Lab at Lab ISEA 2015

Lab @ Lab ISEA 2015: These notes were taken during ISEA 2015.
Below are rough notes from the unconference.

What can be expected to happen in a media lab?

Multi-disciplinary art entity within an university. Art is an intrinsic key component. Art as part of the education program.
Do tools define what a media lab is?
Role of design.
Look at art for new ideas for reasearch. Co-create.
Create event
There is experimentation with media.
What should the media lab of the future look like?
The term "new" keeps moving all the time.
We experiment with media.
Framework for operation safe place experiment innovate, do things together with people.
Is the membership important. The people who access these spaces, do they need to follow some criterias, or we have a membership, plus open night from time to time.
The list of materials is dictacted by its members. Defined by its members.
A fablab is complementary to a new media.
Labs for experimental expression. Cultural lab.
Place with a grid, walls to project video, speakers. We don't provide computers.
Co-creation. People.

What is the relationship between an artistic work and a media lab?
Some artists will do focus groups within a media lab. It's a performative space. Sharing the knowledge.

If there are graduate students, you can look at the number of graduate students.

A media lab can have a group of researchers who identify research topics. Then we accept artistic project artists who fit; who can use our technology. We help these artists with their projects and they help us to improve our media.

For artist-run centers, many artists go out from university and don't have access to such resources. (material, room, help, etc.)
Some projects are created within the center.
What can be developed, it can be displayed.
It's nice that labs are unique, and complementary. How can we regulate that, or should we?

Production is at the heart of it. It has little to do with dissemination. Some festivals grew up in the last recent years.
If it's involved with dissemination, hopefully

What is the value of a lab network?

When you begin a network, you think about the role of that network. What is its value? Sharing resources. Engage professionals in that network. Share creative output of the labs.
Create a network for professionals who run labs is different from promoting the output of these labs.
Travel from one space to another and have workshop in each of the space.
Share calendar of events.
Share procedures.
Calls for submissions.
Share the info that there is an artist in residency and they might do some presentation in another center.

Get a user to subscribe to a web site and contribute contents is quite a challenge.

Force PhD students to host discussion might be useful.
Then people can use these archive as a resourse.
In a workshop, we might use the wiki to put the info in. Also, ask the participants to contribute their notes in there.
(that might be for technical recipes for artists, or for recipes for people who run media labs)

What is the different between the reality of the academics world and small artist-run center.
People reinvent the wheel all the time.

What is the point of centralization information, might help to keep a history of all that.

Can we really share the knowledge through wiki pages and online forms?
Example: recipes: Incorporation, management.

What is the value of such a network for the academics?
There is the transition between different stages of their career.
Give some public impact for their research outcome. Not just speaking to an academic audience.

It would be interesting to track how people create practices, new ways of thinking. How people create meaning. What are the projects on which they are working. What are their processes? How an idea evolve into an artwork. Did you learn some lessons at the end of a project? Post-evaluation of a project.
We need a space in which we can be honest about our organization works. We spend time on our marketing, but it would be nice to have a private space to share how we failed. That part of the network needs to professional and closed. We can share documents to help other labs to learn from our experiments whose results were unexpected.
You never have enough time for reflection.
What is the incentive to share? It starts face to face, and real-life connection. Trust is important for sharing about such a sensitive topic such as unexpected results in projects.
The process of a project is very interested, often more than the outcome. (in such the context of a network like this)

Living labs: focus groups for designers, in real world. Things being used in a context. Observe how users use our new media. Take their testimony and then re-think our design.
Non-profit organizations are built on practice.
In terms of cultural production, we would like ourselves to be thought about on the ground.
Create structure that will help us to do what we do, and do it better.

In a context of austerity, we are asked to do more with less. Can we do less?
It's not just quantity that matters, it's quality.
Better practices.

How can we make such as network sustainable?

...and keep a memory of what has been done and avoid doing the same errors over and over?
Without reinventing the wheel.

Keep history of what labs do.
Often, there is nothing left from a project. Example: some paper, results, contact info.
Access old files from a lab. Facilitate knowledge transfer. There is a problem for indexing info, knowing what you are looking for in the first place.
We have these networks who appear and disappear. How can we learn from them?
We don't have time to post, or read posts. Using aggregators (RSS, calendars, etc.) might ease sharing contents. That requires some standards in place.

It's the people who make the network. What is the problem with networks disappearing?
There is no point in maintaining a structure just for the sake of it, but it's nice to have a location where to look for former projects in order to get inspiration for your current projects. Hence, an archive is interesting. Look at how the wheel was invented before.
How to keep a project going? Invest time to participate.
There need enough income for the expenses. The "profits" are the outcome: artworks, new medias, software, hardware, etc.
We would like to move on from the same questions and answers all the time.

New people, new energy, new conversation.

Example of succesful sharing knowledge:,,, feminist wiki-sprints, Association des médecines francophones du Canada, (they provide legal papers and templates) hackerspaces with wiki.
See: organizational knowledge.

What is the relationship between a network of media labs and the wider context?

Wider context - cultural, economics, social ecology, where power balance has an impact.
There are different infrastructures. How does such an infrastructure engage with the creative industries, the galeries, etc.
How does it relate to activities in other organizations
We discussed earlier that a private intranet might be good for us, but also a an outer organ to communicate with the other entities.
Organize events that implies people from other fields.

In the context of Canada, there are often two art concils - depending on the province - who give operation grants for artist-run centers.
Example: Méduse in Québec city is a big cooperative who own their building together. Each organization has its own funding.

Funding, in a context of cultural austerity/scarcity: models to create value, maybe create advanced expertise in a technical topic, sell the tools or the expertise, sell beer, provide pay access, rent equipment, have membership fees, do crowdfunding, etc. The organization might not have access to the same funding as the older ones. Hence, the old models don't work.
Engineers might use their knowledge to solve urgent topics.

What other sectors could we look at to find models that could also work in the art sector?
People don't have this idea of paying to see art.
In the creative industry, there is collaboration between business and arts, and artistic work is at the center of their activities. There is a massive interest from marketing and commerce.
The creative coding community has been pretty active.
Defining a relationship between brands an artists can be profitable for artists.

There can be cultural differences between the business and art worlds.

Business models. Audience development. Funding a new project as producers.

Value creation inside and outside the lab network.

Companies are looking at artists for new ideas. Are artists protected? Copyright doesn't protect employees. Artists should ask for good money for such residencies.
Golan Levive: see his talk about how artists are not paid by agencies.
The agency should offer support to the artist.
In France, there is a 35 euro per hour standard fee.
In Canada, there are standard fees for exhibition and performance. See
The Open Data Institute:

Can mass online learning environment get inspired by the media labs?

Online learning environments are trendy, because it's cheaper.
That requires peer review.
It's not an appropriate context for teaching arts.
How do we evaluate it?
It requires critical thinking. It's part of the creative thinking.
Then we train a generation that are technically skilled, but without much critical thinking.
They could be complementary systems: we need a physical space where we focus on this. We need an intelligent discussion.
Proper critique on a work is extremely intimate. It's like psychotherapy. One can be very sensitive to that. They need to figure out what is wrong.
Art is not just about easthetics. It's about meaning, opinions, expectations. It's about practice and collaboration.
That's why small grassroots organizations are important. Peer can have review.
Each specific discipline has its own discourse.

We ended up joking about crowdsourcing artists to judge the quality of artworks in an online review system.

Small organizations could sell tutoring. It's easier for technical workshops to sell them.
Coursera is a platform to put courses online. They want to go massive.

Let's organize more summerlab

Residency strongly collaborative.

Isis' Arts:
Free food. Some staff.
Networking established V2. V2 had a web site to exchange artists from different parts of the world.
Boris Debackare had an exchange happening between cross-residency. To submit the artist has to create a short video.
A summer camp for artists.

In Elsinki: Open workshop: no course description. Student must come and can do whatever they want.
Let go the fear of missing our. Just spend the time you planned to be there in the location.
All the responsability is put on the participant to bring up a topic that they are going to be interested in. At the end, they judge themselves.
Art students might prefer to work on their own.
It happens in the university.

Pixelache organized some summerlabs, but more for cultural workers and social issues.
It used to be more minimalistic audio-video and then drifted in another direction.
Overload of pixels.

Spending a condensed time doing collaborative creation and exchange ideas.

Just create a bulletin board with a list of equipment.
Have a time keeper.
People wanted more.
Non-profit: accomodation, food, some staff.
People really liked to see other people's creative proces.

Some people would have liked more time. Two days to prepare a work is pretty short.
Maybe it's better if they have to pay, 'cause people will actually show up and be there.


  • Better practices instead of best practices.
  • Stop having always the same discussions over and over. Have new people for new ideas.
  • Have artists and design firms aware that artists should be paid for when their creative work. Think about the value that you bring. Be careful about the deal that you are doing.

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