By Bilyana Palankasova
21 February 2024
During the last days of January and the first week of February 2024, I had the absolute pleasure of starting off my year by participating in the annual research workshop organised by the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image at London Southbank University, the Digital Aesthetics Research Centre at Aarhus University and the Berlin-based festival for art and digital culture transmediale. The theme of this year’s workshop was content/form and drew on the larger theme which transmediale was exploring – content.
My interest in being a participant in the workshop was two-fold. Firstly, as a PhD researcher working in the field of art, technology and digital culture, I was excited to work collaboratively with other early career researchers working in adjacent areas. Secondly, my PhD research is concerned with festivals of art and digital culture, and I’m particularly interested in discursive curatorial and programming forms (i.e. workshops) and how they make festivals a para-academic cultural space for the production of new knowledge and discourses. With these two interests at heart, I was excited to receive a place on the workshop and to have a chance to engage with this wider community.
The workshop took place 29-31 of January and one of its main objectives was the launch of a collaboratively produced publication exploring methods of working, writing, referencing and publishing which are alternative to traditional academic ones. While looking to challenge conventional research development, we also engaged with the social and technical conditions of sustainable research practices, particularly its mechanisms of sharing, reviewing, and its infrastructure. To this end, our research and resulting publication was based on an experimental platform and publication tool – “wiki4print”. By using Media Wiki software and web-to-print techniques, wiki4print attempts to challenge academic workflows and traditional hierarchical roles within institutional knowledge production.
Wiki4print is part of a larger infrastructure for research and publishing, “ServPub”, a feminist server and tools developed and facilitated by grassroot tech collectives In-grid, Systerserver, and Varia/CC. ServePub is a network of servers which uses a VPN with a reverse proxy that makes it accessible on the public internet and wiki4print is one server in this network hosting the wiki from which our publication was produced. ServPub’s wiki4print portable raspberry pi server was plugged into the network at Haus der Kulturen der Welt where the workshop took place.
After three intense days of researching, presenting, thinking and critiquing each other’s work, the participants finalised their contribution in the form of 500 words of research sketches and proposals published on the wiki. Then the wiki was turned into a newspaper via web-to-print techniques by Manetta Berends and Simon Browne. The produced newspaper was printed in 2000 copies and was launched and presented at transmediale festival on 3 February at Haus der Kulturen der Welt.
The minor tech conditions of the workshop, along with the convivial and non-hierarchical ways of working, created a unique entangled research apparatus of technological infrastructure, cultural systems, human researchers, old and new ideas, html and css, and many cups of coffee. The resulting publication weaves a rich and diverse narrative of content/form exploring “the horror of content” through a trans-disciplinary lens and drawing on science and technology studies, philosophy, art theory, image politics, and multi-species commoning amongst other areas of research, to probe the technological, political and cultural impact, limitations and potentials of our troubled relationship to content. Amongst many fascinating speculations, my research considered art documentation in the context of proliferating visual content on social media. I proposed a reading of art documentation on Instagram feeds as an example of cultural innovation following Boris Groys’ theory of innovation.
After the workshop and the presentation of our contributions and outcomes at the festival, all participating researchers are invited to develop their research into a full academic paper to be considered for publication in the next issue of APRJA journal, published by Aarhus University.