ISEA Talk + Workshop

Artists with an appetite for experimentation often come up with solutions that have utilitarian value. My talk, titled "The Aftermath of Experimentation: What to do with your invention?" presented recent examples of such projects and the dilemmas one might encounter.

The examples cover a variety of pathways. Sometimes the invention comes about spontaneously, without having been intended. Sometimes it is the result of a clear goal at the outset of a project, but the product itself might be particularly unusual (revolutionary innovation, rather than incremental). The diversity of scenarios presented here represents the unruly collection of experiences we encounter in this emerging community. Perhaps the uniting feature is that we are likely to struggle with conventional models of the inventor-entrepreneur. (Mostly men trying to make a buck, as depicted in popular culture)

Management theory offers some insight into the themes of intellectual property, invention, and entrepreneurship. However, many of the particular dilemmas that artists face when considering production have not yet been resolved. For instance, many of us have a strong desire to share the technology we develop, yet are encouraged to claim ownership through the patent and trademark system. What can we learn about sharing from the Open Source Software community? What do we have to gain from ownership of intellectual property?

Models based on Rational Choice Theory don't easily account for open source activities. Considering entrepreneurship from a non RCT perspective, Stinchfield et. al. appropriate Claude Levi-Strauss' typology of ways that people interact with their environment. Levi-Strauss constructed four modalities - art, craft, bricolage and engineering - and the authors add a fifth - brokerage. By expanding on the qualities of these types, they account for entrepreneurs that are not purely motivated by personal benefit.

The artist-inventor cases that we looked at included an empathy incubator (The Mirrorbox by Megan May Daalder), an audible textile (Sonic Fabric, by Alyce Santoro), a water ritual device (by Michael Kontopolous), a flexible adhesive putty (Sugru, by Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh), spray-on fabric (Fabrican, by Dr. Manel Torres), a haptic forecaster (the Cryoscope, by Robb Godshaw), and an open-source sensitive robot skin (rSkin, by Hannah Perner-Wilson). All of these fascinating ideas developed unique relationships with commodification, from sympathetic to antagonistic. I recommend checking them out.

Following the talk, we ran a hands-on workshop in which participants conceived of, produced, and planned pathways for their own weird device.  We created the ideas for these weird devices through a Mad-Libs approach. It was an engaging and playful way to generate inventions. Following the construction of "prototypes", participants planned out scenarios for what to do with their inventions. 

Tinkering around to make things like this "broken adj run-ning verb instrument noun that is better adj than the slippey-est adj gizmo noun." 

Workshop description from the ISEA catalog:
Tinkering around with materials can lead to unintended consequences. Sometimes, the result is worth pursuing commercially. This workshop explores the pathways that novel inventions can take as they meander (or explode!) out into the wider world. This workshop will explore cases of products developed from academic or artistic research. Bring your stories of your brushes with the commercial world, and we’ll collectively consider platforms such as Kickstarter, blogs, Etsy and more. We will also get into the basics of patenting and trademarking, and debate the value of intellectual property protection.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you're busy tinkering Jen! x ps. Jane from Sugru is the woman I always wanted you to meet...