The emergence of digital technology in the late 20th century transformed the social infrastructures underpinning our daily existence. The impact of this digital revolution was felt most keenly in society's nervous system: the world of information.
As myriad modes of expression and communication become digitalized, digital technologies will continue to devour existing cultural frameworks. The advanced information society that has developed with the proliferation of digital technology; the leading example being the personal computer, has transformed the social landscape, almost as if every activity in society had been drawn inexorably into an electronic display. But now that the initial frenetic pace of change has slowed, the second act in a new realm of experience is about to begin.
Just as newspapers have been liberated from newsprint, and cinema from film to search for their niches on the likes of the internet, mobile phones, and high-density recording devices, the flow of information penetrating to every corner of society, and the objects imbued with various meanings that form the tangible substance of that flow, are undergoing constant realignment in the quest to give shape to diverse connections. For our part, thanks to the synergistic effects of the protean power of information and the reality of tangible objects, from now on we can look forward to a multilayered world in which the two are intimately connected.
This new reality patently demands a fundamental rethink of all facets of creative endeavor, from product design and manufacture to the generation of ideas. Those of us embarking on a creative career path as artists, designers and the like need to take the initiative to turn the changes now occurring in the social structure into enormous creative opportunities: because the essence of design lies in discovering issues for ourselves and acting to share them with society as a whole, all the while creating new value. In these changing times, our aim should be to focus our sensibilities and creative energies and position them as new stars in the cultural firmament. Needless to say, to do so will require more than simply acquiring a professional level of technical skill in digital expression.
In 1999, as the world was attempting to set a course for the 21st century, Musashino Art University turned its thoughts to the role of art universities in society, and established two new departments. One was the Department of Design Informatics.
Recent years have seen a rapid expansion of the design domain, thanks largely to the internet and digital technology. No one could have expected changes in the socioeconomic landscape to result in the emergence of so many new occupations. In light of these developments in design, the very idea of making any fixed specialist field the goal of design education no longer fits the concept of "creative" education.
Rather than favoring established design fields, to us it seemed that the truly vital issue in education was cultivating a farsighted mindset capable of responding astutely to the changing times and absorbing new media and technologies to create the next generation of design domains, grounded in the right ecological balance.
Our approach to design from now on will be two-pronged, consisting of the existing formative arts-oriented approach, and the formation of meaning via information architecture. Design informatics is a methodology for new creations generated by the meeting of design as a skill integrating various of the formative arts, and informatics as the knowledge underpinning the formation of meaning via analysis and construction.
The object of the Department of Design Informatics is to train creative individuals of a new type able to transcend existing art and design frameworks to establish hitherto unknown creative domains, combining wisdom obtained through dialogue with a reality already moving toward a different future, and state-of-the-art design capabilities.