This article analyzes ethnographic material from several art and science research collaborations that were funded under a single funding scheme in the UK between 2003 and 2006. The material illustrates the way that distinctions between aesthetic value and utility value emerged during the interactions of the participants. It outlines how conceptual positions about the contrasting value of art and of science shaped their collaborative practice. I relate key distinctions that emerged in their statements to the parallel division in intellectual property law between copyright and patent. The intention is to show how seemingly natural and given differences that inform both law and disciplinary practice are generated and regenerated in a manner that divides persons, things, and disciplines in the very practices that these categories reciprocally inform and shape.
Emergent Distinctionsin an Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Art-Science Collaborations and a Technological Culture
Recent experimental collaborations in the United Kingdom have brought artists and scientists together in order to explore new possibilities for research. There is a particular sense of timeliness felt by organizers and participants of these projects that, in part, mirrors concerns about the trajectory and implications of scientific research more generally in society. Faith in the transformative power of technology is combined with explicit concerns over how much control humanity is able to exert over the dynamic of technological development. Highlighting an analogy with Papua New Guinean ritual, I suggest that the scheme discussed here is one of a number of ways in which people attempt to take control over powerful forces beyond their everyday experience—in this case, the apparently 'runaway' character of technological development and the implications that this development has for social change. The article is framed by a discussion of the role of social-scientific evaluation in the scheme.