The pressing environmental-ecological problems of our time are highly complex, interconnected, and nonlinear phenomena. The sciences are under pressure to provide precise, rational and conclusive answers, yet unambiguous evidence of causes and effects seem to make problem solving a mission impossible. The public’s attitude toward life is more and more shaped by dystopian projections of the future and “gloom and doom” visions, which seem to have a rather paralyzing effect on individuals and tend to hinder their willingness to actively change their behavior – a behavioral change that would, however, be urgently needed for transformative change.

Arts and Sciences

With Symbio(s)cene, we want to stir away from dystopic visions and misanthropic world views and we want to question the exclusive attention on rational solution strategies to address environmental-ecological problems. We propose to reunite the distinct cultures of arts and sciences once more, after a clear separation since the nineteenth century. Despite their different knowledge cultures, art and science have always been very closely linked due to their motivations and goals which are fundamentally the same: Trying to understand and to make sense of the world around us.

Cognitive and emotional dimensions of knowledge

With Symbio(s)cene, we want to demonstrate that interconnecting sciences and arts allows to give space to cognitive as well as emotional dimensions of knowledge. Today’s complex problems and transdisciplinary settings create challenges that are difficult to address with traditional processes and require novel approaches. In order to be able to tackle those complex problems, it is essential to start with understanding the world, which not only involves scientific research and intellectual reflections, but also sensory perceptions and emotions. Human capacities for cognitive processing are bounded and can be enhanced by using all our senses. Re-uniting arts and sciences can therefore foster deeper understanding, unleash creative resources, and can even motivate action.

Live-centred Mindset

The life-centred design methodology is based on a human-centred design approach to problem solving, mainly used in the fields of design and management to develop solutions that emphasise the human perspective in all steps of the process. Typically, the humancentred design approach considers desirability from a human perspective as well as business viability and feasibility from a technical perspective, while a life-centred approach expands its dimension to include environmental, social and sustainable economic solutions. (Fig.1). The overarching framework of the life-centred design methodology uses the doublediamond method (Fig. 2) with its distinctive creative process consisting of four key phases: discover, define, develop and deliver. The method is based on J.P. Gilford’s seminal work on creativity and its two information processing modes, divergent and convergent thinking (Guilford, 1950). Divergent thinking refers to the human ability to solve a problem by exploring multiple, diverse directions and new procedures. In contrast, convergent thinking is usually described as the ability to find only one correct answer, focusing on speed, logic and accuracy on the one hand, and the integration and synthesis of differing information and ideas on the other. Both ways of thinking are necessary for creativity and are part of the double-diamond method to tackle complex problems.

Symbio(s)cene, Prof. Oliver Szasz, Live Centred Design

Novel approaches

Symbio(s)cene aims at exploring the potential of holistic, encompassing approaches for triggering and enhancing transformative change. In this context we focus on the one hand on bringing to light works and projects from art and science that already contain such holistic elements. On the other hand, the initiative aims to generate new knowledge and to enlarge human understanding through art-science collaboration and through methods, such as Arts-based Research, Design Thinking, Embodied Sensemaking (Fig. 3), and Storytelling, in order to support people in unleashing their potential to shape a renewed, positive and sustainable human-nature relationship.

Embodied Sensemaking, Culturesphere, Ingrid Ruegemer, Oliver Szasz

Fig. 3: Embodied Sensemaking model, illustrating the interaction between mind, body and environment.


Examples of Art-based Methods

The following images show some impressions from a workshop where Design Thinking methods and an Embodied Sensemaking approach were utilized to foster the understanding of a complex situation, to facilitate the communication between different disciplines and to enable the modeling of solution strategies.

Culturesphere, Strategy, Workshop, Co-Creation, Prof. Oliver Szasz
Culturesphere, Strategy, Workshop, Co-Creation, Prof. Oliver Szasz
Culturesphere, Strategy, Workshop, Co-Creation, Prof. Oliver Szasz
Culturesphere, Strategy, Workshop, Co-Creation, Prof. Oliver Szasz