Arts, Humanities, and Complex Networks

Hybrids are Hubs: Transdisciplinary, the Two Cultures and the Special Status of Artscientists

by Francois-Joseph Lapointe

Abstract

Much as been said and written about the “two cultures” separating the world between artists and scientists. On one side of this debate are those who accept and celebrate this cultural art/science divide. On the other side are those who reject it altogether to promote a better integration of artscience practices. In this paper, I present a network analysis of 40 papers submitted to the SEAD Network for Science, Engineering, Arts and Design. I intended to look at the two cultures from an objective standpoint, testing the hypothesis that texts authored by artists/scientists would be separated in a network representation of intertextual distances. To my great surprise, this is not what the data said. As a matter of fact, all analyses and statistical evaluation of network indices associated with the different categories of papers revealed an integration of artists and scientists in overlapping clusters. As such, these results seem to falsify the art/science paradigm altogether. In terms of intertextual distances at least, it is not possible to distinguish papers authored by scientists from those authored by artists. From a different perspective, however, the network analysis tells an even more interesting story than the non-separation of the two cultures. The statistical analysis of graph-based indices exhibited the special status of artscientists, a transdisciplinary group of individuals different from that of artists and scientists. These hybrid individuals act as hubs in the corresponding networks, i.e., nodes (papers) with more connections than expected by chance alone. This implies that artscientists are probably better at collaborating with each other, but more importantly, that they could also collaborate with artists and scientists at the same time, bridging the gap between the two cultures.

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