June 12, 2013, by Gianluca Sergi

Breaching boundaries

Welcome to the blog of ISIR, the Institute for Screen Industries Research.

ISIR was created to foster collaborations between academia and film, television and screen industries. Since this is our first blog, it might be helpful to outline the philosophy behind ISIR and its aims. In particular, two areas are important in this sense, what constitute the boundaries of ISIR and why we wish to engage with industry.

The notion of disciplinary boundaries is relatively straightforward to deal with: we believe that the Arts have as much to offer as STEM subjects when it comes to engaging with and contributing to industry because the distinctions between those two groupings is mostly artificial. Knowledge, innovation and the pursuit of excellence cannot be confined by discipline boundaries, nor should the latter be employed as a means to define and divide. It is significant that the most important organisation in the film and television industry encapsulates this notion in its name, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

ISIR also spells out its intended area of intervention in its name, but what does the term ‘industries’ actually mean for an institute based in an Arts faculty? Whilst the English word ‘industry’ is today mostly employed to indicate production (often manufacturing and machine-related) the same word can point to a centrally different meaning. ‘Industria’ is enterprise, innovation, imagination, and diligence; in short, imagination applied diligently. In this sense, industry should be perfectly at home in the arts.

If we are prepared to accept this notion of industry and arts as close by nature and enterprise, we may be open to accept that industry, technology and art are in effect one and the same human activity, a quest for outlets to our imagination, no matter the field of human endeavour. It would seem a very interesting point to start from in defining aims and ambitions for ISIR.

This approach works both ways: virtually all those who have tried to find agreement as to what the ‘creative industries’ actually are have met substantial difficulties. All of us working in or around them claim that they are different from other industries but in what ways? The problem lies with using the word ‘creative’ in a restrictive fashion: film, television, music, theatre are all creative industries but so are car design, food design, bridges, fractals and so forth.

Indeed, there simply isn’t such a thing as a non-creative area of human endeavour (there may be degrees of creativity but that is another argument altogether). If we are prepared to take this point on board then perhaps we can take a fundamental step in seeing boundaries between arts and science, academia and industry as useful logistically but constraining and limiting in areas like learning, research, knowledge exchange and business engagement.

In a way, all we have to do is look at what is currently happening inside those ‘creative’ industries: jobs are being redefined, boundaries across media are falling, the flow of talent, capital and ideas is increasing, divisions between arts and sciences blurred.

ISIR and this blog hope to offer ideas and opportunities to explore creativity across boundaries, and we’ve made this a theme for the visit of our next main industry fellow this July, seven time Oscar winner Gary Rydstrom. We hope this blog will attract interest and contributions from all perspectives so as to breach as many of those boundaries as possible.

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