Sunday, June 26, 2016

On C.P. Snows Two Cultures

On June 29, 2007, the original iPhone was released by Steve Jobs at the MacWorld convention, marking the start of a new era in mobile computing. The touch screen interface changed how we physically interacted with mobile computers, the idea of apps and the App Store brought with it a new level of modularity and customization, the intuitive controls set a new expectation for ease-of-use, and the overall design set a new standard for simplicity. The creation of the iPhone is as much an artistic feat as technological, and demonstrates the wonder achievable by individuals with specialized roles working together.
Steve Jobs releases the iPhone at MacWorld 2007

In his essay, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, C.P. Snow argues that a successful education system will focus on both the sciences and humanities (35). Although well-rounded individuals versed in both the sciences and humanities seems appealing, the increasing complexity of our technology makes it prohibitively expensive. When working on systems with millions of interacting pieces (like the iPhone), a great deal of specialized knowledge is required across many domains; acquiring this knowledge comes at the cost of time and money. I think that education systems which enforce breadth requirements should be replaced with a system that nurtures an individual's curiosities.

In his RSA talk, Changing Education Paradigms, Sir Ken Robinson advocates for non-standardized curricula and methods of testing, collaborative learning environments, and equalizing the worth of all fields of study (The RSA). As a learner, I most identify with non-standardization and collaboration. Throughout my career at UCLA, I have always despised paper exams; I am a tinkerer by nature and would much rather prefer working on a team building something in the physical world. Further, I believe that as the complexity of our technology necessitates specialization, so does it necessitate collaboration.
Sir Ken Robinson's Changing Education Paradigms Talk at RSA

In her article, Toward a Third Culture: Being in Between, Victoria Vesna echoes this sentiment of the necessity of collaboration: “The work of artists working with technology demands interaction with scholars from a wide variety of disciplines such as computer science , social studies, philosophy and cultural studies (124).”

As a piece of technology, the iPhone not only works (almost) flawlessly, but is fun, intuitive, and artful in many ways. It was created by highly cohesive teams composed of individuals with specialized domain-specific knowledge. To continue to enable works of art and technology like the iPhone, I believe our education systems should embrace the difference between art and science, while also embodying the collaborative spirit.


Vesna, Victoria. "Toward a Third Culture: Being in between" Leonardo 2001: 121-125. Print.
Snow, C.P. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. New York: The Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1959. Print.
The RSA. “RSA ANIMATE: Changing Education Paradigms”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 14 Oct 2010.