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iRes forums at Networks of Design conference, 5 - 6 September, University College Falmouth, Tremough Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, UK

iRes will present two forums during the conference Networks of Design organised by Design History Society and University College Falmouth. Each forum will take place on Friday, 5 September, in Seminar Room 5, Peter Lanyon Building, Tremough Campus, University College Falmouth, Penryn, Cornwall. "Virtual Networks, Social Fabrics" will start at 10:45 - 12:00, and "Beyond the Limits of Networking" will start at 13:30 - 14:45.

Forum Virtual Networks, Social Fabrics is a result of virtual collaboration between artists, researchers, curators and theorists based in Europe and United States. We propose to consider it as a nodal point realised through an encounter, a meeting point where the projects, Department of Reading, Plausible Artworlds and New Models of Curating?, which run independently of each other, get together. This encounter deems to open various textures and tonalities within which to discuss the kinds of sociality possibly created within the projects. During the forum we will indicate the complex relations which exist between technological and social networks.
The forum will be chaired by Kate Southworth and the forum members are Sönke Hallman (Department of Reading), Scott Rigby (Basekamp / Plausible Artworlds) and Magda Tyżlik-Carver (iRes / New Models of Curating?).

This forum is a part of a research project New Models of Curating?, initiated by Magda Tyżlik-Carver, Research Assistant at iRes cluster at University College Falmouth. The main task of the project is to consider if it is possible to recognise and distinguish how curatorial activity is modelled by the specificities of Internet environment and within the structures of social web and its networked systems.

Beyond the Limits of Networking forum considers creative practices that utilise and critique orthodox networks and protocols in several ways. Forum members are: Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett (Furtherfield.org), Patrick Simons (glorious ninth) and Dominic Thomas. The panel is chaired by Kate Southworth (iRes Research Cluster and glorious ninth).

Attuned to ongoing social changes emerging with the rise of the network-based society some artists have shifted their attention away from making objects towards the realm of human relations, devising myriad situations within which participative activities take place. The material impact of the network on our everyday lives develops in us a heightened sense of that which is invisible: rather than focussing on objects as markers of reality we begin to understand the world in terms of processes and relations, change and interaction. And whereas tangible borders mark the parameters between objects, network artists have found it necessary to use 'protocol' to call attention to and mark the borders between one set of relations and another.

Discourses around networks, however, point to inherent contradiction within the logic of networks: They facilitate relational activities such as cooperation, collaboration, participation, sharing and community whilst simultaneously controlling the parameters of those activities through the use of rigid protocol. At a social level the contradiction of the network is such that as well as promoting qualities of openness and connectivity it tends towards a logic that incorporates and assimilates the activities of participants or rejects them if they lie outside the protocols of participation.

Attempting to resist this protocological orthodoxy, and with it processes of colonisation and commodification, some artists have turned to political strategies of counter-protocol - typically used by hackers - where fissures, cleaves and splits in the network are exposed and exploited. Other forms of resistance to network protocol take the form of socially-engaged art in which artists work directly with communities developing creative practice within the everyday in which the 'rules of engagement' or 'situation of participation' are either devised by the artist or in collaboration with participants. Valuable as these strategies of resistance are in critically engaging the logic of the network, it could be argued that to an extent they exist within that self-same logic, and to an extent then become trapped in that logic, forever having to innovate to survive and unable to think an alternative. Perhaps it is possible to imagine a 'supplementary' network that uses 'fragile protocols' to loosely mark a place within which encounters without intentional organisation can take place?