Critical making + innovation

Critical making and innovation or

what does it really mean to work together, to collaborate, to collude and share work?

CO-WORKS is a direct response to an initiative in the Strategic Plan and has been developed by a taskforce aimed at providing a facility that can challenge us into new ways of working together around critical making and innovation.coworks strat plan crop

The taskforce met for a year and made some key suggestions for the center, these are not hard and fast and one of the key elements for the center is that it is flexible but purposeful. In that spirit we have designed a space that allows for a great deal of flexibility for changing technologies and needs, but we have decided to start with a specific focus to allow the center’s systems to be developed.

In The Alphabet and the Algorithm Mario Carpo writes about the challenges facing us as we try and make sense of the “digital revolution”. He argues that the digital revolution was a term of the nineties, but today ‘has fallen into disuse, if not disrepute’ [Carpo (2010); p. ix]. The word revolution implies that something has been turned upside down, but it is not clear what this something is. It is certainly not the hand, nor the machine. Carpo argues that one key practice of modernity is the making of identical copies. This drove a lot of the development of technologies in the early stages – the desire to mass produce identical copies.

The move from the hand to the machine and now to the digital has not revolutionized making by replacing the previous – indeed they all co-exist. If we look at the Formula 1 motor racing industry, representing the pinnacle of technology in cars, we see the artisan working by hand, by machine and digitally – all seamlessly. Where the revolution is coming in is the challenge to the identical. New technologies are variable. They allow us to make one-offs, prototypes. They open up exciting opportunities at the front end of the process, where it is about ideas, concepts and iteration rather than fabrication and replication.
This is a place of ideas, of thinking and making at the same time; of letting the technology liberate our ideas; of rapid iteration; of intention and emergence at the same time. And above all, of working together.

This is a place to prepare for serendipity.

RISD has a history of making. We have a philosophy of developing a deep understanding of practice in one’s domain. This commitment to studio practice means that we spend considerable time immersed in our specific traditions of making. Our studios our dedicated to this spirit of working; it is deeply embedded in our culture.

The purpose of this pilot space is to explore what happens in between these deep spaces of knowing, what these areas of differing practice may bring to our own creative processes and how they may inform new ideas and new ways of working. The challenge is not to lose our deep commitment to our subjects but to also look at the spaces between.

CO-WORKS aims to bring together different practices, different materials and to merge 2D and 3D practices. It is about networked technologies. The aim here is to explore:

• Collaborating – being able to work together, to bring in otherness and other ideas
• Community – to look at communities of creative practice, acknowledging but not being bound by tradition
• Competition – it is about healthy competition and the development of big ideas
• Cooperation – it is about working together on some aspects of the process
• Colluding – it is about playing together
• Combining – it is about combining practices, materials and dimensions

It is a research process to look at CO-WORKS.

To kick start the process I have asked Professor Anais Missakian, one of the original instigators of the pilot, tp work with Associate Professor Kelly Dobson in the first year to look at how such a space could work. They will be the first CO-WORKS Fellows. The first few months will be used to set up systems in the space and to make sure that the equipment is working well and is relevant to actual projects. Both Anais and Kelly have current research projects that happen to overlap in the area of soft technologies. The aim of the space is to be for collaboration and conversation, so please do ask, please do go and have a look, and as we develop the space into a working area, please do submit proposals for collaborative work.
Pradeep Sharma
Acting Provost