do to be successful in what is being called “the creative and innovative economy.”

Many cities are struggling to redefine themselves or reinvent a strategy to jumpstart economic development, and to figure out what is happening to our economy. We know it’s global, and as Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has told us, it’s “flat.” We know, too, it’s digital and that growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web is compelling development of a global economy. But it is creativity — simply defined as “the quality or ability to create or invent something original” — that best defines the characteristic most of us need to succeed in the new economy.

Graffiti Parks May Be the Answer

John M. Eger – Huffington Post

Lionel Van Deerlin Professor of Communications and Public Policy, San Diego State University

Posted: 08/9/11

Introducing a segment on graffiti last week, Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News rhetorically asked: what is the difference between “one man’s vandalism and another man’s artistic expression?”

Lee Cowen of NBC, who reported the story, talked about “the vast canvas (of) the inner-city” and the problems cities are having given the increase in graffiti.

Cowen was picking up many of the complaints from a New York Times story about LA that “tags (another name for graffiti) have popped up on guardrails along the dirt trails near Griffith Park across town. There are, almost daily, fresh splashes on walls in the San Fernando Valley, on downtown Los Angeles buildings and on billboards along the highways.”

The graffiti problem isn’t unique to LA. Most cities see this as a growing epidemic. But “artistic expression” is real, and in what is fast becoming a “creative and innovation economy” could be a good thing for cities across America.

Clearly something positive is happening and cities need to find a way to stop the “vandalism” and encourage the “artistic expression.” Graffiti Parks might be one answer.

Kids Are Wired Differently

In a book to be released later this month (August 18) called Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, former Provost at Duke University and founder of the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology...

Connecting Science and Art

Science and art often seem to develop in separate silos, but many thinkers are inspired by both. Novelist Cormac McCarthy, filmmaker Werner Herzog and physicist Lawrence Krauss discuss science as inspiration for art and Herzog's new film on the earliest known cave paintings....

Opera Ups Its Presence in Schools

According to the Washington Post citing a recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts, "The audience for the performing arts is slipping nationwide. But opera has proved to do slightly better than other classical forms -- orchestral music or ballet -- in terms...