[ISEA2011] Paper: Lee Boot, Stacy Arnold & David Gurzick – Alternative Approaches to Representing Knowledge in the Human Environment


How is knowledge represented in the media and the physical environments that surrounding us? What messages are best funded, most promoted, or presented in the most sophisticated ways? Which ideas become culturally resonant and affective? The impact of our knowledge environments is coming to the surface as economies become increasingly information-driven and as facing our global challenges relies on informing political will with good data and analysis. On another scale, there are implications for the personal relationships to knowledge that drive life choices made by individuals. A transdisciplinary approach is suggested to reinvent our knowledge environments to best serve both individual and societal aspirations. This paper will share findings and perspectives, generated over ten years of research to discover new possibilities in this area.

A working partnership between the US-based Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and InfoCulture, a media research and development studio has produced promising results with an approach that leverages some timeless qualities of art (i.e., the use of metaphor, ambiguity, story and other ways of making meaning out of raw information) to re-imagine non-fiction communication in a variety of venues and using a range of technologies. These efforts can be differentiated from trends in activist and relational art practice in that their impacts are measured using sophisticated quantitative and qualitative methods—often contributing to new thinking in those science domains. Findings suggest that discourse, informed by approaches that originated in the arts and the social sciences, and which takes form in combinations of both new and old media and communication technologies, has the potential to increase people’s engagement with knowledge that holds value for them. Projects to be discussed include: a feature film that used public sculpture practice to create metaphors for science-based ideas about what produces wellbeing; a social network that used films created by a collaboration between adolescent and professional filmmakers to drive conversation about what young people think helps them engage in learning (or not); a health blog that quickly built membership by telling stories that revealed the cultural conflicts inherent in discussions about health.

  • Lee Boot is an experimental media artist and researcher exploring ways to increase the cultural adoption of knowledge to benefit individuals and societies. He is an Associate Research Scholar at, and Interim Director of the Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA, and is founder of the experimental media studio, InfoCulture, LLC. His research has sought to address social issues including education, health and general wellbeing and has been sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences and the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.  irc.umbc.edu   whoweam.com                                                                                                        Video: WhoWeAm on What Weekly: Looking Back at the Holiday Ritual
  • Stacy Arnold 
  • Dr. David Gurzick, Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, USA

Full text (PDF) p. 238-244