Running out of STE(A)M: A critical perspective on the political rhetoric of innovation.

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Project to Practice: Innovating Architecture, 2016, 9 pp. ? - ? (167)
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The frequent use of the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) within the rhetoric of the National Innovation and Science Agenda should immediately sound alarm bells for the field of architecture. While some, now and then, include the A (Art), there is a bias toward these four core disciplines and a perception that they provide a means towards “innovation”, and with it “progress” and “growth” through new technology. In Australia the socially facing practice of architecture has found itself navigating the territories of service and construction economies through technologies of shelter, in doing so it is complicit in serving mainly the wealthy, and assisting in the political control of resources. As we enter a post-resource era is the architectural profession making the same mistake by adopting the rhetoric of another capitalist profit driven economic paradigm? In this paper, I wish to assess the political rhetoric behind the innovation economy critically to highlight the assumptions contained within. In response, I will offer alternative approaches based on social use-value and a focus away from consumption and labour as means of value exchange. Through considering peer to peer production, and associated cultures of making, hacking and re-use, as alternative frameworks for political economy, the question is proposed whether architecture should seek to create its own agenda for innovation, rather than adopt the dominant economic model? The paper aims to address the assumptions that surround the rhetoric of innovation in Australian political discourse, question the motivations of this focus, and assess its benefit for architecture.
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