Steam-Connect-Equity-in-Steam-Banner
Steam-Connect-HighNotes-Banner
Steam-Connect-Going-Strong-Banner

Digital Kids and the Kahn Academy

A fact of life in the 21st century is that technology has moved faster than anyone imagined. Unless we use technology to reinvent our current systems of education, we all will suffer as more and more people are left behind the learning curve, and left...

From STEM to STEAM

Artists and designers love to force us into the gray area between disciplines and often start by reframing the questions we carry around in our heads. Making It Better was a reframing orgy. Damon Rich, Founder of The Center for Urban Pedagogy, shared his experience...

Innovate + Educate, STEMconnector™

“Technology and innovation are key drivers to economic growth and jobs,” said John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable. “U.S. workforce training has to catch up to a global economy where more and more jobs require STEM training. CEO’s and education leaders have an...

Debate Over Intelligence and Creativity Holds Little Relevance

Is there a relationship between IQ, or intelligence, and creativity? If so, what is it? Equally important, how can we use one measurement to test another? What makes all this so important is simply that creativity is now widely recognized as one of the most important...

STEM + ART = MATTERS!

Our goal is to facilitate growth and education in STEM-A philosophy and pedagogy, implementing the latest exploration of STEM education, creating a space for students to explore and experiment through art....

Sorry: Art Is a Business

The myth of the starving artist is just that, a myth, according to a recent report of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP). "Arts graduates are finding ways to put together careers and be employed -- and many of them are satisfied with their...

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.

Whole Brain Creativity

When developing ideas we combine left-brain thinking for rational persuasion and competitive edge, with right-brain creativity to achieve strong emotional engagement....