Category Archives: phd

PhD Creativity Unbound

TITLE
Creativity Unbound – An Analysis of Open Collaboration between Experience Design and Poietic Practice

ABSTRACT
This thesis concerns social engagement at the intersection of open design and media technology. The study reflects on the practice of a group of creative entrepreneurs, who seek new methods and contexts for collaboration both online and offline. My case is an international collective called Reboot. They co-produce games, narratives, and workshops that aim at engaging others to become activists for social innovation through experiential learning and applied creativity. I investigate what drives them, what they desire, how they learn, and how they co-create. The core problem is: how does a focus on innovating process shape the way individuals approach work and life? Ethnography forms the central research method. It tracks the exchange and performance values expressed by members of the Reboot collective. I use an experimental enactive research design, which enriches current academic practices in media and design ethnography.

As a theoretical framework, I draw on cultural topology. More specifically, I focus on three characteristics of topology – contiguity, continuity, and poiesis. Headed by these three pillars, my chapters include theories on performativity, affect, and free labour. My data substantiates the workings of these three topological characteristics individually and across chapters. Firstly, in terms of contiguity, I investigate performativity as a theoretical possibility within a topological framework. Reboot offers physical spaces for collaborators to connect. Here, I argue, the group facilitates productive contiguity. I scrutinise their experience of interaction enabled by design in order to make an assessment about performative agency. Secondly, with respect to continuity, I examine affect as a driver of relationships and activity. Reboot facilitates remote collaboration through digital online technology. I show that affective interaction helps to re-establish connection and build relationships to foster further engagement, and that these practices corroborate continuity. Lastly, regarding poiesis, I discuss the notion of free labour against the backdrop of commons-based peer production. I show that collaborators frame their free labour in an emancipatory fashion that reflects high hopes for virtuous behaviour among collaborators and ignores worries of exploitation. I identify this practice as poiesis.

This matters, because these collaborative producers are found to act upon their hopes that they can co-create long term systemic change in society; they experiment with new tools to do so; and they spread their techniques by engaging others. This thesis thus locates itself amongst – and adds insights to – current debates on human passion that drives socio-technical innovation.

CONTENT

1. INTRODUCTION
1.1. A QUESTION OF DEVIANCE AND PASSION?
1.2. CASE OVERVIEW
1.3. APPROACH
1.4. CHAPTER OUTLINES

2. METHODOLOGY: EMERGENT ENACTIVE RESEARCH
2.1. INTRODUCTION
2.1.1. GAINING ACCESS
2.1.2. FROM STUDYING PRACTICE TO STUDYING DESIGN PRACTICE
2.2. ENACTIVE MULTI-SITED RESEARCH
2.2.1. MEETING THE TEAM ONLINE AND IN PERSON – WHAT CHANGED
2.2.2. IN(TER)VENTION AS DATA: LEARN DO SHARE BOOKSPRINTS
2.2.3. DESIGN AS DATA: WISH FOR THE FUTURE OPEN DESIGN GAME
2.2.4. USAGE OF DIGITAL PLATFORMS
2.3. EMERGENT RESEARCH FROM FIELD TO THESIS
2.4. TOPOLOGY: CONNECTING DATA, RESEARCH, AND OUTCOME

3. CONTIGUITY: PERFORMATIVITY IN NARRATIVE CO-DESIGN
3.1. INTRODUCTION
3.2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3.2.1. PERFORMANCE AND PERFORMATIVITY
3.2.2. NARRATIVE DESIGN AS PERFORMATIVE AGENT
3.3. EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
3.3.1. IMPERFECTION: INCOMPLETE BY DESIGN
3.3.2. INTERVENTION: HACKING AS METHOD
3.3.3. APPROPRIATION: CONTIGUITY AS CATALYST
3.4. DISPERSED PERFORMATIVITY: WHAT DRIVES TOPOLOGICAL CULTURE?
3.5. CONCLUSION

4. CONTINUITY: AFFECTIVE ENGAGEMENT
4.1. INTRODUCTION
4.2. METHOD: AUTO-ETHNOGRAPHIC ENACTIVE RESEARCH
4.3. THEORETICAL PLACEMENT
4.3.1. AFFECT AND EMOTIONS
4.3.2. REASONED AND EMOTIONAL VALUES
4.4. EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
4.4.1. PRINCIPLE 1 – HOW AFFECT ENGAGES: APPRECIATION
4.4.2. PRINCIPLE 2 – HOW AFFECT ENGAGES: PASSION
4.4.3. PRINCIPLE 3 – HOW AFFECT ENGAGES: PROMISE
4.5. DEEP, FLEETING, AND ALLURING AFFECT
4.6. CONCLUSION

5. POIESIS: FREE LABOUR AS EMANCIPATORY ACTUALISATION
5.1. INTRODUCTION
5.2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
5.2.1. CAPITALISM CRITIQUE
5.2.2. COMMONS-BASED PEER PRODUCTION
5.2.3. CONSIDERING POIESIS
5.3. EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION
5.3.1. FREE LABOUR AS ENTREPRENEURIAL AGENCY
5.3.2. FREE LABOUR AS ALTRUISM
5.3.3. FREE LABOUR TO BUILD SOMETHING BIGGER
5.3.4. FREE LABOUR AS ENTREPRENEURIAL TRAINING
5.4. A POIETIC NON-LABOUR SYSTEM?
5.4.1. BELONGING TO SOMETHING LARGER THAN YOURSELF – REVOLUTION
5.4.2. KINDNESS AND ALTRUISM – SELF-EXPLOITATION
5.4.3. GIVING LEARNING EXPERIENCES – VIRTUE
5.4.4. EMANCIPATORY AGENCY – ENTREPRENEURSHIP
5.5. THE DO GOODERS
5.5.1. GAINS
5.5.2. LOSSES
5.5.3. TOPOLOGICAL ACTIVATION
5.6. CONCLUSION

6. CONCLUSION
7. BIBLIOGRAPHY

#Monsterproud
Download a copy here
And see a rawer wilder transdisciplinary version here.

The Unorthodox PhD

This is the raw version of my thesis, which I changed quite a bit after I got the feedback that it’s a bit too creative and wild. Both versions are fully written. This one is more eclectic and transdisciplinary, the other is more orthodox and less complex (see other version here).

TITLE
Creativity Unbound: Parables of Co-Creative Process Under The Premise to Open Everything

ABSTRACT
This thesis examines the intersection of social technology and open storytelling. At its core is what drives experimental co-creation among creative entrepreneurs. Open storytelling is a field of interactive arts that seeks new methods and contexts for co-creation. Opening access raises questions around promises and discomforts of such seemingly unplannable co-production. A central theme is self-organization through performance and exchange. The core problem is: How does a focus on innovating process shape the way individuals approach life and work? Answers can be found in this ethnographic case on the design and performance values expressed by members of the Reboot collective. Reboot attracts collaborators, who come to learn, imagine, do and share.

Each chapter indicates a field of tension in which principles of co-creation are discussed and evidenced by practice and design examples. Chapter B takes [play/labour] as a framework and looks at civic engagement and project organization (learn). In chapter C, the bracket [discipline/affect] offers a view on aesthetic reasoning through the principles passion and empathy (imagine). In chapter D, the bracket [story design/performativity] highlights principles of incompleteness and synaesthetic mimesis, poiesis and kinesis (do). In chapter E, the bracket [potential space/affordance] delineates community cultivation and project-based co-entrepreneurship (share). At a meta-level, five axioms can be derived: (a) practices corroborate synaesthetic reasoning to make sense of the digitized world; (b) activities are situational and ephemeral, defying systemic stabilization; (c) online and offline practices open up an omnidextrous third space through which techniques flow across from one domain to the other; (d) if constraints are not outside the body they come from inside (self-discipline) and in-between (empathy); (e) incomplete designs invite engagement.

As a theoretic framework, the author develops a dyad concept drawing on Kress and Leeuwen’s multimodality and Lury et al. and Lash’s notion of topology. Her methodology uses a rigorous and multi-layered activity research design, which adds new perspectives to current academic practices in media and design ethnography. Spanning media, arts, design, social sciences, cultural studies and anthropology, the thesis is placed amongst – and adds rich insights – to current debates on human activity in socio-technical environments.

CONTENT

Screenshot 2014-02-16 15.23.03

// INTRODUCTION
1. A QUESTION OF DEVIANCE AND PASSION?
2. WHAT’S AT STAKE: CO-CREATION
2.1 Reboot Creativity
2.2 Creativity as Play
2.3 Creativity as Remix
2.4 A Taxonomy of Co-Creativity
2.5 Co-creativity is Emergent
3. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: THE 3RD SPACE OF CULTURAL TOPOLOGY
3.1 Considering Design and Process
3.2 Cultural Topology
3.3 Topology as Abstract Language
3.4 A Fledgling Pattern Language
3.5 Style and Reflexivity in a Topological Approach
4. PLACEMENT AND SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

// LEARN – Subversive Play: Free Labour as Civic Engagement
1. INTRODUCTION
2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 Pervasive Play and Free Labour
2.2 Serious Play and Experiential Learning
3. SUBVERTING NORMS THROUGH INFINITE PLAY
3.1 Principle 1 – Deviate: Disruption and Intervention
3.1.1 Trad-Schooling
3.1.2 Alt-schooling
3.2 Principle 2 – Improvise: Speculation and Grit
3.2.1 Contingency
3.2.2 Complexity
3.3 Principle 3 – Augment: Iterate and Transform
3.3.1 Prototypes
3.3.2 Dehabituation
4. PLAYING REALITY
5. CONCLUSION

// IMAGINE – Affective Reasoning: Heuristic Sense- And Decision-Making Through Empathy And Passion
1. INTRODUCTION
2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 Affect
2.2 Self-Discipline
2.3. Between Affect and Discipline
3. SENSE-MAKING: NAVIGATING THE SOCIAL IMAGINARY THROUGH EMPATHY
3.1 From Meme to Theme
3.2 Conceptual Language
3.3 Balancing Literal And Associative
3.4 Empathy As Compass
4. DECISION-MAKING: HARNESSING PASSION
4.1 “Choosing” Intensive Engagement
4.2 Hurdling the Arduousness of Self-Discipline
4.2.1 Deep Affect: The Personally Meaningful
4.2.2 Fleeting Affect: Collective Momentum
4.3 The Power of Oscillating Discipline and Affect
5. CONCLUSION

// DO – Performative Storytelling: Narrative Design As A Purposeful Utility
1. INTRODUCTION.
2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 Performativity
2.2 Purposeful Storytelling
2.3 Design
2.4 Narrative Design as Performative Agency
3. APPLIED PRINCIPLES: USING STORY TO “DESIGN WITH AND FOR”
3.1 Focus on Poiesis: Incomplete By Design
3.1.1 Science-Fiction, Otherness and Imagination
3.1.2 Story Beats
3.2 Focus on Kinesis: Intervention by Design
3.2.1 Messiness
3.2.2 Hacking
3.3 Focus on Mimesis: Appropriation
3.3.1 Transportation and Transformation
3.3.2 Declining Performativity?
4. CONCLUSION: OPEN STORIES AS PERFORMATIVE INTERVENTIONS

// SHARE – Community Cultivation: Co-Entrepreneurship By Affording Project-based Micro-Businesses
1. INTRODUCTION
2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 Potential Space
2.2 Commons-Based Peer Production
2.3 Affording A Common Potential Space
3. PRIMARY PRINCIPLES: FRANCHISING AND INCUBATING
3.1 Franchise: Network and Change over Income
3.2 Incubation: Social Good over Monetization
4. SECONDARY PRINCIPLES: SHARING AS CO-ENTREPREUNEURS
4.1 Power Share: Letting Go of Control (Individual)
4.2 Goal Share: Balancing Self-interest & Commonality (Collaborative)
4.3 Skill Share: Lending Talent (Collaborative)
4.4 Knowledge Share: Circulating Assets (Public)
5. SCALING AND BRANDING POTENTIAL: A TRIPLE BIND
6. CONCLUSION

// CONCLUSION – Learn, Do, Imagine, Share: Towards A Collaboration Methodology
1. INTRODUCTION
1.1 Recap Cardinal Principle 1: Learning
1.2 Recap Cardinal Principle 2: Imagining
1.3 Recap Cardinal Principle 3: Doing
1.4 Recap Cardinal Principle 4: Sharing
2. ON DESIGN, AESTHETICS AND ROMANTICISM
3. OPPORTUNITIES FOR FUTURE RESEARCH

Tags: outside the box, design fiction, purposeful play, participatory storytelling, design thinking, media ethnography, new media, new commons, indie punks, share culture, networked economy, collaboration, co-creation, experiential learning, liminal threshold, activity based learning, DIY, peer production, social innovation, artistic research, digital boheme, crowdsourcing, crowdsharing, social experiences, agile management, social entrepreneurship, collaborative entrepreneurship, Gen Flux, creative entrepreneurship, media commons, labeling, digital humanities, human-centered design, storification, avant-garde

Rationale

Everyone who undertakes the massive endeavour to write a thesis in the social sciences will relate to how hard this is: formulating what exactly are the most important findings you made. Just wrote them down for my introduction and, this is it:

The rationale of this thesis is to show

a)     how online and offline are not separate but open up a hybrid conceptual third space through which techniques flow across from one domain to the other (becomes visible across the whole thesis);

b)     how emotional and synesthetic principles are used to drive creative productivity and harness uncertainty (chapter x);

c)     how co-creative process designs are applied performatively to change behavior among many (chapter x);

d)     how new transnational communities are cultivated through principles of scale and mutual benefit (chapter x).

e)     how altogether these ideologies, designs and practices indicate a trend to amalgamate imaginative and analytical ways of knowledge creation in order to innovate and make sense of the digitized world around us (conclusion).

Flip flop slap slop. Work done fore today.

space-time, singularity, gravitational physics, and multiverses

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I had this half-asleep epiphany during a long-haul flight and love this analogy: I might get my physics all wrong, but physicists speak of space-time as being a layer or a grid. Stephen Hawking calls it the fabric of space. He says that what we experience as gravity is caused by the dip in this invisible layer that is caused, for example, by a planet, the size and mass of which determine the pull of gravity. According to Roger Penrose, the point of pure gravity at the center of a black hole is a singularity, a place that according to Hawking can under certain circumstances (if reversed) serve as a birthplace of something new, causing a big bang. Knowing that I simplify, I’d still like to propose a similarity to the web.

If we assume that the www is the space-time grid, then certain services, nodes, or memes stand for planets, the bigger they are, the greater their mass and pull. In social sciences this logic aligns with Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s mass communication theory. Her notion of the Schweigespirale (spiral of silence) describes how one opinion becomes dominant because those who oppose but feel they are in the minority will remain silent. Noelle-Neumann sees a fear of isolation from society as the main factor for this behavior. So, if we assume that mass – in whichever form – has gravitational pull, it’s easy to assign Google or facebook dominance in the grid. To stretch the analogy even further: exorbitant pull results in a singularity, which can be destructive in a way that this singularity swallows its surrounding into a black hole. However, at the same time, according to Hawking’s theory, it can also serve as a birthplace of a new galaxy. In the web’s case this could be a new practice as in the case of Google, a new way to access knowledge; or in the case of facebook, new ways to interact and voice opinions.

Jean-Luc Lehner’s argument of multiple big bangs and multiverses is equally easy to transfer to the web. We’re all just particles.

….madness. Are there people researching those patterns comparatively?

Food for thought were a Channel 4 Documentary about approaches to a theory of everything as seen by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose and a Falling Walls lecture by Jean-Luc Lehners.

literary review on co-creative media practice (version: May 2011)

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So this is my slightly outdated litrev from May 2011. I wrote it for my first annual PhD review at UNSW (Sydney).

title
Co-creative Practice in Participatory Narratives: Examining How Practice Enables And Limits Collective Storytelling

overview
Introduction
i: Practice/Performance
– Social Practice
– Media Practice
ii: Participatory Storytelling
– Objects Have Agency
– Authorship And Oeuvre in Peer Narratives
– Collaboration, Knowledge, And Learning
iii: Playful Narrative
– Immersion And Interactivity
– Play And Creativity
Concluding Remarks

introduction
Since the last decade of the 20th century, social media and affordable digital technology lead to a steadily growing DIY culture (Manovich 2008: 33, Lash 2007). This democratization of production through the many-to-many nature of the www affects how stories are told and perceived, most notably through a culture of sharing, remixing and commenting (Amerika, 2011). In this context, multichannel narratives – which are characterized by locally dispersed authors who share, create, and circulate content across diverse media platforms (Jenkins 2006) – have become popular among the industry and audience alike. Films and TV show convey complex stories that operate on a multitude of levels, employ plots within another plot and extend to other media. In order to play and dig deeper, the audience can follow the story and contribute to it through different media. Websites, mobile apps, locative media, or pervasive games offer content that enriches characters and story universe (cf. Dena 2009, Jenkins 2006, Rose 2011, Handler Miller 2008, Bernardo 2011, Gomez 2010, Montola/Stenros/Waern 2009).

This literary review on participatory storytelling is a result of refining key themes that unite my case studies and their theoretic foundation. Bridging media studies and anthropology opens two crucial pathways to answering how media practices change narrative form and interaction. By drawing on scholarly expertise in both disciplines, I can map the field in quite some diversity. Depending on the knowledge I gain during fieldwork, I can then choose and combine suitable theoretic concepts, which ideally inform one another. For my specific case study, three aspects are predominant. The first is media practice (i). Examining phenomena of new media production is complex, mainly since the realm of mobile technology lacks ‘spatial, social, and temporal boundaries’, which ‘makes it difficult to maintain distinct social contexts’ (Boyd 2011: 23:20). Looking at practice in its various forms is a way of subsuming those aspects under one roof, which determines the interplay of all the different parameters within. The second aspect is participatory storytelling (ii). As mobile technologies become more and more pervasive in everyday life, so does media consumption and production. In this surrounding, storytelling across various channels including various actors becomes dispersed and something new entirely. The third aspect is how this ubiquitous virtual platform inspires playful narratives (iii). In order to self-publish and co-create, professionals and amateurs interact, collaborate, and employ different media devices interchangeably, developing multimodal literacy that diverts from linear text consumption. Such narratives might feature new forms and lead to different ways of interaction, of which new media practice is the very source.

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