California Connections

Members of the Communities & Culture Network+ initiate a programme of knowledge-exchange and collaboration with contacts in the USA.

IMG_2133Five members of the Communities and Culture Network+ recently travelled to California, visiting San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Santa Cruz, thereby marking the first step in a series of transatlantic exchanges for the network. With funding from the British Consulate for this first stage of the exchange, the team sought to undertake knowledge exchange, make new contacts and develop existing ones, and explore possibilities for collaboration via research projects and future exchanges. The trip also provided an opportunity to re-assess priorities for the Network+ in relation to emerging digital and converged industries. During their stay the UK researchers met with colleagues from a range of backgrounds, from entrepreneurs to cultural institutions, as well as with academics, ranging from professors to doctoral students.

CCN+ Investigator Caroline Bassett (University of Sussex) began the trip by meeting with Jon Swartz, veteran technology reporter for USA Today, to discuss emerging concerns around digital technology and industry, and new social trends. Aristea Fotopoulou (University of Sussex and Goldsmiths, London), who is currently acting as Co-Investigator for the CCN+ network ‘Sustaining Networked Knowledge: expertise, feminist media production, art and activism’ (SusNet) was also present as part of the UK team. Along with Caroline, she attended a number of meetings with leading actors in the field of digital & biotechnological innovation, including Andro Hsu of GigaGen Inc. and Greg Biggers, Chief Instigator and CEO at Genomera. Both Andro and Greg hope to maintain contact with the CCN+ and explore potential collaborations in the future.

Helen Thornham (CCN+ Principal Investigator, University of Leeds) joined Caroline and Aristea for meetings that the Sussex duo had arranged with academics at the Santa Cruz Science and Justice Centre. Andrew Matthews is Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department/Social Sciences at UC Santa Cruz and is an associate of the Science and Justice Group, whilst Karen Barad is Professor of Feminist Studies, in the Humanities Division at Santa Cruz and an authority on issues of technology and subjectivity. They also spoke to Jake Metcalf, who currently holds an NSF-funded postdoctoral fellowship at the Science and Justice Centre, focusing his research on the entanglement of ethics and knowledge in personalized genomics. Plans are now being developed for exchanges between researchers at Santa Cruz, to be mediated by the CCN+. Further activities in Santa Cruz included a meeting with digital media artist Elaine Gan, who is based at UC Santa Cruz in the Digital Arts/New Media Program.  Elaine presented the main themes of her work, which explores mapping, art and data visualization and questions of  temporality, and discussed the possibility of collaborative work in the future.

IMG_2147Moving from digital art to literature and storytelling, the team took the opportunity to speak to two feminist science-fiction authors during the course of the trip. First, they chatted with Karen Joy Fowler, with whom Aristea was able to raise the ‘SusNet’ network’s questions relating to sustainable networks around technology and gender. This was followed by a meeting with Pat Murphy at the annual FogCon literature festival in Walnut Creek. The discussions explored new forms of story-telling and audience engagement, as well as connections between science and technology imaginaries and ‘real’ communities.

CCN+ Research associate Edgar Gómez Cruz has based much of his research to-date on digital photography practices. Whilst at Berkeley he met with the School of Information’s Jenna Burell, whose research focusses on digital ethnography, and with Asko Lehmuskallio, a visiting Researcher in digital photography. In preparation for their meeting Edgar and Asko organized a panel presentation for the 2013 IVSA conference in London. This has since been accepted and they will use this as a springboard for further collaborative work. Along with Helen Thornham, Edgar met up with David Silver at the University of San Francisco. An early writer on, and adopter of, the Internet, David has since refocused much of his academic work on slow-growing and sustainability. His work is of interest to both the ‘SusNet’ network and the ‘Everyday Growing Cultures‘ project (which brings together open data and allotments in the UK). It is hoped that both David and Jenna Burell will attend events at the University of Leeds in the coming months, to participate in workshops and continue discussions.

Representing the CCN+ funded ‘StoryStorm’ Network, Helen Graham met with Joe Lambert, founder of the Center for Digital Storytelling at Berkley, to discuss the rationales and philosophy for digital storytelling. This was followed up by a visit to the ‘Building Stories’ event in Santa Cruz: a community history event run by the artist-led ‘Building Collective’. The trip to Santa Cruz also provided an opportunity to meet with Nina Simon, Director of the Museum of Art and History.

photo1Before leaving San Francisco, members of the team took the opportunity to visit the Computer History Museum and to meet with Lauren Silver, its Vice President of Education, and Curator and Senior Manager, Alex Bochannek. Lauren and Alex shared understandings of the formation of community and notions of expertise and engagement relating to digital cultures. It is hoped that these meetings will pave the way for a series of visits and projects between network members and the Computer History Museum, particularly in relation to oral histories, memory, and museum/archive studies and digitalization processes.


To follow…

Not all of the CNN+ cohort returned to the UK: Edgar Gómez Cruz is currently in Chicago, presenting his own research and meeting academics at Loyola University.