Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

New Affective Models of Knowledge Transmission: The Medialab- Prado as a Trading Zone

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

New Affective Models of Knowledge Transmission: The Medialab- Prado as a Trading Zone

Article excerpt

The Medialab-Prado's models of the popularization of knowledge, science and technology and their relation to the construction of new collective cultural values are the main objects of study in this paper2. In my analysis, I employ the analytical strategies of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) developed by Bruno Latour (2005), who recommends using descriptions as conceptual tools in order to avoid the speculation typical of sociological studies.3 Using information gained through ethnographic and participant observation at the Lab, I adopt a similar approach when analyzing the Medialab's efforts to transmit scientific knowledge. While this approach yielded some results, I need a second approximation. For this reason, I combine an anthropological approach with Peter Galison's studies of transdisciplinary scientific processes developed in Image & Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics (1997). In Galison's book, in which one finds a complete history of microphysics, the author states that the construction of a creole language is one of the main significant facts in transdisciplinary approaches. The main hypothesis developed by Galison is that this process was developed through the trading zone: a place where the physicists: 'build around computers, statistics, electronics, and images,' (Galison 1997: p. 437) with a creole language (Galison 1997: p. 471) and translation in the use of devices from one laboratory to another (Galison 1997: p. 500-4).4 My intention is to demonstrate that the Medialab works as a trading zone of cyber-cultural ideas. This is proof of the transformation operated through digital mediated collaborative networks in the processes of transmission of knowledge. Moreover, it also shows how technology modifies our relationships with information. As Latour states, techno-scientific environments 'provided the most extreme examples of how small innovations could, in the end, become a "macro" feature of the "whole" world.' (Latour 2005: p. 180)

Latour's methodology is mostly related to anthropological techniques of observation. However, he always works with scientific groups which, focused on a determined discipline, have not linguistic problems when communicating because they use a very similar language. On the contrary, Galison (1997) works with transdisciplinary groups of scientist and engineers and discovers that they communicate through a creole language. He analyzes the nature of this language through interviews and direct interaction with the historical actors, and not just through an observational approach. Taking into account that these transdisciplinary approaches also take place in the Medialab's "citizen labs", I suggest that these linguistic processes cannot be understood only through observations. For this reason, I directly interact with the actors of "citizen labs" and obtain explanations of their dialogue in order to understand this linguistic process, with the intention of analyzing these processes of "creolization" and transmission of knowledge through this new language. I apply these methods of analysis from Ben Anderson's "affective atmospheres" perspective (2009 & 2014).

In the first chapter of this paper, I will do a brief overview of the Medialab's history. I will also describe the center's structure models. In the second chapter, by using Latour, I describe a case of knowledge transmission in a textile design workshop that took place in the Medialab in 2015. However, this section ends by showing the limits of the observation-description methodology and anticipates the third section. Here I demonstrate that the methodology developed by Peter Galison allows us to understand in greater depth the observed learning and dissemination processes. It complements the observation, fulfilling Latour's descriptive methodology. This forces us to arrange interviews and get involved more actively in said processes. In conclusion one present the Medialab as a "trading zone" of digital culture, with some analogies with the great Big Science laboratories. …

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