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Concerted knowledges and practices: an experiment in autonomous cultural production


About 20 years ago, the ecology of media art practices proliferated in two domains: those that attached themselves to high technology labs or companies like Xerox PARC, and those that took advantage of personal computing to form collectives only loosely coupled to academic institutions or disciplines. In this essay, I closely examine the diverse epistemic cultures and diverse technical, political, and generational interests in such “cyber-anarchist” networks. I sketch the economy of knowledge in recent media arts and technology communities of practice in the wake of Open Source. I use as my lens the experience of creating a responsive media space called the TGarden, with a collective that gathered more than 26 artists and engineers from 11 institutions and 7 nations.

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  1. See for example performances by Carl Stone, Michel Waiswisz, or Laetitia Sonami, enriched by decades of practice (Private communication, Laetitia Sonami, 28 October 2009).

  2. and

  3. Of course, this sort of laboratory contrasts consciously with the subjects of classic STS works such as Latour and Woolgar (1986), Traweek (1988).

  4. Later when I formed the Topological Media Lab, I refined this by requiring citation practice.

  5. For detailed histories of the emergence of cybernetic information systems after World War 2, see Edwards (1996), Dupuy (2000), Halpern (2007).

  6. For recent initiative treating this problem, I thank Niklas Damiris, Helga Wild, Marek Alboszta, Anne Balsamo and partners in the Capitalizing Communities project, begun in 2009.

  7. This informed the ethos underwriting the Topological Media Lab’s present working practices.

  8. In terms of budgeted FTE (full-time equivalent paid labor), non-commercial art production budgets in that context could amount to as little as one-tenth those of technology research and one-hundredth those of commercial production.

  9. Pierre Bongiovanni was director of the CICV (Centre International de Creation Video) Pierre Schaeffer centre for art research and creation in Herimoncourt, France, 1990–2004.

  10. CAVE is the acronym for “CAVE Audio Visual Experience” a computer-augmented environment developed by Cruz-Neira, Sandin, DeFanti, Kenyon and Hart at the University of Illinois, and reported in SIGGRAPH 1992.


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I am indebted to Michael Century for trenchant observations and for the opportunity to write about the TGarden experience. I thank my colleagues in the TGarden consortium: Maja Kuzmanovic, Chris Salter, Laura Farabough, Evelina Kusaite, Nik Gaffney, and other members of the FoAM and sponge creative networks, as well as the many supporters of this experiment in autonomous cultural production.

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Correspondence to Xin Wei Sha.

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Sha, X.W. Concerted knowledges and practices: an experiment in autonomous cultural production. AI & Soc 28, 133–145 (2013).

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  • Art and technology
  • Science and technology studies
  • Media art
  • Autonomous production
  • Responsive environments
  • Open source
  • Knowledge economy