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What if dissertations were like conceptual art?

February 19, 2013

What if dissertations were like conceptual art?

In a 60 Minutes piece about a New York City art collecting couple who lived in a tiny apartment that overflowed with art, the journalist opens a pizza box like object, full of pencil crayons and asks after it.

“Oh that…that’s a conceptual art project we got from [insert name of famous conceptual artist].  I just haven’t gotten round to doing it yet.”  Or something like that.

So conceptual art means that the artist conceived of the project and the collector executed it.  Superstar artist, Damien Hirst, maker of the diamond encrusted skull.

Alas rich Damien!  A man of infinite jest.

One very literal interpretation of the diamond encrusted skull could be the brilliance of conceptual art. Damien Hirst works in the tradition of the master/apprentice.  He hires apprentice artists to execute his dot paintings.

Fabricated by others.

Ironically, dot paintings, which are made with ordinary house paints, sell for more if Damien Hirst painted some part of them.  Why would the hand of the artist matter if conception is the thing?

What if dissertation writers could hand off some of the writing of the dissertation to others under the supervision of the writer without the accusation of cheating?  With a worthwhile subject, open-ended or even unanswerable philosophical-type questions, the stage is set for conceptual completion by others or writing programs.

Presently, some news stories are written by computer programs.  I wonder if the parts of dissertation writing could be programmed into a dissertation writing program.  If future researchers can profit from the conceptual work of the doctorate, which spurs more research, then the doctoral work is successful. Is research like art best evaluated by its influence and endurance.

Some of my fellow doctoral students worry that another dissertation will be published almost simultaneously to theirs, invalidating the glory of their research.  Is all doctoral research, a moon race to stake out intellectual territory?  Or do conceptual artists have a point?   It’s the conceptions that matter.

From → Fabrications

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