Session 4 reflections: Creative Research Online

Paul Baran's diagram of communication networks (1964)

Art historian Charlotte Frost and artist Ele Carpenter joined us for session 4 to discuss their recent research. It proved to be a session jam packed with information, here are just a few of the things I managed to jot down!

Charlotte began by talking us through her work on the impact of the internet on art and knowledge practices, specifically virtual environments for art history and how different kinds of conversations emerge from discussing, presenting, editing and distributing your work online. She has recently set up the PhD2Published site, which offers advice on publishing for early-career academics and Art Future Book, a research project looking into the future of academic publishing.

Charlotte mentioned a whole plethora of examples, some of which were:
In Media Res, a collaborative approach to online scholarship through themed weekly debates and presentations.
Voice Thread, a site where you can share conversations around slideshows, videos etc.
Networked Book, a site where you can comment, revise and translate chapters of a communally edited book, developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book.
Open Humanities Press, a site which makes peer-reviewed literature available, free of charge.

She also presented a screenshot of’s Visitors Studio, which she referred to as her muse. As Charlotte said herself, it’s a shame we couldn’t have a play with Visitors Studio ourselves. I’ve had a go with a group in a workshop before and you get to mix and match audio and visuals in an online environment, collaborating with others online without physically meeting (charlotte called it real time internet jamming).

Ele Carpenter followed, with a presentation about her recent projects and interest in distributed networks as a medium. Her work explores the movement between social and online spaces and the possibilities, pitfalls and languages of social relations that form in these spaces (on and off line). She explained her ‘open’ methodology which works across craft practice and software production, for example in her Open Source Embroidery project which involved the collective making of an HTML Patchwork (with, amongst others, users of Access Space, Sheffield). Ele referenced Ada Lovelace’s writings on the analytical engine in the 1830s used by Charles Babbage to create his mechanical computer and a number of current initiatives, such as Sketch Patch, the HumLab in Sweden and the Budapest Open Access Initiative. We discussed the process and maintenance of craft and code – that it needs constant updating and reworking and that there is a symbiotic relationship between the object and the process (Ele referred to how people often never finish their knitting, but undo and redo it over time). Both coding and crafting take time and skill and to a certain extent require the maker/programmer to slow down – both require ‘close reading’. Ele mentioned, she has met a lot of patchworkers on her travels who are also mathematicians, but also had women walk out of html patchworking sessions because they felt a return to embroidery was an oppressive backwards step.

Ele and Charlotte’s presentations led on to discussions about the ethics and practicalities of ‘open’ research, what this really means and the issues of research as tourism. To what extent does this open up a process for others to engage in, and to what extent does it shut things down?

By Sophie Hope


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