Salon | Paola Antonelli, "Hybrid: The Space in Between"
We are living in a time of unprecedented—and often gleeful—contaminations. Disciplinary boundaries are fluid, schools and workspheres are transdisciplinary, and cross-sector collaborations are commonplace. On a macro level, organizational hybridity has connected what were formerly silos of knowledge and expertise, creating inclusive and innovative ecosystems. On a micro level, disciplinary misfits are allowed to straddle multiple fields to capitalize on their unique ways of synthesizing knowledge. Neologisms have been coined with abandon to describe these “T-shaped” or “horizontal” individuals—the so-called “slash generation.” What distinguishes this contemporary legion of hybrids from polymaths, generalists, passionate amateurs, and career jugglers is their ability to embrace the liminal space between professions and disciplines.
In this salon we will ask: What is a culture of hybridity, exactly? What drives individuals to eschew neat compartmentalization to embrace disciplinary affinity? When is that approach welcome and appropriate—and where is the line between horizontal and shallow? In other words, does hybridity come at the expense of expertise? Does it come from an urgent desire to try it all? Or—as implied by the all too frequent conflation of hybrids with the millennial spirit—does it imply a hedging of bets in the face of new forms of work with uncertain demands?
On the heels of the PopTech conference in Camden, Maine, devoted to the same theme, this salon explores the sensibilities, motives, and conditions that drive individuals and companies to hybridity in states of being, working, producing, and thinking. With hybrid champions and hybridity experts, we will ponder whether an ambiguous stance can be a deliberate critique of existing institutions. We will consider how a mixed and ambivalent approach might be beneficial to deal with urgent developments, not only in our immediate world of designing and making but also in relation to climate change, social unrest, economic imbalance, and geopolitical ruptures.
Conceived and convened by Paola Antonelli, Senior of Architecture of Design and Director of R&D at MoMA, in collaboration with Paula Petkova, Research Assistant at MoMA R&D and Shantel Blakely, Public Programs Manager at Harvard GSD.
Supported by the Rouse Visiting Artist Fund.
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