For philosophy, creativity also poses challenges in language. French philosopher Ann-Francois Schmid has, over the years, been one of the key scholars in making transdisciplinarity a popular topic among philosophy. In her keynote talk, Schmid emphasised the need for new, “de-disciplined” knowledge.
Schmid argued that language is in the middle of creation, and when, in real life, we create something novel, different terminology among different disciplines can become an obstacle of understanding.
Shah also pointed out that digitalisation is built on language-based models,‘Because code is a language; it means that digitalisation is an expression of a language. Which necessarily means that there are building blocks, and we can question the implicit biases of these languages’.
Shah is worried that the current internet is a very patriarchal and unequal system, which is not designed to improve the life of people. Still, it reinforces hierarchies, control and power, and thus it doesn’t protect minorities. In India, an explosion of false information and fake news via Whatsapp has provoked anger and violence and has led to more than 40 deaths between 2017 and 2018.
‘One of my projects is to design a new feminist internet, changing the parameters to imagine a different kind of internet because we shouldn’t use creativity for improving a system that has failed, but to dismantle and re-engineer the system. We’d need all of the schools coming together to think that another future is possible, as opposed to just extending what we have’.
Role of humanities and ethics in the age of digitalization
Is there a way to avoid algorithmic anxiety? Shah sees that feminism already has the answer.
‘The first thing to do is to replace value generation by care generation. This draws me to what Ann-Francoise Schmid was saying: begin with ethics, not with the discipline. Because ethics is where care exists’.
Schmid talked about ethics as “a science of boundaries”, and ethics becomes essential and visible when we make difficult decisions. For example, the corona crisis has forced governments to justify their choices and priorities.
Shah’s explanation of care resembles responsibility, ‘If you take a humanistic perspective to creativity and creation, you don’t only look at the final product, but everybody who is affected by the creation. Don’t just look at technological creativity that shows an image of a person on Instagram, but also think about the cleaners of Instagram, those who sit in Philippines and Cambodia removing dirty, harmful and violent content.’
‘Digital systems are strange. We create systems of harm, and then we step back and say, what shall we do to make them stop harming us’.
Shah suggests that the other way would be to start “engineering care”; putting care as a non-negotiable discipline. He continues that care is different from love; love is reciprocal, whereas care is a one-way vector.
‘This is a different kind of a value system, which we don’t necessarily integrate into our conversations around creativity today. How do we bring that back into the conversation is at least my way out so that I don’t get paralysed by fear or algorithmic anxiety’.
Based on the U-Create discussions, the incapacity of any one discipline alone to address and understand the complex problems we face today means that we need new ways to find things we don't yet know.
To be better able to navigate the unknown, universities – but also societies, individuals and businesses – need to intentionally develop creative and empathetic capabilities which will help to imagine, develop and test radically different and responsible alternatives that exceed disciplinary and organizational boundaries.
Watch the talks here: