STEM from the humanities: How visual arts, empathy and storytelling fuel innovation

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) operate at the core of the digital age. But the humanities factor prominently into the equation. Elements from the humanities — visual arts, empathy, storytelling — provide engagement to innovation. This video series explores how the humanities are not fading but evolving. STEM is the engine of the future, but the humanities are the oil.


Justin Kan, Partner at Y Combinator

You cannot throw a rock in Silicon Valley without hitting a tech giant. The area is home to Google, Yahoo, Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Facebook. But such success is not a product of STEM alone. Justin Kan, partner at Y Combinator and co-founder of and Twitch, elaborates on how the humanities serve the entrepreneurial landscape.



Camille Seaman, Extreme Photographer

Scientific jargon and vapid data sets often drive discussions about climate change. As a result, many fail to grasp the magnitude of the situation. Camille Seaman, extreme photographer and Stanford Knight Fellow, shares her stunning visuals and her experiences photographing the polar regions and chasing storms. Through multimedia, she infuses emotion and inspiration into environmental issues.



David Kelley, Founder of the Stanford

Innovation is powerful when it helps solve significant problems for people. In order to identify those problems, one must exercise empathy. David Kelley, founder of the Stanford and founder of the design firm IDEO, believes STEM relies upon — not diminishes — the humanities. He discusses design thinking, a process that integrates human behavior into design.



Jeremy Bailenson, Director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab

Virtual reality is a computer-simulated environment that engages all of the senses and allows people to experience worlds real and imagined. While much of the research conducted in Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab is of the quantitative variety, qualitative elements play key roles. Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, explains how virtual reality draws from science fiction and why it may become an art space in the future.



Nicholas Jenkins, Director of Stanford’s CS+X Initiative

Computer science is an essential component of the digital age. And when it comes to design, privacy and human interaction with computers, computer science works alongside the humanities. Starting in fall 2014, Stanford will offer a joint major in computer science and history, philosophy, language or music. Nicholas Jenkins, associate professor of English and director of Stanford’s CS+X initiative, speaks about the advantages of fusing the two worlds.



Students emphasize sustainability through art and humor

Sustainability is important, but it isn’t always engaging — especially for teens. At Palo Alto High School, four beginning photography students teamed up to write a script, act out scenes and produce an entertaining — yet educational — video on energy conservation. From catching a teacher eating in front of an open refrigerator to probing a coach who forgot to cover the swimming pool, the group devised humorous situations to deliver serious messages.


Editor’s note: Students are identified by first name only in compliance with Palo Alto Unified School District’s media policy.


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