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Peter Lloyd Jones: Believe in the usefulness of the useless

Convergence Initiative brings its Sci/Art - Art/Sci conference series to Concordia February 16
February 9, 2018
By Felipe G.B.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances out of our control, this talk has been cancelled.  

Which is more useful to the world: art or science?

That question – and the value judgment implicit within it – is useless, says Peter Lloyd Jones, Associate Dean of Emergent Design and Creative Technologies at the Sidney Kimmel Medial College of Thomas Jefferson University.

“Forget about perceived value ­– believe in the ‘usefulness of the seemingly useless’. That is how we function within our work space, and it seems more productive.”

Jones will deliver the third talk in the Convergence Initiative’s Sci-Art/Art-Sci conference series February 16th at Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts. He will challenge the social misconceptions about the value and utility of the arts and sciences.

“This relatively new idea that leads us to falsely believe that science has more value to human advancement than art, with art playing a greater role in promoting humanity than science – i.e. that we think one is more “useful” than the other – is a false and often misleading construct”

Convergence Initiative returns to Concordia

The Convergence Initiative brings artists and neuroscientists together on equal footing and allows them to engage in cross-disciplinary dialogues.

Cristian Zaelzer, founder and director of this community project, believes deeply in the connection between the two. Combining the two fields often helps clarify the complementary roles science and art play in society.

“We want to show the art and science communities, as well as to the public in general, that there are a lot people doing things which intersect science and art, and that their work is relevant” says Zaelzer.

Last year, the Faculty of Fine Arts began a partnership with Convergence. It hosted a class where fine arts students and neuroscientists from McGill’s Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience Program (BRaIN) created collaborative art projects. Their art was exhibited at the Visual Voice Gallery and at the Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN/CAN) annual conference.

This year, Convergence addresses scientific issues within the context of the visual arts and culture through a series of talks, entitled the Sci-Art/Art-Sci Conferences.

‘Believe in the usefulness of the seemingly useless’

Peter Lloyd Jones, teaching, research and practice in the medical sciences and design at Thomas Jefferson University focusing on health by design at multiple scales, but all with the aim of improving health and wellness. He often collaborates across disciplines, intersecting with fashion, industrial, textile and architectural design.

Jones says that this type of open-ended, seemingly “not yet applied” research differs from his more results-oriented approach usually associated with the scientific method.

Instead, through constant experimentation and creation of “what if” scenarios, he and his team in MEDstudio continually blur the boundaries between science, art and design.

He hopes that by talking about his innovative research methods, he will inspire artists and scientists to re-examine their own methodologies.

The conference will reveal how we have developed a field within which no disciplinary boundaries exist in behavioral terms, yet within which specialization is valued.”

Such a methodology shift has structural repercussions for theorists and practitioners in both the arts, the sciences, and in academia, he says.

“These are important things for governmental organizations and university administrators to learn about as they try to assign a ‘vocation’ to every student, and apply the same value system to every faculty member.”

“Please don’t,” he exclaims. “You might be ridding the world of a future Einstein or Van Gogh!”

The Usefulness of the Useless with Peter Lloyd Jones

Presented by Convergence, Perceptions of Neuroscience
February 16, 2018, 5:30 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Room EV1.605, Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex 
1515 St. Catherine W., Sir George Williams Campus



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