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CIRCUS 2001 Conference Proceedings: New Synergies in Digital Creativity. Conference for Content Integrated Research in Creative User Systems

BOEHM, Carola (2001) CIRCUS 2001 Conference Proceedings: New Synergies in Digital Creativity. Conference for Content Integrated Research in Creative User Systems. University of Glasgow, Glasgow. ISBN 0 8 526 1746 1

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Abstract or description

CIRCUS (Content Integrated Research For Creative User Systems) was an ESPRIT Working Group, originally set up in 1988 as one of the very last additional actions in Framework 4, under DG III. Its purpose was to develop models for collaborative work between artists (the term here used in its widest sense) and technologists (ditto) and to promote these models by whatever means available. While some have criticised this aim as implicitly promoting a 1950s agenda of building bridges across C.P. Snow’s ‘two cultures’, there is no such intention here, rather that technology, particularly computer and communications technology (ICT) , is irresistibly intruding into what is normally thought of as creative work (and so practised by artists) and that, like any new technique, this has to be understood by its potential practitioners in terms of its true strengths and limitations. The specific problem that computer technology poses is that it is in principle malleable to such an extent that the limitations on its form and functionality are still barely understood, yet the people charged with the task of making the technology available have little or no understanding of the needs of creative users. What the artist usually sees is a tool which is in principle capable of being harnessed to creative ends but in practice resists being so applied. Quite often the tool is shaped more by blind economic forces than by a clear response to a specific, here creative, need.

CIRCUS came into existence as a forum in which both artists and technologists could work out how best to play to the strengths of ICT and how to apply both creative and technological solutions (possibly both together) to its limitations. In particular the then new Framework V programme invited projects in such areas as new media but required them to be addressed in essentially the same old way, by technologists working towards commercialisation. The only obvious exception to this was in the area of cultural heritage which, incidentally, CIRCUS was also capable of reviewing. The scope for effective participation by artists was thus limited by an essentially technological agenda although everybody at the time, the participants of CIRCUS and programme managers in DG III, believed that we could do far better than this, and to develop new models of working which could inform the nature of Framework VI or even the later stages of F V. It is fair to say that everyone involved was excited by the idea of doing something quite new (and iconoclastic), not least the expanding of the expertise base on which future Frameworks could draw.

It is also fair to say that, while not ultimately wholly original, the CIRCUS agenda was an ambitious one and the WG has had a chequered history peppered with misunderstandings perpetrated by the very people who might have thought would give the WG their strongest support. The CIRCUS idea has been aired before, specifically at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, the MIT Media Lab (and its imitators), and a recent IEEE forum. However a near total change in participation, fuelled by natural migration and a switch to DG XIII, has resulted in the CIRCUS agenda being restarted on at least one occasion and a fairly regular questioning of the principles on whose elucidation we are engaged. While this is no bad thing in principle, in practice we haven’t learned anything new from these periodic bouts of self-examination other than a reinforcement of the values our goals. On the other hand it is evident that we have made progress and have moved on a long way from where we started. A recent experience of a workshop whose agenda appeared to be to form another version of CIRCUS, this time with an overwhelmingly technological (DG III) membership, demonstrates they have a CIRCUS-worth of work to do before they will have reached where we are now. (Foreword of CIRCUS for Beginners)

Item Type: Book / Proceeding
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Humanities and Performing Arts
Depositing User: Carola BOEHM
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2019 14:40
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2019 14:19
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/5177

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