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PARIP 2005

International Conference | 29 June - 03 July 2005

Selvin: Al | UK/USA

PARIP 2005 single-session workshop abstract

Making Knowledge Art: Learning from the Improvisatory Dynamics of Live Participatory Hypermedia Construction

For the past three years, we have been attempting to apply an aesthetic lens to a digital media practice more usually associated with other research discourses, such as group support systems and computer-supported cooperative work. Our experience of acting as practitioners in highly charged situations reveals a gap in understanding and articulation. Those disciplines shed light on some facets of the practice, but leave others unaddressed -- particularly the performative, improvisational, and others that can be glossed as "aesthetic." We believe an analytical approach starting from the moment-to-moment aesthetic and ethical choices that practitioners of this media form make may address these gaps and open up new possibilities for both the particular digital media practice itself, and for connections with other art forms. We are currently engaged in exploring the fit of research methods such as critical incident analysis and action research to surface and explore these choices in this media context.

This three-hour workshop will explore the improvisatory dynamics of practitioner actions in the construction and modification of hypermedia knowledge representations in live settings with groups. While this is not one of the media generally associated with the PARIP conference, we believe the role of its practitioner shares many performative aspects with live theater or musical performances, while engaging many of the same skills, as well as aesthetic and ethical questions, as those involved in film and video construction. Indeed our research backgrounds and training draw as much on film, video, and performance as on hypermedia and knowledge technology. A primary goal of the workshop will be to surface how, and in what ways, these aspects are similar, or differ, from those in the other PARIP media. It is our belief that these distinctions will both extend our own research by adding the perspectives of other PARIP researchers to our work, as well as enrich the discourse of the conference by showing how PARIP ideas extend to other sorts of media practice.

A goal of the workshop will be to help us answer the following research questions:

  • in what sense(s) can the practice of this type of digital media in the settings we are analyzing be characterized as "performance," and the work of the practitioner be usefully analyzed in aesthetic and ethical terms?
  • is a practice-as-research stance useful in helping to understand this form of practice?
  • What is the right level of granularity at which to analyze practitioner ethical and aesthetic choices?
  • Can applying this type of analysis to practice of this kind enrich PaR research?

The workshop is designed to give participants experience in applying a practice-based analytical perspective to live hypermedia construction, and to solicit contributions from participants on making connections between such analysis and other PaR perspectives. We will ask participants to comment on the mutual applicability of PARIP principles and those of our research, draw connections between their research approaches and our own, and raise questions for future investigation. We will capture the discussion in the hypermedia tool and make it available on the Web immediately following the workshop for further consideration and reflection.


Al Selvin (PhD candidate) (

Simon Buckingham Shum (Senior Lecturer) (

Knowledge Media Institute

Open University

Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK













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