Ethnography of and as prototyping culture, George Marcus.
4 November 2010. Spanish National Research Council (Madrid).
Conference 'Prototyping cultures: social experimentation, do-it-yourself science and beta-knowledge'.

Prototyping cultures: social experimentation, do-it-yourself science and beta-knowledge was a two-day conference organized by the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid in the 4th and 5th of November 2010. It was related with the main topic of the ethnography focused on the prototyping culture that we were doing during the year 2010 on Medialab-Prado (which was co-organizer and venue for the meeting). Researchers working in different fields (anthropology, communication, sociology) met to discuss on social experimentation, do-it-yourself science and beta-knowledge. You can see the list of participants below.

But, why prototypes? Because they have acquired certain prominence and visibility in recent times. Software development is perhaps the case in point, where the release of non-stable versions of programmes has become commonplace, as is famously the case in free and open source software. Developers are here known for releasing beta or work-in-progress versions of their programmes, as an invitation or call for others to contribute their own developments and closures. But prototyping has also become an important currency of explanation and description in art-technology contexts, where the emphasis is on the productive and processual aspects of experimentation. Medialabs, hacklabs, community and social art collectives or open collaborative websites are further spaces and sites where prototyping and experimentation have taken hold as both modes of knowledge-production and cultural and sociological styles of exchange and interaction. Common to many such endeavours are: user-centred innovation, where users are incorporated into the artefact’s industrial design process; ICT mediated forms of collaboration (email distribution lists, wikispaces, peer-to-peer digital channels), or; decentralised organisational structures. Experimentation has also been at the centre of recent reassessments of the organisation of laboratory, expert and more generally epistemic cultures in the construction of science. An interesting development is the shift in emphasis from the experimental as a knowledge-site to the experimental as a social process. These are only a few examples of what we mean by prototyping cultures. The conference aimed to consider different works in light of some of these developments and tensions. Materials of the conference.

Credits: Medialab-Prado.

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