12 May 2014
Since their merger in 2010, the schools of technology, business and arts bear the distinguished title of Aalto University.
Identified in the Humboldtian principle of the unity of research and teaching, the label university marks institutions that do not receive their teachings’ content from elsewhere. On the contrary, as the highest educational form our culture knows, they not only generate the content of textbooks, but indeed continuously review and update textbooks.
The universitarian habitus, characterized as the reciprocal relation between the studying subject and studied matter under the provision of critical reflexivity, denotes a process of study that is unstable in all phases, at all times: as a student reforms her position through studying, the studied matter is reformed through the scrutiny exerted upon it.
The instability of this process presupposes in the student (the university teacher, the observing public) a readiness to endure through constant uncertainty and to undertake the risks that lie in coping with it, independently. This is the universitarian competence: the faculty of approaching any matter as something that is never knowledge, but only pre-knowledge. As it becomes not only discipline-specific but fundamental personal ability, it sets the stage for life-long exploration and continuous development, and informs critical judgment.
In its six schools Aalto University unites the studies of science, economy, engineering and the arts. Particularly with respect to today’s professional world, where commerce, technology and creativity appear as barely separable contributory factors for success, the applicable potential of their coordinated unification appears striking, even obvious. But when regarded from the perspective of knowledge creation, it is another potential of such a merger that eclipses even this promise.
As shown by the brilliant productions in this year’s Masters of Aalto exhibition, technology, commerce and creative production can be entered into as fields for engagement and exploration from many different approaches. The critical exchange that immediately becomes apparent between dissimilar studies and practices is easily identified as the most powerful agent for our understanding of their complexity: the difference between process refinement and the quest for purposeful application, the tension between push-ahead progression and the need to hold still and reflect, and what appears as opposition irresistibly combined with mutual dependence on strategic and impulsive motion.
Each work, even if it may appear purely technical (and thus, apparently, ethically “neutral”), expresses belief and conviction. Each marks a position and states a view on our world. We are indebted to the multitude of views that Aalto unites under its roof. Their difference, incompatibility, and even contradiction, create the uncertainty that is the mark of excellence of the university: the instability of the result.
Masters of Aalto is a precious and unique moment that realizes the potential that lies in the young body of Aalto University. Besides the abundant opportunities that students gain at Aalto to extend beyond the limits of their disciplines, Masters of Aalto sets the public table around which their many views can not only confer, but disagree, and challenge and discuss with one another, and generate the energy that is necessary to again and again ignite the vitally important, and inherently universitarian effort of thinking, autonomously.