[-empyre-] about Brooke's post

Timothy Conway Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Sun May 26 02:39:40 EST 2013

Dear Brooke and Gaby,

Thanks ever so much for raising the issue of collaboration and corporatization.  Many of you might have come across the widespread publicity disseminated by Cornell University, where Renate and I teach, regarding the new Tech Campus it is building on Roosevelt Island in New York City, in partnership with the City and Technion University of Israel.  A large emphasis of this publicity is a new collaborative model of Master's education in Technology (primarily in Information Science and Engineering).  The collaboration in this case is between big tech industry and graduate students eager to glean profits from their training in higher education.  This model of higher education/corporate collaboration is well know to all of us (its precedent was collaboration between higher education and the defense industry) and is being promoted by the governor of New York State (who just authorized the free use of university buildings for tech start-up companies -- at a time when the arts and humanities have no funds for basic teaching needs).

So I'm so grateful to you, Ricardo, Gaby, and others who are emphasizing the empowerment brought by collaboration on not-for-profit models of artistic practice and social engagement.  We all know that this is an uphill battle.  For the moderators of -empyre-, the articulation of these issues, even in the relative quiet of the natural glories of May, situates new media praxis on a different plane that found in so many of our cultures and universities as they face massive cutbacks in the arts and cultural sector at the very time when we need alternative models of social collaboration the most.

Renate and I are now off to celebrate the university graduation of our son who with his classmates in Art at Cornell have been engaging in various levels of just such artistic collaborational practice.  We strongly believe that alternative voices and practices do alter the grain of the hegemonic voice of our corporate driven global culture.






Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
A. D. White House
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York. 14853
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Brooke Singer [brooke at bsing.net]
Sent: Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:08 AM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Brooke's post
Hi Gaby,

Thanks for bringing up scale. This is one of the reasons that brought me to
collaborate in the first place and I think one of the most powerful forces
that bring people to work together. You can do more than you can alone. You
can do things that you can't do otherwise. The social aspect, it's more fun
to work with others than by yourself, was compelling for me as well. That
fun should not be overlooked (as Renate is bringing up in another
thread...); it has to do both with our social being-ness but also powerful
ways of learning. In my past collaborations, primarily preemptive media, we
worked side-by-side a lot of the time, learning from each other and
learning through doing. We had our own specializations but over the years
those lines blurred a lot. Division of labor, or factory style, helps to
speed things up and cannot be dismissed altogether but I tell my students
to not rely on that method solely because you will miss out. Collaborating
is skill sharing. There is also the important role of the one not "in the
know" who will most likely question assumptions and automatic ways of
working that happen when have done something over and over again for a long

Also something that I came to realize after starting to collaborate was how
important group work is as incubator for socially engaged or issue based
projects. The work originates from conversation, debate, struggles, mutual
aid -- not from a single perspective.

The corporatization of which you speak is pervasive. (I see it starkly in
the language of grant writing these days.) The corporate world is very
hierarchical and antithetical to what I describe above, but then so is
academia. I try to counter it in my courses by replicating what I have
found to be successful in my own work: bringing together disparate groups
of people with differing skill sets (that is the leveler) but a common
desire. In the specific class I mentioned before the common desire is to
further the mission of the non-profits with which we work (hand picked by
me). Most of the semester is reading, discussion, brainstorming, testing...
the final production of the work is only the last couple of weeks. By
emphasizing or making space for everything but the finished project I keep
everyone in the space of experimenting and learning longer. There is time
to learn each other's languages, work different angles, learn through
doing, prototype, beta test, fail (...or not just make a company website
for the organization who does not know how to build one!). It was
interesting for me to see in the 3 groups that I worked with this term that
only one resorted to a clear hierarchy where a student stepped into the
role of the director. It's will of course be really interesting to see over
the next decade how collaboration pro/regresses in cultural production and
what it means to students who are digital natives, immersed 24/7 in social
media and grow up with the mass marketed concept of sharing.


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