CogNovo is 3-year EU funded PhD programme that boasts a sizeable cohort of around 25 PhD students from diverse academic backgrounds all looking to push the envelope in their respective domains of interest via the larger perspective of cognitive innovation. Unlike many interdisciplinary graduate programs (and I have been to one myself), which are decidedly top-down driven where academic interactions between members of program are largely directed by curricular demands and events, this one is also bottom-up driven. Which means that students are also at the helm in shaping their collective experiences, allowing for distinctions between work and play being blurred for the better.
My excitement about the aims, workings and potential achievements of the programme was certainly shared by at least one of the fellow speakers there, Annie Cattrell (whose body of work I found to be extraordinarily evocative and – I will say it – beautiful). At each of our merry encounters over the days, we couldn’t help but discuss with considerable glee how remarkable we found the situation. And how much we would have wanted to have the same great fortune - the opportunity to be embedded in a multidisciplinary AND creative context at the time of our own formal education and training. It was wonderful to witness the openness of the students, their curiosity and drive to learn, their willingness and daring to question, and, most of all, the immensely supportive and collaborative ties they have formed with one another. What a refreshing alternative to the dominant competitive culture. The impression one gets is that this kind of context allows students to be unafraid and dare to be more creative. Spending a few days in the company of this enchanting collective in formal and informal settings was surprisingly uplifting. And I feel fortunate to have witnessed a small slice of that experience.
I hope they will turn the tables in the last week-long workshop of their programme by having experts in the field of cognition and innovation be the audience while they take the stage as speakers and performers, and present the discoveries from their PhD projects in their own unique ways. There is little doubt that experts stand to learn from the insights and unusual perspectives that are afforded by developing and realizing novel ideas in such an uninhibited and enriching setting.