A Creative (Un)commons

In September 2006 the Amsterdam organisation Virtual Platform acted
as a catalyst for a small group of artists, designers and researchers
to organize a small meeting (of about 50 people) designed to take a
closer look at the dynamics and wider implications in the growth of
multi-dimensional interdisciplinary collaboration.

The meeting was a process of comparative analysis between a small
spectrum of case studies. Presenters of the case studies were
encouraged (begged) to avoid the usual parade of success stories and
bring us problems and loose ends-that might even be tied up across
projects!-. Presentations were short and most of the meeting was spent
with each case study being unpicked by our invited interlocutors made
up of practitioners, organizers and thinkers (even a few policy wonks
were allowed in).

The case studies we identified represented different categories of
collaborative practice from pragmatic projects with pre-defined
outcomes through to individual artist's placements with open ended
expectations. We looked at new educational models, lab cultures
-innovation or media labs- and of course the ubiquitous profession of
the cultural broker, mediator, connector, translator. In short those
whose practices which involves finding the 'structural hole or gaps
between social clusters with complementary resources'. Later on, once
the book (below) was in pre-production, we drew on a wider spectrum of
categories with more critical perspectives.

Why (Un)common Ground The term (Un)common Ground emerged during the
early planning stages. We had been working on the lazy assumption
that when very different (apparently irreconcilable) cultures succeed
in connecting it was as a result of identifying 'common ground'. But
actually far more frequently we found the opposite to be the case. The
most successful encounters were in fact founded on a willingness (in
fact a desire) to occupy 'uncommon ground'. The generally unexpressed
need was for a kind of creative estrangement from the assumptions that
underpinned the usual networks and rituals. Creative energy actually
flowed fro being able to dramatize differences and allowing for the
dissonances that attend genuine pluralism. We found that many were
happy to dwell in uncommonness, and we enjoyed imagining a 'creative
un- commons'.

The notion of uncommon ground helped to bring many hybrid practices,
professions and organizations into a new kind of focus, for example
the ubiquitous and hard to define phenomenon of the media lab
suddenly seemed to have a clearer function of either bridging or
'being' uncommon ground, triggering and supporting conversations to
occur across difference. The term offered an appealing heuristic
suggesting ways of avoiding many of the risks of 'common ground' as a
default setting, with its implicit reductiveness and presumptions of
convergence of either interests or outcomes.


The meeting last September generated enough interest (and critique)
to make a book possible. So we moved quickly to widen our network and
enter into multiple dialogues with possible contributors (the book
has four editors). Currently with continuing institutional support we
will continue to track our early case studies whilst continuing to
widen our network. On the 26th of April (this Thursday as I write)
we will develop the discussion to begin with at the Enter Unknown
Territories Festival in Cambridge (UK) www.enternet.org.uk with both
a panel discussion, informal planning sessions and the book launch.
These small sessions will be the basis from which to plan the more
substantial (Un)common Ground expert meeting planned in Amsterdam for
September 2007, as a partner event at Picnic 07.

Below (for those interested) is a more formal announcement about the
book and its contents and its contributors.

David Garcia


Announcing the publication on April 25th 2007 of the book,      
---(Un)common Ground ---
Creative Encounters Across Sectors and Disciplines

Editors:  Cathy Brickwood, Bronac Ferran, David Garcia, Tim Putnam

About (Un)common Ground

This book investigates the new culture of collaboration which emerged
from recent developments in which areas of art and design have
creatively fused with media and technology. This fusion of disciplines
has given rise to powerful new industries, cultures, and social
movements. In all sectors, important concepts no longer come into
existence as 'isolated products, devices or websites. They rather
exist in a system, or network, of both tangible and intangible
elements’. These developments extend and intensify the need for
knowledge sharing across a broader combination of disciplines and
sectors. (Un)common Ground emphasizes the fact that collaboration
for competitive advantage is matched in importance by the an equally
urgent need for a deeper and more responsible understanding of what
is at stake when we work together across disciplinary boundaries. The
desire for deeper understanding is aligned to the fact that the era of
networks not only makes us more interconnected but also heightens the
awareness of our interdependence.

Uncommon Ground is based around case studies involving both major
institutions and companies along with smaller independent experimental
networks. Examinations of case studies are interspersed in this
volume with reflective essays by some of today’s leading thinkers
and practitioners. By juxtaposing the concrete and the reflective
with the tangible and the intangible, this volume begins a process of
mapping the varieties of experimental forms that are emerging as the
various actors attempt to navigate the opportunities and balance the
contradictory forces and values at work. Sometimes these experiments
have been designed, planned and orchestrated but more often they have
evolved through countless improvisations. This is the complex ecology
we have begun to map. The result is a range of practical and inspiring
examples providing insight into the complex rewards and challenges of
both interdisciplinary and cross sector collaboration.

This book is the first published outcome of a programme of research
on collaborative practice that began with an expert meeting in
Amsterdam in September 2006. In this meeting a group of researchers,
artists and designers examined a number of concrete case studies from
multiple perspectives. The Uncommon Ground research process combines
the empirical, comparative analysis based on tracking a number of
case studies whilst regularly opening up the findings for a wider
process of reflection and theorization. In the future we will continue
this approach, tracking our key case studies whilst periodically
introducing new examples, platforms and partners. A new Uncommon
Ground expert meeting is planned in Amsterdam for September 2007, as a
partner event at Picnic 07.

The UK launch takes place at the ENTER Festival in Cambridge on 25
April 2007. www.enternet.org.uk

Uncommon Ground will be launched in the Netherlands at the Cultuur
2.0 Conference, on 30 May 2007 at Felix Meritis in Amsterdam. The
conference, organized by Virtueel Platform, is a 2-day international
conference & lab designed to introduce a web 2.0 mindset into the
creative processes and strategies of cultural & art institutions and
artists. Keynote speaker at the conference is Charles Leadbeater, one
of the contributors to Uncommon Ground www.virtueelplatform.nl

(Un)common Ground is the result of a collaboration between: Virtueel
Platform, Utrecht School of the Arts and Arts Council England

David Garcia, Professor of Design for Digital Cultures: University of  
Portsmouth/School of the Arts Utrecht; Garrick Jones, Senior Research  
Fellow LSE, senior lecturer of Industrial Design and Engineering  
Royal College of Art & Design, partner Ludic Group; Geke van Dijk,  
director of STBY, doctor in computing science with a specialization  
in Human Computer Interaction; Yanki Lee, Helen Hamlyn Centre; Sam  
Bucolo, Research and Development Director for the Australian CRC for  
Interaction Design International Design, ACID; Tim Putnam, Professor  
Material Cultures at Middlesex University and University of  
Portsmouth; John Thackara, Doors of Perception and Programme Director  
of Design of the Times or DOTT07; Andrew Bullen, Direct of Media  
Guild; Gerard Hollemans, senior scientist on user-system interaction  
research, Phillips Research Eindhoven; Simon Robertshaw, formerly  
Head of Research, International Center for Digital Content at  
Liverpool John Moores University, currently director of the Centre  
for Digital Creative Industries at the University of Central  
Lancashire; Charles Leadbeater, senior government advisor and writer;  
Anne Galloway, lecturer and SSHRC Doctoral Fellow in Anthropology and  
Sociology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada; Caroline Nevejan,  
independent researcher and designer with a focus on the implications  
of technology on society; Sher Doruff, Head of the Research Programme  
at Waag Society, Amsterdam; Rob van Kranenburg, freelance thinker in  
the triangle of new technologies, policy and bottom-up initiatives,  
head HKU BA Experience Design from September 07; Samuelle Carlson,  
social anthropologist, evaluator Artists' Insights: Interact project  
for Arts Council England; Anne Nigten, manager V2_Lab, the aRt&D  
department of V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media, Rotterdam; Matt  
Ratto, founding member of the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the  
Humanities and Social Sciences (VKS) in Amsterdam; Bronac Ferran,  
researcher and cultural producer, previously Director of  
Interdisciplinary Arts at Arts Council England.

Design: Novak Ontwerp
Publisher: Bis Publishers, Amsterdam

To order printed copies please contact:
Virtueel Platform

Keizersgracht 264
1016 EV Amsterdam

Tel. +31 (0)20 6273758


ISBN: 978-90-6369-166-D

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