Humanities and arts ed as essential as science
Eileen SmithAs 2012 winds down, I find myself thinking about what impact simulation will have in the future.
Published: December 12, 2012
Published: December 12, 2012
Simulation is the process of imitating something, and humans have been doing simulations for centuries. In my field, simulation is a training tool for understanding time, place and scale. With advanced computers the possibilities of imitating have grown exponentially.
This week Orlando is hosting one of the largest simulation conferences in the world. The Interservice/Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference brought approximately 20,000 attendees from more than 50 countries to learn about the hardware, software and engaging scenarios that create effective simulation training and learning.
The technology is cutting-edge with an emphasis on both the scientific functionality and the engaging artistry that combine to create learner engagement.
As I ponder that future, it makes me think about past civilizations like ancient Greece, and especially Athens, and how the fundamentals of learning have remained unchanged even as technological developments have accelerated during the last century, generating constant change.
In ancient Athens, education blended the creativity, imagination and design skills gained by studying the arts, with thoughtful reasoning and early scientific thinking. So the city-state's educated citizens were those knowledgeable about both science and the arts.
We should remember Athens as we consider strategic changes to state universities. The current discourse that I see suggests we may be moving some degree programs into second-class status. It makes no sense to charge more for arts and humanities degrees — including digital media, art, film, psychology, political science and history — than degrees in the sciences, math and engineering.
The reasoning seems to be that by reducing the cost of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees, more students might pursue those degrees. That may be true, but making such a change would put a "tax" on the artistic and humanities degrees. And that is troublesome to me.
We cannot sustain our $8 billion modeling and simulation industry in Central Florida without the input of art and humanities. The human-centric simulation activities, including those in the military, medical, learning and entertainment sectors, require engagement of the imagination. Such engagement is a human-to-human activity, where rich audio and interactive media augment our vision.
The workforce needs professionals skilled in designing and developing those experiences from both the technical side and the artistic side, comprised of not just very talented folks but also professionals skilled in the arts, humanities and design.
I was very interested in math and science growing up, yet I was not engaged in early college and ended up changing my major to speech and communications with a sociology minor. Thirty years later I've come full circle back to modeling and simulation, and my humanities training was essential to my understanding of what research priorities can make a difference.
My simulation lab team represents the next generation of creative talent in both the sciences and arts. We could not produce engaging simulations without that breadth of talent.
It's the evolution of storytelling. As humans, we inherently want to create narrative around new knowledge so we can understand how to incorporate that knowledge into our existing cognitive library. Simulation in the early 21st century uses ever-advancing computer technology, but without artistic design and narrative building, the technology does nothing.
UCF Forum columnist Eileen Smith is director of the E2i Creative Studio in the University of Central Florida's Institute for Simulation & Training and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.