— Cultural Sources of Newness

Archive
Tag "newness"

Officially, the WZB research unit “Cultural Sources of Newness” ended in 2014, but intellectually it continues to be generative. Michael Hutter, the former director, and Ignacio Farías, one of the senior research fellows, put their heads together to take the results of our research program a step further.

In the course of intensive discussions about the five cultural techniques* for generating newness that were specified in the research unit’s final report, they reduced the number to three, namely configuring frames, creating objects and risking valuations. More importantly, they realized that all these techniques are really ways of inducing indeterminacy. In a social world that demands innovation but is geared toward eliminating uncertainty and toward gaining certainty, it is not easy to install approaches that are oriented in the opposite direction.

Fortunately, the reviewers of the Journal of Cultural Economy pressured the authors to explain their choice of exactly three ways of sourcing newness. Taking up this challenge led them to take another step forward, resulting in an analysis that takes the fundamental temporal nature of newness into account. Their article demonstrates: Now really matters for sourcing newness!

 “Now separates and connects events that are already over from events that have not yet happened. Each of these three ways resonates with such a now, wedged between not yet and already over. For each of these three ways of sourcing newness, one of the two others constitutes the horizon of past events and the other constitutes the horizon of future events. As the durations of events follow each other, multiple nows appear and then disappear. Taken together, they constitute a circular process that maintains indeterminate situations. Three components are a minimal condition for temporal sequences in which present, past and future are kept distinct.”

The article makes the concepts come alive by illustrating them with a rich diversity of examples.

You are welcome to access the full text by clicking on the link below to get a free e-print:

http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/8wTXISH5gEpINxMPZ2Yg/full

* The five techniques identified in the final report were: 1) Bordering spaces and environments,  2) Suspending rules and routines,  3) Curating contributions and circumstances,  4) Translating forms of value, and  5) Valuating novelties.

 

 

 

 

Read More

Over lunch in Paris, during a break from reading a dissertation about creativity in research, I found myself reflecting on the connections between distance, anger and the new in academia. In the “Cultural sources of newness” research unit we point out that newness is a quality that is retrospectively attributed to an idea, a practice, or an object. Many things that are “new” are fleeting, and do not achieve the status of “newness.” But all new things are nevertheless significant for a moment, and may become a source of newness–or not–a shift that often depends on power relations. Three cases offered themselves to me during my lunch break, two of which entail anger, an ingredient I have not yet encountered in the literature on newness and innovation. I brought those two cases to lunch with me, then discovered a different one in the sunshine outside the restaurant. 

Read More

Conferences are interesting places for checking out how newness is generated. The professional purpose of these events is to share new research ideas and collect feedback in the hopes of getting their value recognized in the academic community. In other words, it is about establishing the newness of our work as scholars. The interactions between participants and with our materials in this process various kinds of moves between new and old. The EGOS 2014 symposium in Rotterdam this week, specifically in the track “Art, Design, and Organization” (ADO) offered a fruitful platform for observing and contributing to these moves.

Every year a new team of three ADO stream conveners develop a different approach to get us to walk the talk of combining art, design and organization in our process. As usual, all the participants had written and distributed our papers in advance, as required by EGOS. The conveners had sent us two kinds of instructions and one warning about the process they had designed for the 2.5 days: we were a) to prepare comments on the 4-5 papers in our subgroups and to look at the other papers in the track; b) to bring elements (e.g., image, object, recording) with which to introduce our paper in the opening session; and c) NOT to use Powerpoint presentation mode. Furthermore, they told us that the afternoon of the first day would be spent off-site at an arts school.

Pierre's Chair Installation

Pierre’s Chair Installation

Read More

There are at least three potential sources of newness offered by attending a PhD defence ritual abroad: you get to read a brand new thesis, you get to experience sparks of dissonance in the interaction, and you get to observe a (for you as a foreigner) new academic ritual. By accepting Ulla Johansson Sköldberg’s invitation to attend the defence of one of her PhD students, Marcus Jahnke, on Friday afternoon September 20th at the HDK – School of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg I had the great fortune to reap value from all three sources—and more: I witnessed the emergence of a new twist to the academic ritual.

PhD thesis Marcus Jahnke 2013

PhD thesis Marcus Jahnke 2013

Read More

“Things can work even when they don’t fit together” and “Misunderstanding can contribute to coordination”—these were the first two insights that David Stark shared with us at the workshop that we organized at the WZB June 26-28 in preparation of the book with the working title “Valorizing dissonance. Cultural perspectives on newness.” Where did we—a group of 17 academics from different parts of Europe and North America—go from there? One part of our agenda was to get from dissonance to newness, a concept that was foreign to many of our guests.

Beginning two days of discussions

Beginning two days of discussions

Read More
Sign of newness--designed by Bernhard Koppmeyer (photo Barbara Schlueter)

Sign of newness–designed by Bernhard Koppmeyer
(photo Barbara Schlueter)

How do you know newness when you see it?“–that was the question 20 participants at the Objects of Newness symposium worked on yesterday at the WZB. They had each brought an object that somehow represented newness to them. These included items as diverse as a magnifying glass, the cloud that enables big data research, an empty white plate, a small plant, and a mosaic with a (Luhmannèsque Differenz-)line found in a souk.

 

Sharing and comparing objects of newness (photo Barbara Schlueter)

Sharing and comparing objects of newness
(photo Barbara Schlueter)

Over the course of 65 minutes (the timing coincided symbolically with the 65th birthday of Michael Hutter that the symposium was intended to honor) the participants circulated from table to table, sharing and comparing their objects of newness.

Read More

The dean of the department of education of Philipps-Universität Marburg welcomed the participants at the conference Organisation und das Neuewith the observation that we were taking on a topic that is „widerspruchsvoll und brisant“. Can “organization”, i.e., that which orders and maintains, generate newness? He did not add “and can it do so here?” but that question was definitely on my mind as I looked around the venerable hall in the ancient university of Marburg, reminiscent of a cathedral with its organ and decorated windows. (The university was founded in 1527 and is the “oldest protestant university in the world”/Wikipedia).

 

Opening session in Philipps-Universität Marburg (photo ABA)

Opening session in Philipps-Universität Marburg (photo ABA)

Read More

One of the things that have been occupying me these past days is how to explain “cultural sources of newness.” The three reviewers of our book proposal with the working title “Valorizing Dissonance: Cultural Perspectives on Newness were very encouraging because they consider the area of research we are addressing to be “lively and emerging.” However, they were concerned that the cultural angle might be outmoded and that the concept of newness appears awkward or “baggy”. The concert I went to this evening, after sending off a response to the publisher this afternoon, brought the topic into focus. At Soundscape East Asia three ensembles with musicians and instruments from Europe, East Asia, South and North America performed at the Villa Elisabeth,  a somewhat dilapidated neo-classical hall in Berlin-Mitte. Their ambition was “to explore the field of tensions between artistic innovation and musical tradition, to invite intra- and intercultural dialogues, to open ears and to tempt into aural adventures.” (program notes Carmen Gräf; translation ABA)

 

AsianArt Ensemble setting up in Villa Elisabeth, photo ABA

Read More

John Hartley (Curtin University, Australia and Cardiff University, Wales), currently a visiting fellow in our unit at the WZB, is writing a book with Jason Potts  (a former visiting fellow of ours) on“Cultural Science”. As he points out, it is quite unusual and challenging to write a book about a science that does not yet exist but that needs to be envisioned and realized. In a seminar today John explained that he sees culture as the evolution of meaningfulness, and he gave us glimpses into the work-in-progress on the book. Here I share a few glimmers of those glimpses.

 

John Hartley explaining "What's New?" January 16 2013, WZB

Read More