Prototyping cultures: social experimentation, do-it-yourself science and beta-knowledge was a two-day conference organized by the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid in the 4th and 5th of November 2010. It was related with the main topic of the ethnography focused on the prototyping culture that we were doing during the year 2010 on Medialab-Prado (which was co-organizer and venue for the meeting). Researchers working in different fields (anthropology, communication, sociology) met to discuss on social experimentation, do-it-yourself science and beta-knowledge. You can see the list of participants below.
But, why prototypes? Because they have acquired certain prominence and visibility in recent times. Software development is perhaps the case in point, where the release of non-stable versions of programmes has become commonplace, as is famously the case in free and open source software. Developers are here known for releasing beta or work-in-progress versions of their programmes, as an invitation or call for others to contribute their own developments and closures. But prototyping has also become an important currency of explanation and description in art-technology contexts, where the emphasis is on the productive and processual aspects of experimentation. Medialabs, hacklabs, community and social art collectives or open collaborative websites are further spaces and sites where prototyping and experimentation have taken hold as both modes of knowledge-production and cultural and sociological styles of exchange and interaction. Common to many such endeavours are: user-centred innovation, where users are incorporated into the artefact’s industrial design process; ICT mediated forms of collaboration (email distribution lists, wikispaces, peer-to-peer digital channels), or; decentralised organisational structures. Experimentation has also been at the centre of recent reassessments of the organisation of laboratory, expert and more generally epistemic cultures in the construction of science. An interesting development is the shift in emphasis from the experimental as a knowledge-site to the experimental as a social process. These are only a few examples of what we mean by prototyping cultures. The conference aimed to consider different works in light of some of these developments and tensions.
[Materials of the conference]
- Program of the conference (PDF).
- Prototyping Conference Abstracts (PDF).
- Videos of the conference (by Medialab-Prado) .
- Prototyping prototyping, ARC episode (PDF version, 7 MB) (Anthropology Research of the Contemporary).
Before the conference took place Chris Kelty decided to prototype the prototype. What is this? Kelty invited all the presenters to elaborate in advance a ‘prototype’ of their presentation. The invitation materialized in very diverse ways depending on each of the presenters. Chris maintained an intense email exchange with George Marcus, for instance that was the basis for the presentation of Marcus. Alex Wilkie decided to send a part of his PhD dissertation while we tried to get Medialab people and attendants to the conference involved in the experiment proposing a few questions for them… The result of this process (and after being later reworked) was published in the ARC Studio (Anthropology Research of the Contemporary) as an ARC Episode that you can read: Prototyping prototyping ARC episode no. 3.
Thursday, 4 November
9:45. Welcome. Eduardo Manzano, Director, CCHS (CSIC); Alberto Corsín Jiménez & Adolfo Estalella, conference organizers.
10:00. Introduction: Prototyping and social experimentation, Alberto Corsín Jiménez (video, ARC contribution).
10:15. The end of innovation (as we knew it), Lucy Suchman (video, ARC contribution and second iteration).
10.45. A Countercultural Prototype for Cold War Social Engineering: Revisiting the Pepsi Pavilion, Fred Turner (video).
11:15. Questions and discussion. 11:45. Coffee break.
13:15. Questions and discussion.
13:45 – 15:00. Lunch break
16:00. Questions and discussion.
16:30-17:00. Final discussion.
17:00-17.30. Coffee break.
Venue: Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, C/ Albasanz 26-28, Madrid 28037. Room: Sala Gómez Moreno, 2C24
Friday, 5 November
11:00.11.30. Questions and discussion.
11:30-12.00. Coffee break.
12:00. From Prototyping to Allotyping: The Invention of Change of Use and the Crisis of Building Types, Michael Guggenheim (video, ARC contri.).
12:30. Establishing the reality of politics: Revisiting Kurt Lewin’s experiments in ‘democratic atmospheres’, Javier Lezaun (video, ARC contri.).
13:00-13.30. Questions and discussion.
13:30 – 15:15. Lunch break.
16:15-16.45. Questions and discussion.
16:45. Closing remarks.
Venue: Medialab-Prado, Plaza de las Letras, C/ Alameda 15, 28014 Madrid.
The Prototyping cultures conference was a two day meeting organized by Alberto Corsín and Adolfo Estalella. It was founded by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and co-organized with Medialab-Prado in Madrid. We want to thank the people that helped us with the organization: Raúl González, Sonia Díez Thale, Nerea García Garmendia and the rest of the people at Medialab-Prado and to Elvira Peirats (CSIC). And of course, to all the participants and attendants to the conference.
Image from the project interactibus. Credits: Medialab-Prado.