AI: Getting Schooled in the Real World

Last weekend was the World Science Festival here in New York, and among the many events was a multi-session program on science communication. Called Science & Story, it involved panels about science in documentary film-making, science improvisation, great science storytellers, and finally, science in print media.

The brought prominent science writers such as Carl Zimmer, Seth Mnookin, Emily Bell, Bora Zivkovic, and Andrew Revkin together to discuss the quickly shifting nature of science journalism. During the talk, Zimmer brought up the lack of public relations training in science degrees, and how it hurts scientists as they now face an ever vigilant, pervasive, online media.

I immediately saw a parallel in my own education as an artist, having graduated and finding myself without the slightest idea how to sell my work or promote myself as a business. Because business classes weren’t required, nobody ever took them, nor were they recommended by professors, who I’m sure would rather see you working in the lab/studio.

So riddle me this, should related interdisciplinary courses be required by those seeking degrees in a specialized field such as art or science? At what point does having to take economics classes take time away from training in your desired field?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

You can view a quick-fire report of the Science in Print event here.

Full disclosure: Maki works for the World Science Festival on their website and blog.



Maki Naro is an artist, incurable geek, and lover of cooking, public radio, small animals, and Blade Runner. He comprises one half of the Sci-ence Webcomic's dynamic duo.

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  1. Yes & No (Crap answer, Am I right)

    As an engineer I had 9am – 5pm classes 5 days a week through almost my whole degree with only 3 optional modules during the whole degree which were all engineering based. So as you can see there was not a lot of time for more classes. However as part of engineering you do have to go through an Economics module, which was kind of useful.

    Saying that, I think it is unfortunate. I have hugely varied interests and would have loved an extra module each semester to choose whatever I wanted.

    Maybe it would be nice to have an extra module where you can choose whatever you like but also have some recommended options like “Small business practices & Marketing” for artists.

    Or for engineers like myself “Remedial English”, As much as I love public speaking & debating, my skill at that does not translate to essay writing.

  2. All degrees, inside and outside science, should contain cross-disciplinary training, because often the greatest innovations will nowadays come from combining concepts from different fields. Frans Johansson has a term for it: The Medici Effect, named after the Medici family. The Medicis were partly responsible for much of the innovation of the Renaissance era. They were patrons of the arts and sciences, and under their roof, the greatest minds of the day would meet, regardless of their discipline.

    Cross-pollination of ideas is crucial, and it’s most potent if it happens between distantly related concepts.

  3. This is a question near and dear to my heart. Just like Maki, I went to art school and had no business classes to take. I had plenty of schedule time to fill too. Cross-disciplinary studies were discouraged (I was an illustration major who worked/works mainly from photo reference material. I was discouraged from taking extra photography classes beyond 1st year black & white 101. Huh? Why? And then basic photo was eliminated from the curriculum the year after I graduated. No soup for you!)
    There wasn’t much business advice from our instructors beyond ‘get your portfolio together’ and ‘submit to every art director you can find’.
    And all of this was on the cusp of the Intertoobz Boom Time (late 90’s). Sure there were fewer and fewer jobs and we’d be competing with our instructors, but come on!
    I will say that in today’s ultra-connected world, we can create new business models that weren’t available to us waaaaaay back in the 90’s, but a little bit of grounding in our early years may have helped us to prepare for the ‘Real World®’ despite how that world has changed in recent years. Coming up with novel ways to earn a buck can be tiring when you haven’t had any training in business.

    “This comment is sponsored by The New York State Council on Pistachios. PISTACHIOS! EAT SOME TODAY!

  4. I think this is actually a really important Idea for people studying art & the humanities. Often they come out of uni not getting any basic training in economics or business and are for lack of a better word, stuck. They either have to be connected in their particular field or insanely talented or just lucky to be able to support themselves doing what they love. I can’t even begin to recount the crazy jobs my humanities loving friends have had to do, just to make ends meat and then they find themselves not having time to delve into their particular art.

    I also think more effort should be made to show people realistically what their prospects are at the end of a chosen degree. I know too many people that really had false hopes of employment in their area of interest while doing a degree.

  5. Absolutely. Entering the real world with a music degree — a field where the vast majority of those making a living are freelance or independent — I was shocked at how little I knew about how to bring it all together and make it all work. Not that artists need to understand complicated economic theory, but at least teach some basic grant writing.

  6. I’m in the process of finishing up my BFA and looking into various MFA Painting/Drawing programs. One thing that I’m really interested in is a program that has some sort of business/gallery part where you learn at least some of that sort of stuff. I think in the 50+ programs I’ve researched maybe 2 or so have even mentioned anything on the business end, and of course they aren’t programs I’m interested in otherwise. Guess I’ll just have to learn through networking and teh internets.

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