Deisortium runs events and promotes conversations across disciplines both at Brandeis University and beyond.
On February 4, 2017 we had our first kickoff event, “Talking Social Justice Across Disciplines,” as part of the 2017 DeisImpact Festival. 17 attendees both from within and beyond Brandeis joined us with backgrounds in anthropology, biology/neuroscience, computer science, journalism, law, physics, and South Asian studies.
Our event focused on using design thinking tools such as Ideation to facilitate brainstorming and conversation across our varied fields of expertise. We focused on actions centered around making science accessible to the larger community. This included furthering collaborations between siloed academics within Brandeis, as well as making connections with people in the larger Waltham community.
Below are reflections from one of our Ideation breakout groups, that centered on how to support conversation between activists and academics:
Our group noticed two patterns in the concerns that emerged from our initial discussions: one cluster of issues that pertain to activists, and one pertaining to academics. However, as the two groups overlap frequently, we often find ourselves on either side of the equation—either as activists seeking to be better informed academically about the topics of our concern, or as academics seeking to make our colleagues more activist.
As specialists, how might we present the complexities of our disciplines to an eager, activist audience, in a way that both engages viscerally but doesn’t oversimplify the question? Talk turned to the “memefication” of media and the way that art can be used as a way to bridge divergent publics, by presenting complex concepts in a way that’s emotionally stimulating rather than appearing dry and “out of the league” of a lay audience. With this comes the peril of memes being either misunderstood or actively used to promote falsehood, and so to answer the social justice questions raised at the beginning of the session, we ended up crystallizing around another question: can we create art in general or “memes” that are factual and still engaging? What role do academics play in maintaining the factuality of the meme or art throughout its life cycle in the public eye?