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Building Trans-disciplinary Borderlands for Creative Futures: What barriers and opportunities?
Greg Hearn, Brad Haseman, Erica McWilliam
The call to creativity has become increasingly familiar as a catch-phrase of higher education policy. Much current academic and policy discussion, however, is based on assertions of the importance of more creativity without any clear sense of what the implications are for the disciplinary cultures that organise knowledge work within universities. This paper explores whether and how disciplinary boundaries can be re-organised so that creativity might become more evident in the teaching and research activities of universities. It utilises a trans-disciplinary move to creative industries within one Australian university to open up considerations of whether and how universities might make more of the call to creativity than its current status as a rhetorical flourish in policy documents.
The advent of the creative industries as a new node for re-organising knowledge is taken as a starting point for this exploration. According to the Australian Research Councils newly established Centre of Excellence in Creative Industries and Innovation, the creative industries are not only the cultural industries (ie, the performing and visual arts), although they include many widely recognised cultural activities. In more specific terms, they exploit symbolic knowledge and skills, often through adding value and marketing. In this sense, they combine commercial knowledge and application with aesthetic modes of knowing and doing. It has been estimated by Richard Florida (2004) and others that nearly one third of the future workforce will be identified within the Creative Workforce because the nature of their work is turning latent symbolic value of their work into economic and social assets.
As is evidenced in the Bologna agreement and pre-empted in the Dearing Report, higher education has a major role to play in preparing the sort of highly educated and flexible workforce necessary to this economic, social and cultural endeavour. It is unlikely, however, that this work will be done best through the transmission of traditional disciplinary knowledge and the requirement that it be reproduced in traditional forms of evaluation and assessment. The argument put here is that a trans-disciplinary knowledge environment has a greater capacity to inform creative work futures. Such an environment is not so easily created in practice, as the paper demonstrates by elaborating lessons learnt from a trans-disciplinary re-structure within the authors own university context.