In the top floor of the Science Building’s research wing, a person can still see the bones of the building. The large room is split by a few sparse walls and beams still hang exposed overhead. There are a few tables and desks with white iMacs and a view of the city that would put a luxury apartment to shame. For the past few months, this has been Raphael DiLuzio’s latest brainchild.
“We still need to order furniture,” says DiLuzio. “Couches, desks, hammocks… but this is where the soldering irons will go and we could have dancers and art in this big space and videogames over here.”
It might sounds like an odd mix, but DiLuzio is a novelty himself.
Artist and entrepreneur Raphael DiLuzio came to the University of Southern Maine from the University of Maine as an assistant professor of new media this semester, but he doesn’t like the title.
“I was a part of the new media program up in Orono. I kept saying it had a bad name. There’s no such thing as new media,” said DiLuzio. “It’s old as soon as it’s done. people weren’t learning anything with academic base. Here I want to teach the intellectual tools for innovation.”
DiLuzio was an installation artist until a severe car accident in 2008 took away a portion of his memory and his ability to draw and talk. Once recovered, he was still unable to draw but found a talent for working in the realm of social media. Since then he has produced Vingit, a successful mashup of Twitter and YouTube for exchanging 15-second video clips done on the fly.
His second project, Swarm Trooper, creates real-world meetup points, or swarms, for friends or strangers to get together and have fun.
Diluzio talks fast, mixing ideas about evolving business models with Ancient Greek, retro fashion and philosophy from the 1900s. He says this new program is about synectics, an old philosophy that’s making a comeback.
“Synectics comes from Greek and means, ‘the joining together of disparate elements to form a whole,’” says Diluzio. “The goal is to bring together students from all disciplines to participate in formal play. There’s going to be a weekly brain-dumps. Ideas for a project, a product, a business, any idea, gets put out there. If people are excited about it, they can form a group and begin working on it. Or ideas can be tossed into a communal bucket.”
As part of the program, students will have the opportunity start their own businesses.
“You could start a business while you’re in school, and if it fails you can start another. It’s about intellectual property and making stuff,” DiLuzio said. “We can get the cross-pollination of ideas — like the sandbox you played in as a kid. Only this is a formal sandbox.”
Lynn Kuzma, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, said the program will be focused on project-based learning. “The idea is to allow students the space and equipment for them to be creative and come up with new things,” Kuzma said.
Kim Grant, chair of the USM Art Department, said DiLuzio’s program is part of a university wide initiative to have more cross-disciplinary program to bring colleges closer together.
“We had been interested in collaborating with [DiLuzio] for some time. He’s really a cross-disciplinary professor. It used to be that artists trained to master one medium. Now they’re encouraged to be multifaceted,” said Grant.
“For hundreds of years,” DiLuzio said, “there was no group creativity. When the Pope told Michelangelo that he was creative, that was a big deal. Until then, only God was creative. Now we’re the ‘I’ generation… MIT and other big institutions have programs like this. It’s the next step.”
This is the first in a two-part series about USM’s new creative intelligence program. Check back next week for part two — a detailed look about the program and its students.
Paul Koenig contributed reporting.