The book Collective Wisdom: Co-creating Media for Equity and Justice by the MIT Co-Creation Studio founder Kat Cizek & MIT Open DocLab founder William Uricchio was the named as the recommended book of 2022 by IDFA. They held a launch party during DocLab as well as a couple of different sessions, and I had a chance to catch up with Cizek and Uricchio in Amsterdam on the day of the launch party to get an overview of what they’re covering in their book.
This definition of Co-Creation that they provide in the book gives a great overview of some of the themes they’re covering:
Co-creation offers alternatives to a single-author vision, and involves a constellation of media production methods, frameworks, and feedback systems. In co-creation, projects emerge from a process, and evolve from within communities and with people, rather than for or about them. Cocreation also spans across and beyond disciplines and organizations, and can also involve non-human or beyond human systems. The concept of co-creation reframes the ethics of who creates, how, and why. Our research shows that cocreation interprets the world, and seeks to changeCizek, K., & Uricchio, W. (2022). Collective wisdom: Co-creating Media for Equity and Justice. page 19. The MIT Press.
Many emerging technologies like virtual and augmented reality naturally lead towards co-creative strategies because it’s such a novel medium that requires a lot of interdisciplinary collaboration. At the beginning of their chapter on co-creation within communities, they point out how the non-fiction and documentary genres are typically early adopters of technology, and how this spirit of innovation often requires a degree of co-creative and collaborative strategies.
Non-fiction filmmakers have often been at the forefront of innovation with emerging technology. More than 90 percent of the films copyrighted in the first decade of cinema were documentaries. Some of the first color films, the first sound films, and the first uses of portable synchronous-sound technologies were documentary. So too, when cameras came off the tripods and documentarians literally took the technology and ran with it, they followed life as it unfolded in front of the moving camera. These highly adaptable forms of innovation are closely connected to extended circuitries of co-creation yet are often attributed to single authors.Cizek, K., & Uricchio, W. (2022). Collective wisdom: Co-creating Media for Equity and Justice. page 75. The MIT Press.
On June 12 2019, Cizek posted the seeds of a Co-Creation Manifesto listing 10 Principles of Co-Creation, which were synthesized from “listening to 166 people and reviewing 260+ projects in [the Co-Creation Studio’s] new study COLLECTIVE WISDOM.”
The authors showed these 10 Principles of Co-Creation during one of their talks during IDFA DocLab, and I used these principles to help guide our conversation.
- Create projects that don’t originate from the single-author vision. Rather ideas originate from relationships.
- Create projects that emerge from the process, potentially with many outcomes rather than solely outcome-driven processes.
- Make media with people and from within communities, rather than for, or about, them.
- Reframe who gets to tell which story, who owns it and why. Grounded in principles of racial equity, narrative sovereignty, and digital justice.
- Work with citizens, communities, and scholars across institutions, across disciplines, in a shared, parallel discovery process. These processes are often entangled with non-human systems.
- Ensure all partners respect each other’s expertise, including first-hand experience. Challenge power dynamics, and prioritize inclusion, equity, and diversity.
- User appropriate technology, workflows, tools, protocols, leadership, teams and roles, and multiple modes of storytelling.
- Ensure that impact, sustainability, healing, and reciprocity are paramount. How will communities benefit from the project?
- Not only interpret the world, but change it. Tackle complex problems by acknowledging a multiplicity of points of view, and ensure that solutions come from within communities.
- Share and learn. Be open. Contribute to transparent, open, and public knowledge frameworks.
There are a lot of themes of Process Philosophy and process-relational thinking that are embedded into these 10 Co-Creation principles, and I reference my interview with Whitehead scholar Matt Segall in Voices of VR podcast episode #965 as well as my deep-dive conversation in episode #1147 with philosopher Grant Maxwell covering the 13 philosophers who think in a process-relational mode. Also see my talk on applying Process Philosophy to VR as given to other philosophers at the “Exploring the Humanities” event hosted by Old Dominion University’s Virginia Philosophy Reality Lab.
Moving beyond a singular author, and focusing more on the process and cultivating community is a pretty significant paradigm shift, and this Collective Wisdom book is a deep dive into researching the communities of practice, projects, and organizing principles that embody the spirit of co-creation.
This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.
[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. It's a podcast that's looking at the structures and forms of immersive storytelling and the future of special computing. And you can support me on Patreon at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So today's episode, I'm going to be continuing on my series of different interviews that I did at IFA DocLab in Amsterdam, 2022. And there's actually a recommended book of 2022 that was from MIT Press and the MIT Co-Creation Studio and the MIT Open DocLab. It was called Collective Wisdom, Co-Creating Media for Equity and Justice. And I had a chance to sit down with the two co-authors and facilitators of this book, which actually includes many different collaborators, and it's kind of a group co-creative process, embedding their own ideas of trying to get beyond the single authorship. So this was the recommended book of 2022 from IFA, and I wanted to read their definition of co-creation, which I think will help set a broader context. They define co-creation as co-creation offers alternatives to a single author vision and involves a constellation of media production methods, frameworks, and feedback systems. In co-creation, projects emerge from a process and evolve from within communities and with people, rather than for or about them. Co-creation also spans across and beyond disciplines and organizations and can involve non-human or beyond human systems. The concept of co-creation reframes the ethics of who creates, how, and why. Our research shows that co-creation interprets the world and seeks to change it through a lens of equity and justice. That gives a broader context of what they're trying to do. There's a lot of overlap between immersive technologies and the future of spatial computing because it is integrating all these different aspects of interdisciplinary collaboration. That's been a huge theme of The Voices of VR. And there's also this focus of the community and the process, and so moving into this more process-relational context, which is a lot of the themes that I've been also trying to highlight with, like, Alfred North Whitehead's process-relational philosophy and interviews that I did with Grant Maxwell, tracing this evolution of this process-relational thinking. So, yeah, there's a lot of deeper themes that are coming out in this work, and we go into the different chapters, what they're covering, as well as there's 10 principles of co-creation that were synthesized from listening from their 166 people that they interviewed, as well as 260-plus projects that they feature within the context of their book that just came out. So, we'll be diving into all of that and more on today's episode of the Ways of VR Podcast. So, this interview with Kat and William happened on Monday, November 14th, 2022, at the IFFA Doc Lab in Amsterdam, Netherlands. So, with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:02:55.659] Katerina Cizek: My name is Kat, Kat Cizek from Toronto, and I'm a documentary maker by trade. I've been making documentaries for decades, but I turned into the digital pivot maybe 15, 20 years ago. And I worked at the National Film Board of Canada for a decade, working on two major projects, Filmmaker in Residence and High Rise. And towards the end of High Rise, I met this group of folks. at MIT Open Documentary Lab, William and Sarah, who were putting together the lab. And I really felt for the first time, oh, here's a home. Here's a home for the world, for the community. So I was really honored to join in anything that they did. So I think I became a visiting artist through a wonderful program at MIT that William and Sarah triggered. And I kind of just stayed. So, and then we started talking about creating the co-creation studio, which was really flowing out of personally from my work at the film board and even previous to that. And that's how we founded the co-creation studio at Open Documentary Lab. And I'm the artistic director, co-founder, and the research scientist.
[00:04:09.500] William Uricchio: My name is William Uricchio. I'm a professor at MIT. Comparative Media Studies is my domain. I founded the Open Documentary Lab back in, I don't know, 2011 or thereabouts, really with the idea of trying to both interrogate the implications of a lot of the new media technologies, non-linear technologies for the documentary, and especially technologies that were in the hands of people. Cell phones, for example. What does that mean for who tells stories? What kind of stories are told? And the idea behind the lab was really to try to link up not just the makers and the scholars, but also the technologists and the funders and the festivals to really look at the whole ecosystem, bring the components together, and use the lab as a forum for exchange with that group. And there was an opportunity and a need. And I think on our side, there was a need to really be a lot more articulate about the methodological implications of what we were doing. What does this mean for how we make and why we make? That was part of our remit, but it was always overshadowed by the technology part. And the opportunity was Cat. Cat's amazing work in the sector and the fact that we could try to lure her over to the other side of the border. And that's where the co-creation studio came from and thus this project.
[00:05:24.331] Kent Bye: OK, yeah, one of the things that I find really fascinating about the immersive industry is just how it's an interdisciplinary fusion from people from theater and film. And there's game design and human-computer interaction. So I'd love to get a bit more context for each of your backgrounds and as you're leading up into both the co-creation studio as well as the open doc lab. And so what kind of other disciplines you're bringing in through your own path?
[00:05:47.875] Katerina Cizek: I came out of journalism and documentary, but really from a community-based perspective. So I wasn't entering filmmaking, or creating newspapers, or working at radio, or any of the kind of interventions that we were doing from the idea, I want to make a film, or I want to be a journalist. But it was really out of seeing the power of media in the hands of people. So I turned to media and media making, which was video cameras and the early camcorder revolution, and I came to it from that context, from a community organizing and justice and advocacy, human rights advocacy perspective. And then it really didn't matter. I always considered myself platform agnostic in the sense I wasn't attached to a form. And so that led me through cycling through all the technologies that developed at the time. And then when the web came, you know, as a place where video was viable, that was, I think, was a real transition point for all of us in the audiovisual world. and at the time I was working very closely with Peter Wintonic, who is certainly a legend here at IDFA, but I think in the documentary world a legend on many fronts, including his very early visionary approach to new media. So I was very lucky to work with him on a film called Seeing is Believing, which traces the history of the Handycam and communications technologies in human rights advocacy and the news, how they interrelate with broadcast technologies and broadcast approaches. And we worked with an organization called Witness, which is a human rights media organization founded by Peter Gabriel and the Lawyers for Human Rights in New York City. And so that really expanded and had me very deeply connected in that intersectional place of technology and society and human rights. And from there, the web was exploding. There was a really interesting moment where it became possible to do this stuff, to co-create, to work together around the world at an instant. So that was really a spark for me and I didn't turn back. People would always say, well, are you ever gonna make a film again? And it was just not, you know, that wasn't my interest. It's never why I came into it. And the incredible opportunity I had at the National Film Board of Canada for over 12 or 13 years working on those two big, big projects, they gave me absolute full license to work with any technology that came along and also to experiment with content and methodology. Inspired by the Challenge for Change program at the National Film Board of Canada, which back in the 60s and 70s was partnering filmmakers with community activists. So again, looking at how film might work in a community setting to transform people's lives or policies or relationships. So really found a home at the film board. So it's always that intersection. It wasn't just about the technology. It was never actually about the technology for me. Although I love technology and I love what affordances it brings us, it's more the mission that's always been where I come from. So story first, people first, and then keeping an eye on the technology and then making the match when the right moment comes as a maker.
[00:09:05.637] William Uricchio: Well, Cat and I share an ancestor, an intellectual or inspirational ancestor, George Stoney, who for a time ran the Challenge for Change program at NFB and whom I met at NYU when I was doing my PhD, master's maybe, PhD, one of them. And George, at that time, had stepped out of the NFB and was a professor teaching documentary. And documentary was my passion, both as a maker, I came into the academic track from a maker's background. A little bit like Kat, from a community maker perspective, did a lot of, in the earliest days of the Portapak, working with communities in New York to tell their story, to work with them to find stories and tell them. A lot of it around trying to shift electoral politics. 76 was a really big year for us and so it goes way back. Anyway, I took the academic track and documentary was what I pursued. And the primary interest I think that turned out that I had was really looking at emerging technologies. So how is it that a bunch of wires and tubes and technological possibilities cohere into culture? They sort of freeze at a certain moment and then, oh, that's film. It's 35 millimeter. It does this or that. How does that happen? And when does that happen? And why does it happen? So I really have been kind of, I guess, primarily a historian who looks at that stuff, whether it's the emergence of the book, in the 15th century and what implications that has, why it froze where it froze, right up through pretty much any technology around us. And use that knowledge to kind of look ahead at what's coming down the pike and see if I'm right, see if I can anticipate those trends, but especially think about it in terms of who has the power. because especially when it's an emergent technology and you kind of understand the dynamics, it's possible to intervene and make these technologies more accessible and to have more people participate, more people responsible for their own representation. So yeah, so that's intellectually where I came from and academically where I came from and what led to the lab focused on documentary and sort of anticipating what's coming down the pike and trying to make sure it's available to people.
[00:11:06.378] Kent Bye: We're here at the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam, IPVA, and it's been 35 years since that's been going on, and then we've got the DocLab, which is now in its 16th year, and then you said that the MIT Open DocLab started around 11 years ago, and then the The co-creation studio at MIT started around six years ago, so maybe you could trace the story of how the MIT OpenDocLab and then the co-creation studio, the turning point for what led to the founding of each of these organizations. Since you're both at MIT and then collaborating on this book of co-creation, I'd love to get a bit more context of the OpenDocLab and then the co-creation studio.
[00:11:40.576] William Uricchio: Sure. The OpenDocLab comes from a very specific space in the academy, the program in comparative media studies that Henry Jenkins triggered back in, I guess, 99 or 2000. I was the first person pulled in as a new professor in that space. And one of the really wonderful things about the comparative media studies program is that it's not just an academic program. We used to use the phrase applied humanities. It's very much about testing our theory, by doing. And the way we did that, and also the way we funded our students, because we paid for all the students who came through the program, was by having labs. And the labs were imagined as sites of intervention at the front lines of whatever cultural sector they faced. So it could be media literacy, it could be civic media, it could be games, always at the front edge of that. And OpenDocLab was one of those labs, and the one I started, because of my interest in the sector, And, you know, it really allowed us to jump right to the front ends of where this field is developing. We're part of the discussion at Tribeca, Sundance, Infa, you name it. Our students are there in the front lines, and we're there consulting with our colleagues, trying to make sense of what's happening and try to accelerate change for the better. So that's where the lab came from. It came from a peculiar, I guess, a very special kind of academic space that privilege is doing. The motto at MIT is mens et manus, mind and hand. It's an engineering ethos, I would say, but one we heartily embraced in this little corner of the humanities. Can't say this is shared by a lot of my humanities colleagues, but in our little corner of the world, it works, and it works brilliantly. So that's where the lab came from.
[00:13:15.272] Katerina Cizek: We share a lot of ancestors, I would say. As William mentioned, George Stoney and the history at the National Film Board of Canada. This particular kind of movement and tradition within the documentary that really goes back to its early beginnings. And also at IDFA. So when DocLab was beginning, that was really the beginning of HiRISE. We had been here with Filmmaker-in-Residence when Peter was doing the Doc Agora tour of the world, introducing the festivals to the technologies. So that was where we first launched Filmmaker-in-Residence. And then I think two years later, it felt DocLab started and we came with the first pieces of HiRISE. It was out my window, we did an installation, well it was the first installation here at DocLab and it also won the inaugural DocLab award. So we were already circling around each other and certainly in the same nodes of the same network and then OpenDocLab emerged and with High Rise, we started thinking with the producer, Jerry Flahive and I, we started thinking about trying to articulate and manifest the principles of co-creation in a more formal way at the National Film Board of Canada. So we started talking about the possibility of a lab in part inspired by DocLab, inspired by Open Documentary Lab, this idea of creating a place for process rather than just a production unit at the National Film Board of Canada. And we developed the idea for a while, but eventually we started talking about it and William said, bring it here. So that's how it kind of became a thing. It became something viable. I think it took the flexibility and the openness of the lab, of Open Documentary Lab, and also the scholarship. I think the emphasis on trying to give this some deeper roots and thought. So that really was the genesis of it.
[00:15:08.145] Kent Bye: You mentioned the high-rise a couple of times at NFB. What was the remit of that or was the intention for that organization of how that started?
[00:15:15.439] Katerina Cizek: HiRISE was an experiment. It was about seven years long. It was a seven year experiment and it resulted in about five or maybe six major documentary, digital documentaries, often experimenting with new technologies as they came along. So the first pieces were still done in Flash when Flash was a thing, but then we were moving into WebGL. We were the first documentary to use Depthkit. you know, we were really experimenting with, I would say, what are now the foundations of some of the open source stuff that we're seeing circulating in other ways, mostly by different devices. And we were bringing them to festivals and to the public in innovative ways, through live screenings, through subway installations, through major radio pieces in Canada. It was really a global project and yeah, I think it had over 500 press mentions and a lot of awards. I think what captured people's imaginations about it was that we were equating the web or the digital possibility with the city. which in a way is what we're talking about now, is the idea of the physical and the virtual world somehow. What is that relationship? How do we embody both? How do we live through both? And that project really, that was the center, that was the thesis of it, by examining the vertical and the digital of our urban planet.
[00:16:35.241] Kent Bye: So what was the leap between looking at these emerging technologies, and was it a sort of interdisciplinary fusion of all these people working together? What was the catalyst towards this idea of co-creation that came out of the new media aspects?
[00:16:48.417] Katerina Cizek: Well, there were many forms of co-creation happening, both in Filmmaker in Residence, the earlier project, as well as High Rise. So there was a real community-based element to it, so we worked very closely with residents in High Rise buildings. In particular in Toronto, we had a group that we worked with for five years, but we also built relationships in other places around the world. So that was one form of co-creation. We also worked very closely with architects, professional architects, landscape, urban planners, and policy people. We worked very closely with the Tower Renewal Project at the City of Toronto. We also had academic partners. So we were built into these large, large grants with geographers and urban planners, both at York University and University of Toronto. So there were many forms of co-creation, and then we also had many technology partners. So often we would have these separate conversations for a very long time, not coming to them to say, we're doing this project and we need you to do X, but rather just to learn. It was like a real listening tour, like hanging out with residents in a high rise building for like doing participatory media projects to learn about what it's like to live in these suburban very detached places, a lot of new Canadians living there, very different kind of Toronto than what you think of when you see, you come down for TIFF or all the downtown type stuff, and then having conversations with critical geographers, with people who are at the forefront of reimagining high-rises, these modernist high-rises, as something more than just something to be torn down. but rather incredible resources, just great infrastructure that needs to be remodeled and rethought and reintegrated back into the city. So there was that conversation going on with those folks, and they weren't connected to the residents. They had these great ideas, but they had very, you know, they did some community consultation, but community-based work is not their thing. They're like policy and architects, right? And then the scholarship and the researchers were really building out fascinating, large-scale theories around global suburbanism. This notion that our city's suburbs have much more in common with each other than they do with the city, the downtown that they're attached to. That there is this huge phenomenon. And we were fascinated by that idea. And then we were having conversations with technologists about the latest, you know, this was an optimistic, happy time in the development of technologies. And then projects would emerge from those conversations and often iterate and change as we went along. And we'd introduce people to one another in different ways, different models to make things happen. And we had many, many projects flow out of that process.
[00:19:29.070] Kent Bye: OK, well, that helps set a lot of the larger context as we go into the co-creation studio. And so we're here at IFA DocLab 2022, and you have the launch of this book on co-creation called Collective Wisdom, Co-Creating with Equity and Justice. So I'd love to hear a little bit more context how this project came about and what is in this book that's launching here.
[00:19:48.530] William Uricchio: Yeah, co-creating media with equity and justice. Two key words that resonate through the project. Co-creation takes a lot of forms, and especially at this moment, it's striking. If you just track its frequency, it's starting to bubble up more and more in marketing discourse. And it's one of those words that risks very quickly becoming a hollow term. So the equity and justice part's really important to that. And one of the things the book tries to do is really lay out besides defining it and grounding it in cases, and there's a pretty fine level of granularity in terms of how this concept can operate with communities or with organizations, or even in speculative ways with non-human systems. It also is pretty clear on what can go wrong with it, how it can be abused and misused, and there are plenty of instances of that. So all to say, it's a word that needs to be pinned down, and that's what the book tries to do, kind of really exemplify it, see it at work, and show the pluses and minuses of this as a concept.
[00:20:41.335] Kent Bye: And so what was the catalyst for this book?
[00:20:44.116] Katerina Cizek: Well, originally, as we said earlier, we're going to just do 30 pages, a quick white paper, maybe interview 15 folks, just to kind of make sure we're on the right track with the idea. And it just grew and grew. And in the end, we interviewed individually 99 people. We did a lot of peer review, sort of bringing back ideas to feedback groups. So there were another 67 people that sort of fed back into our process. We had a symposium, we had major rewrites, and then we started inviting co-authors into the project because we really realized that it needed that de-centering of the singular author. That's what we're all, you know, that's what we're talking about. A co-creation for us, in its most simple definition, is just quite simply a set of alternatives to the singular author. And that's not that we're calling for the death of the author, but we're just trying to open up the spectrum of how people actually work. This is very, very common and you see it in so many people's practices and yet it is erased in the funding systems and festivals and the distribution systems. And so how can we open up and legitimate the process and bring it to light and not make people have to reinvent the wheel every time they're trying to co-create. So it's really just the first foundation for us. We're not trying to be like, hey, we've put our flag down and this is co-creation. Quite the opposite. It's more about saying, hey, there's all these practices that we're all doing in many, many different fields. And we're a lot closer to each other than we think. If we start understanding each other's language, maybe helping each other define some of the ways in which we work, that might help us move forward and create a next generation. of co-creation and interdisciplinarity that we struggle with still very much in the 20th century systems that we've got in place trying to deal with 21st century problems.
[00:22:34.152] Kent Bye: Awesome. So when I hear you talk about single authorship, I think about image release forms and how, when you're doing a documentary, you'll have the subjects sign over all these rights into not really being a part of the authorship process. I was speaking with Tessa from With These Hands and talking about the consent models and media production, where it's a one-time shot where you have an image release form, and you're surrendering over all of your rights and putting your story into the hands of the director or the authors or the creators of media. And it sounds like, yeah. With her process, she's trying to go into more of a ongoing process-relational approach that is ongoing consent, that is enthusiastic and ongoing, not a one-time shot, independent of all contacts. And so it sounds like there's this larger movement of getting away from this extractive mode of having one person go into a community, extract out the stories and take ownership of how those stories are told. And so I'd love to hear a bit more context of the history of that, because it seems like that's been an evolution of how a documentary is done. And then at what point does it start to turn towards trying to have more of a collaborative or deliberative co-creative process within the process of media production?
[00:23:43.488] Katerina Cizek: There's always been a history, I think, within documentary of a very collaborative and community-based approach. And I think William can really speak to that as a historian and scholar. But what was very quickly institutionalized was the media release form. And that's primarily for the funders and for the distributors to protect themselves. It's a risk management initiative. And you sign away everything and they get everything. And that's the model. And so there's a bit of a mythology within documentary that we're just so good about process and we're so great with folks and we take our time compared to journalists. We get to know folks. We're often from the communities that we're making work with. And yet you introduce these media forums that protect these large institutions. So I think there's always been that tension. And for me, it was really working as a filmmaker in residence in an inner city hospital, the project prior to High Rise, where I had kind of a culture shock learning from healthcare professionals about a different kind of consent process with patients in research. that had their own set of problems with them, but they really thought through a lot more profoundly the consequences, the ethical issues in participating in human research and going through Research and Ethics Board in a deeper way than just signing off a media release form. And we did a little bit of history, and I think the first informed consent was actually a vaccine development program, a research study in the early 1900s. It was an army, a U.S. Army initiative, but it was somebody who really cared about the implications of trying these unknown vaccines on people, thinking about, hey, what are their rights? How can we spell out for them what they're getting into? And that comes from a different place. So like Tessa, I think there's many of us who, once we start thinking about different power relations and who matters, who's centered at the, not just at the center of the story, but at the center of the consequence of the story as well, these forms don't work. even the university forums, the media forums, and we need to really rethink and renegotiate these relationships at the onset. So one of the things that we did in the making of the field study was go into a beautiful relationship, interesting relationship, with Detroit Narrative Agency, which is a small community group out of Allied Media Projects in Detroit, seeking to center stories of Detroit by Detroiters. And they were open to working with us, but they said, hey, let's put in writing how we're gonna do this, and they proposed a community benefits agreement. And it was a wonderful process because it really made us all sit down and talk about who owns these stories. Who gets to see them when? Who gets paid and why? How is it published? How is it credited? All those things that are just assumptions on a media release form that get signed in an instant. Take that apart and talk through it with people and co-create, co-own. Co-lead, decide together how this is going to go, like you said, on a daily basis. It's not just a one-time thing and the winner takes all.
[00:26:55.887] William Uricchio: And I guess lurking in the shadows of this whole discussion is capitalism and the issue of intellectual property. I mean, that's one of the manifestations. We can own an idea. We can own a textual form. And the rise of the author, I mean, if you just look at, it's not a coincidence that the invention of the author, so to say, and the coming of intellectual property coalesce in the early 18th century. If you really look at the practices of authorship, they're myriad and complex and often collaborative, but there needs to be a name appended to the ownership. We all grow up under that fiction, and folks like Barth and Foucault have certainly taken it on and debunked it. But still, it's a myth that we live with, and it's an operational myth. It's one that leads to these kind of release forms as one of many manifestations. So, what the book really tries to do is cut down these big trees of authorship and say, look, there's all this underbrush that's always been there of another way of doing things. It's where our languages come from. It's where our great stories and myths come from. We have done that as a species, not as someone who thought up the language and codified it. So let's find those practices because they're all around us. And they're especially prominent in, I would say, in marginalized communities, in communities that are a little bit off the grid of, that are, let's say, uninteresting to the exploitive classes. There you can see in communities this thriving as a methodology. So we really just looked around to say, where is this? How can we make it more visible? How can we learn from it? What do people have to say about it? And as Cat said, that led to really interesting collaborations with folks who just do this in a robust way all the time.
[00:28:29.416] Kent Bye: Yeah, as I was reading through the first chapter and scanning through the rest of the chapters, I noticed a theme of how you were having a lot of deliberative conversations or the way that it's structured as a book is different than other ways that I might see in sort of a singular or dual authorship that is more structured didactic presenting of information and so it reminded me of some ways of Tyson Yucaporto's Sand Talk where he's coming from an indigenous culture where he's trying to preserve the oral storytelling traditions of his culture and so it's a paradox to try to like write down and Concretize some of these ideas that are are living in an unfolding process within a relational context of a community And so he would write some stuff and then he would go to his elders and have these deliberative processes and then try to distill down Some of those insights and then go into other modalities of making a painting and trying to express it and other methods other than just the pure form of writing and so I was reminded of that as I was looking through this book of how you are the two authors that are listed on the front, but it's really a big, large, deliberative process that you're trying to do in this community production. So I'd love to hear a bit about your own process of creating this and how you start to maybe expand the forms of how books like this are traditionally produced.
[00:29:44.400] Katerina Cizek: I don't know how books like this are traditionally produced because I'm a documentary maker so for me it was really an interview process and then in terms of, we certainly had a thesis, we had a hypothesis around co-creation from the scholarship side from William and from me from personal both of us from personal practice but more recently at the specific stuff at the film board. And so we wanted to test those ideas and see what other people did in either the same or different ways. So it was a wonderful process of discovery that there are some themes, there are some principles that really come to the surface and over and over again you start hearing the same challenges, the same joys, the same kinds of ways of both working and being in the world. It's more than just a profession for most folks. It really is about a way of understanding the world and being in relation with each other as humans, as a community, often with animals and the planet. So that process was for me, it was really about not just preserving, but really keeping the text in a very, very quotational, like a lot, a lot of quotes and letting the tensions come out from the quotes rather than trying to somehow distill with a succinct synthesis. And that was the balance we had to strike in terms of you know, making it coherent, making it readable, but also really making sure that many voices and many differing opinions came through.
[00:31:19.457] William Uricchio: One of the curiosities of the term co-creation is that, at least last time I checked, it was not in the Oxford English Dictionary. And that really is the metric of at least the English language. And yet, if you do an Ngram search, it's really present, and it's old. It goes back, I mean, as a term, it goes back to the late 19th century, at least, in terms of whatever Ngram tracks. And that's really interesting, just to amplify what Kat said, it meant that we really had to go out, it's not about capturing a definition and reifying it, it's about looking at the many manifestations of it and finding where is co-creation practiced and how is it thought about, trying to give it form that way rather than trying to distill it into an academic thesis. So it's great that an academic press has taken it on, and it's even better that they've taken it on as a trade book, but for us it was really important to have this grounded in practice, grounded in relationships, grounded in case studies.
[00:32:11.182] Kent Bye: Yeah. And in the book of collective wisdom, co-creating with equity and justice, that part of the equity and justice, what jumped out for me, at least in the first chapter was how there are some of these marginalized communities who from the very beginning have been using these co-creative processes, but through different aspects of systemic racism, there's been a part of that history that hasn't been as widely known or documented within the larger academic spheres. And so I felt like there was a bit of trying to recapture some of that history with some of those conversations that were happening at the end of that first chapter. So I'd love to hear about how, as you were coming into this issue of co-creation, how there may have been these practices that have been happening for a long, long time that have been not into the discussion of the larger, broader discourse of this as a topic.
[00:32:57.920] Katerina Cizek: Yeah, I mean, I think the word is erased. Those practices were erased and continue to be in many ways. The operating system of media production, whether it's film, television, screen-based work, I think even within the XR community where there's a lot more flexibility around understanding the process and that co-creation really is at the heart of this work. there remains a really racist and colonialist approach to not recognizing how work is done within community. And that was a real learning process for us too, as authors, to really honor and make sure that that history is written by the people that know it, live it, have done it for decades. So that is certainly part of the section in the first chapter in definitions of co-creation. It's a long, beautiful section that emerged out of a conversation between five media makers of color. And then they worked on it as a text in Google Docs for many, many weeks. It was a tough process, but it turned out to be a really, really important one for us all to recognize that erasure and the need for that canon to be written.
[00:34:10.317] William Uricchio: And it's a complex issue because, of course, there's erasure. And that's, as Kat said, that's a really painful chapter to revisit in our own cultural history. And there's those maybe less egregious but still curious ways that we do it. Folk cultures. Well, there's real culture and then there's folk culture. There's amateur culture. And of course some folk culture and some amateur culture apes mainstream culture in the sense that it's driven by a single author or whatever. But I'm not trying to argue that these are synonymous with co-creation. But they're big sectors of our cultural practice that we've relegated to like another tier. They're kind of invisible. What we recognize is that when it's commercialized. A great example and maybe of both of these is the quilters at Gee's Bend who, when their quilts became hot on the market, everyone wanted an author's name, because who's the really interesting quilter? Which quilter is worth more money? And the women of that collective, women of color, said, no, we're a collective. I think one or two maybe broke from the group, but for the most part, they said, we are a collective, and it's not about my name or your name. We do this together. But, you know, we have such a rich history of this barn raising, all these practices that are really interesting community practices that are kind of invisible. There's not a name and there's not property behind it, so it doesn't really surface in our histories. So there's the kind of egregious active erasure of marginalized groups, and then there's just the quotidian erasure of stuff that we don't think about because who did, it's just a barn, it's just a quilt, but
[00:35:36.173] Kent Bye: So yeah, in this first chapter of this book, you're really setting the prologue and setting the broader context. And then the other chapters, you're doing deep dives into specific case studies that are exploring different themes. And so maybe you could give a broad overview of some of the other chapters and themes that you're exploring in this book.
[00:35:51.640] Katerina Cizek: Sure, so what we first do is there's a whole chapter on definition of co-creation in which we bring in a lot of voices and William does a really lovely history of the word co-creation and situating it historically and then the section with the five media makers of color. And then the next chapters are all about three types of typologies, three types that we identify that are more closely related than most people think when they're practicing in them. So the first is really within community, what's historically known as participatory media. And we try and really expand that, saying it's not just about putting the tools of technology in the hands of the people. It can be much more nuanced than that, where it's not just about who is touching the technology, but who is designing the work, who is coming up with the story, who's defining the research question in this exploration. And those can be all sorts of people that never touch the equipment. It's not just about who's holding the camera. There's so much more power. in the context of how work is made. And that's what we try and do there. In the second chapter, it's about disciplinarity, co-creation across disciplines, across sectors, across organizations. And then the third type is this more speculative human, non-human, where we interviewed 30 makers who work with slime mold, you know, cell structures, planetary systems, but also artificial intelligence. And we asked them, is it a co-creative relationship? And some of them said, no, you know, I'm an author. These are my tools. But we were surprised at how many actually said, no, this is definitely co-creative, like the feedback loop that we're getting here. You know, agency is a strong word, but what I don't know that's happening here, it's more about like not knowing as an author, like I'm not in charge of all this that's happening. feels co-creative. And so that was really exciting. That was really before a lot of the very, very important scholarship around artificial intelligence as well as justice issues with artificial intelligence had come out. So it was really exciting to see this really come online with a lot of that work like Ruha Benjamin and others. It reflected what they were saying as well. And then the last part of it is a field study. So as William said, we identified risks. which are very real in co-creation. It's a messy, difficult process and there's a lot of risk and there's a lot of failure. So we identified risks and then we talked with people in the field to help surface lessons to mitigate those risks and that's how that field study is structured. That's the structure of the book.
[00:38:28.237] Kent Bye: So one follow-up I just wanted to make in terms of the interdisciplinary aspect because you know in terms of looking at Comparative media you have different types of media, but I feel like even when I think about the film production process It's such a collaborative process from so many different disciplines and then when I think about XR it's like even more so bringing in different aspects of architecture and spatial design and future and lighting and cinematic storytelling and the sound design and all these other aspects of human-computer interaction and agency. And so it does feel like this interdisciplinary is a theme that I see a lot on my own podcast, The Voices of VR. But I'd just love to hear any other reflections of your looking at comparative media and how that interdisciplinary has evolved through these different media. Or to what degree is that emphasized when you're doing the type of comparative media studies?
[00:39:13.470] William Uricchio: Well, you know, arguably every media form is collaborative to one extent or another. And I'm thinking here of Howard Becker has in his art worlds, he has a piece on an author. And you think, well, an author, it's like a pencil and paper and doesn't get more single than that. And it's more about the guy who brought him coffee in the morning and the person who supplied his paper. Even that's collaborative. And the book takes pains to try to distinguish collaboration and participation and a lot of social media. You know, it's mostly us. That's what you see when you look at the page. But actually, it's we, the people being harvested by Mr. Zuckerberg to generate profits for, you know, Meta. So we're very careful to tease out these similar but different practices like participation, collaboration, whatever. The disciplinarity issue is a tricky one and we're already seeing that in terms of where will the book get reviewed and where in the bookshop does the book wind up. Does it wind up in the film section because it's media or does it wind up in the sociology section or community section because it's more about a methodology of working together with others. I think the key to the concept to go back to the first notion of participation and collaboration is who's there at the front end to think about what it even is and what it even will be. This is not a book about the end of expertise. Expertise is a fine thing and difference is a fine thing. It's about making sure that whoever is involved in this, whatever that we or whatever that community is, is there from the start and involved in making the fundamental decisions about what that will be. And then distinctions can occur. And there are myriad forms of co-creation. It can happen at different moments in the pipeline. So anyway, just to say that that celebration of multiplicity and multiple perspectives from the outset is really important. But where disciplinarily it fits is a tricky one because it doesn't. It's cutting across a bunch of different areas, you know, as Kat said, like urban design and city planning, civic media. It creeps into all of those areas and risks falling into the cracks because, like, well, where does it sit? What's the one word that summarizes this book? We were just at the bookshop here in Amsterdam where it's on display. And Kat found it up on the third floor with the film books. And I was like, well, not wrong, but maybe it could be somewhere else to maybe speak to the breadth of the concept. And so they moved it to the front of the shop, and that's a nice place to be too.
[00:41:29.407] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know that when I was reading through the first chapter, I had all these aha moments, recognizing what you're talking about in this co-creative process and my own process of doing oral history in the context of this community. And so there was a talk that was given here at IFA doc lab where you had these 10 points. And I'd love to just go through and maybe talk about each of these 10 points, because I feel like it summarizes a lot of the things that I was getting in terms of the takeaway. So the first one here is create projects that don't originate from the single author vision, rather originate from relationships. So I'd love to hear this idea of relationality rather than single authorship.
[00:42:04.831] Katerina Cizek: Sure. I think further to William's point about who is in the room at the beginning, you know, we all collaborate, as William said, in the making of films or in XR projects, but has somebody come in with a written script and a written agenda? And if so, then we might be looking more for collaboration, right? Like people who can fulfill that agenda. And this is not black and white. This is really a spectrum of practice, but who comes into the room and how the media product or the process itself is emerging out of the relationships formed in that room. That is the seed of co-creation for us.
[00:42:43.035] Kent Bye: And for me, when I see this, Alfred North Whitehead and his process relational thinking is giving this metaphysical paradigm that is moving away from substance metaphysics, which tends to see the world as these concrete static objects, into more of a process relational perspective of looking at the potentiality and the relationality of the nature of reality at the core level of the quantum level, but also in emphasizing the relationality amongst other people as well. So, yeah. I'd love to hear any other thoughts in terms of the philosophical implications of relationality versus things that are more in this static concrete object form.
[00:43:15.713] William Uricchio: Ken, you're the expert on this. Come on, enlighten us. No, really, I'm actually interested in what you have to say about that, because you're steeped in it, you've been thinking about it, and that resonance, I think, is there. I mean, so, this is trying to, I gave a talk yesterday about trying to step out of these binaries that were, you know, this Manichean divide that's cursed us since the third century. And part of that entails relationality, what you would phrase as relationality, dialectical kind of in-betweenness or transcendence. So, I'd really love to hear, actually, what you have to say about that.
[00:43:49.537] Kent Bye: Yeah, just one thought that I'll point people to is to go to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry of process philosophy because it creates this contrast between Western metaphysics being based upon substance metaphysics and how Whitehead and his approach is trying to create a metaphysical approach of seeing how all of the nature of reality is process relational. So the core of the nature of reality is all these relationships. The interview that I did with Grant Maxwell on his book of integration and difference constructing the mythical dialectic of how Hegel was creating this binary. And his idea of the Hegelian dialectic is that there was this totalizing whole, that there could be some sort of unity that is coming out of that, his end of history idea. And that a lot of the authors that Maxwell was talking about that are responding to that binary way of thinking. And so it's moving into this more pluralistic way of like Deleuze is trying to have, rather than the opposition, a more broader differential aspect. And so there's other aspects of relationality that could be outside of that binary way of thinking about things into more of a pluralistic way from William James, this pluralistic way of looking at things, not in terms of the singular perspective, but that how each of us have aspects of our experiences that are accurate, but a fragment of the total picture. So you really need to have a complex of all these different perspectives that are coming together so it leans toward this more relationality rather than seeing that there's going to be a one singular perspective. And so I think there's this polarization that happens in society that has this kind of binary framing of the left, the right, and if you are not willing to see the truth of the other perspective, then you get into the assurity of your own perspective without seeing that there's going to be things that are outside your perspective that are true but are not within the constraints of your logical system. And so I feel like it leads towards this more pluralistic process relational approach of trying to come up with these complexes of seeing how you're able to get to these deeper truths. And so as I was reading through this, I was seeing these deeper philosophical themes that I just covered in my podcast with Grant Maxwell that are articulated throughout these 10 different points.
[00:45:50.838] William Uricchio: Yeah, and just to really dumb it down a little bit, but it's at a place, at a festival like the one we're at right now, when you talk to most people, it's about the product. Have you seen this? Have you seen that? It's really about the thing. And I would say for what resonates through this book is it's about the relationships. It's about the relationships that are there that even make that thing possible. It's about the place of that thing in the ongoing lives of people. It's about the relationships forged between makers and communities, the various forms of makers within a community. So it's relational in a very literal, lived sense, that's for sure. And there's a product, of course, but that's just a piece of a much bigger set of relations.
[00:46:31.102] Kent Bye: Yeah. So going to the next points, number two is create projects that emerge from the process, potentially with many outcomes rather than the solely outcome-driven process.
[00:46:40.711] William Uricchio: Hear, hear.
[00:46:42.955] Katerina Cizek: I think we just did that one, no? You did that one Kent. We can just articulate a little bit more about that one. I think over the course of co-creative methodologies there is a tension between product and process and we chart in the book different waves. So at the National Film Board of Canada for example in the 60s and 70s there was like a rejection of product. I mean, the Challenge for Change, they prided themselves in making no finished films or very few of them. It was all about these fragments of films, thousands of them, that would be employed in community development processes. So it was really kind of privileging process way above product. And then there was a bit of a pushback to that in later community work that, you know what, product does matter and it does have an impact and a consequence in the world in ways that these fragments maybe don't. So, kind of a balancing of that and I think pretty much now, I think the people that we spoke to, the contemporary co-creators would argue that they're both important and they both need to be in balance with one another.
[00:47:45.909] Kent Bye: Yeah, number three is make media with people and from within communities rather for or about them.
[00:47:54.856] William Uricchio: So, it goes to the core of the relational thing, make it with people.
[00:47:58.629] Katerina Cizek: And from within. From within. This idea of what does that look like when you are the community as well.
[00:48:05.893] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's a phrase, nothing about us without us.
[00:48:08.774] Katerina Cizek: Yeah, I think we use it as one of the chapter headings.
[00:48:12.356] Kent Bye: Okay, number four is reframe who gets to tell which story and who owns it and why, grounded in principles of racial equity, narrative sovereignty, and digital justice.
[00:48:22.008] Katerina Cizek: This is very much about positionality and understanding that there are going to be very different stories told depending on who's the one putting them together.
[00:48:31.813] Kent Bye: Okay. Number five is work with citizens, communities, and scholars across institutions, across disciplines, in a shared parallel discovery process. The processes are often entangled with non-human systems.
[00:48:45.707] William Uricchio: So I think on one hand, this is a reference to the remit of the whole book, which has the community-centric part, the organizational disciplinary part, and the speculative non-human systems part. But it also goes to the plurality of viewpoints and relationships that you were talking about so eloquently a few minutes ago. I mean, this is the tangible way to do that, is really to reach out across those sectors.
[00:49:07.195] Kent Bye: Okay, number six is ensure all partners respect each other's expertise, including first-hand experience, challenge power dynamics, and prioritize inclusion, equity, and diversity.
[00:49:17.452] Katerina Cizek: Yeah, I think a lot of people sometimes think that co-creation means consensus, like a flattening of expertise and everybody's involved in every decision and it's, you know, potentially a mess, too many cooks in the kitchen. But in fact, in co-creative processes that we've been part of and certainly that we witnessed and document in the book, it's quite the opposite. It's really respecting each other's expertise and knowing who steps in for which decision when and having that more nuanced dance between those systems of knowledge and that means lived experience. That lived experience sits at the table with a PhD and has legitimate contributions to not just being the back end of an interview but designing the research question. at the beginning, you know, and that speaks to that power dynamic that, yes, we have different expertise, but we do not need to create a hierarchy of them. And I think, I mean, who knows where we are today after the largest layoffs in the history of the technology sector, but certainly technology and engineering have been sitting at the top of decision making for the planet for the last, I don't know, I don't know how many decades we want to put on that and look where it got us. So we need to really change those power dynamics and bring in those different voices. It's not enough to make bilingual computer scientists that have also a degree in art because we're not all going to have. a PhD in artificial intelligence as well as fine art. And that's not what we're advocating in the book. We don't need to all know everything, but we do need to start hearing from each other, listening to each other, and profoundly changing the way, the systems within which we make decisions. Our future depends on it.
[00:51:03.745] William Uricchio: Yeah, it's pressing. I mean, if you think of the complexity and scale of issues like climate crisis, a handful of experts and an army full of PhDs are not going to sort that. It's going to take working with the people on the front edges of that who have lived experience of it, who understand not just the implications, but the rhythms and the wherewithal. So it is pressing. It's really pressing to sort of reframe how we go, especially the complex issues.
[00:51:28.408] Kent Bye: Yeah, it's definitely been a theme at this year's DocLab, especially the conversations I've had around the pressing nature of those issues. So yeah, I'm glad that your book is actually providing a process that's starting in media production, but also is applied, like you said, beyond the context of film into really any process, this community-driven process. So number seven, use appropriate technology, workflows, tools, protocols, leadership, terms and roles, and multiple modes of storytelling.
[00:51:54.653] William Uricchio: That covers the basis. No, but there are a lot of issues that have to be dealt with here. Given that the system has been set up for the single author and intellectual property and ownership and control and all that, yeah, we have to really think about process much more carefully. And that has just a ripple, a domino effect through these other sectors. Why are we using a particular technology? Is this a proprietary technology or something that's accessible for people? Does it matter in this case? So I think this covers the basis of all the issues that really have to be rethought because our defaults are set up for a different system.
[00:52:29.430] Katerina Cizek: There's definitely a fetish in technology for the new and the shiny. And those are the ones that tend to get the press and the media attention, the festivals. But in co-creative projects, the new and the shiny aren't necessarily the most appropriate. So that's what we settled on there. And those were huge discussions at that point, really, when we brought it to our feedback sessions. That was a really big one.
[00:52:53.466] Kent Bye: Yeah, this one and going back to the previous one around technology and just thinking about social media of how much the algorithmic driving of trying to show us things that are novel but not necessarily, you know, useful for what we want to be as humans and yeah, just the larger context of social media of how it is been a bit of an extractive mode of people contributing their labor and their intellectual property and their ideas, but yet not really having a stake of how that's going to really sustain a larger community process that's really gone into a handful of these big tech companies that have created this centralization of power rather than distributed aspects of that wealth amongst these different communities. So, yeah, just to see how online advertising has sort of decimated the larger aspects of the local community papers. So I don't know if there's any other reflections you have in terms of the impact of technology and of how it has been the centralizing force that has taken a lot out of the ways that communities have sustained themselves through these community newspapers or other even local businesses.
[00:53:49.467] William Uricchio: I mean, I think what you just said is a succinct analysis, and the trick is that social media has found a way to scratch the itch of the social and the community without actually delivering. So it feels like you're with your friends, but the curation process is strategic and is extractive, but it still supplies just enough of the community feel that we let some of these other forms, these really interesting forms like community, papers or whatever wither on the vine. So I think that's what's so insidious about a lot of the social media, provides just enough to kind of get us to think about other thoughts. So yeah, I think an embrace of the community more robustly is essential.
[00:54:28.219] Katerina Cizek: And yet these technologies have incredible relationships with social movements. You know, these technologies are foreseeing is believing. Our film back 20 years ago now, that premiered here 20 years ago, we interviewed a Filipino sociologist who said that every social movement is connected to a new technology. So this is, he's talking about the fax machine and SMS on phones, and we can continue on to Twitter and the Arab revolution. and look where we are now, and yet it's a complicated history. There's movements that have relied on these technologies that are now, especially journalists, are scrambling with the downfall of Twitter right now. Where are people going to re-aggregate? So it's a very, very difficult relationship, and we're at a critical moment, I think.
[00:55:15.418] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'm certainly grieving the time and energy I've put into the platform like Twitter and cultivated network and then Elon Musk a billionaire makes an offer is forced to take it over and is in the process of Destroying it, you know week by week. It's been about a week or two now and it's it's like on the brink of collapse of just that kind of mindset of taking it over without really respecting the relationality of that community and the laborers that were a key part of making it so beautiful for what it was able to do. So anyway, yeah, it's something that's been deep in my mind as we talk about this. So moving on to the last three here. So number eight, ensure that impact, sustainability, healing, and reciprocity are paramount. How will communities benefit from the project?
[00:55:58.632] Katerina Cizek: Yeah, that's not an afterthought for the co-creators that we spoke to in our field study. It really is front and center at the beginning of the research design. And the motivation for a lot of the work is healing from a lot of trauma. A lot of these projects are in communities that have experienced and continue to experience huge forms of violence. So how can healing be part of the process rather than the media contributing to more trauma and more violence and without thought. It's not that outsiders necessarily mean to do that, but those are the consequences of not thinking through those elements and having a trauma-informed approach. Reciprocity, that storytelling is something that you do, it's a gift and it's an exchange. It's not just a one-way garbage chute. And what was the last one? I'm sorry.
[00:56:49.155] Kent Bye: Ensure that impact, sustainability, healing, and reciprocity are paramount. How will communities benefit from the project?
[00:56:55.349] Katerina Cizek: Yeah, and sustainability is a tough one. It's part of a big risk of co-creation is that there are often expectations that these projects will be around for a long time. And often the funding is attached to the media making. And when the media product is complete, it's really hard to keep sustained. That said, a lot of people find ways to make some of the things that are built, the networks and the community to continue to grow beyond the making of the media.
[00:57:24.293] Kent Bye: 9. Not only interpret the world, but change it. Tackle complex problems by acknowledging a multiplicity of points of view, and ensure that solutions come from within communities.
[00:57:34.823] William Uricchio: So this echoes both what you said earlier about relationality and it echoes Marx a little bit as well. Yeah, the idea is to change the world. Let's use media to do something, not just to reflect and represent, but actually to be part and parcel of transformation. So, you know, just to the last question of sustainability, the artifact may or may not be sustained, but hopefully the relationships that were part and parcel of the creation of that artifact live on and develop and go on to make other kinds of artifacts. So yeah. So change is fundamental to this. It's not about simply sites of reflection or representation.
[00:58:09.274] Kent Bye: Cool. And the last one, number 10 here, is share and learn. Be open. Contribute to transparent, open, and public knowledge frameworks.
[00:58:17.365] Katerina Cizek: Transparency and trust are key in co-creation. And without them, you're probably not co-creating. You aren't. There's no way you are. So transparency and in hierarchies and in, I think, conventional systems of power, it's OK for people to just be on a need to know basis. They don't need to know that. We don't need to share that with them. You know, that's not part of my job description, you know, and we've got to strip that away and be open and honest and transparent about what it is we're creating, why, how, who we're accountable to. We need to be accountable to community, to each other, and to ourselves. And part of that is a humility that we're always learning. There's an iteration in this. And the book is like an imperfect offering. It really is just the beginning of something. And even since we locked the last draft of it, it's remarkable how the people in the book have transformed and evolved with the ideas within the book. It's so exciting to see this work flourish and become something new. Like we said earlier, the next generation is coming.
[00:59:25.202] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know from myself as I was reading through this, just reflecting my own process, I was seeing how I think about these things reflected in each of these principles and yeah, just how you're articulating them so clearly and then also giving other examples of how other communities are doing these practices. I think there's a lot for folks to learn as we try to address all these complex problems of the world. So yeah, just as we start to wrap up, are there any other final thoughts around the book, around other messages that you want people to kind of take away from this? Because you're really putting forth a paradigm shift in some ways of moving away from maybe existing modes of production into this new collaborative relationality. So yeah, I'd love to hear some takeaways for, as we move forward, what you hope this will be as a catalyst towards moving towards these more open and relational processes.
[01:00:10.120] William Uricchio: Well, one thing I'd say is that I hope this opens our eyes to reassessing practices that are here now and that have been with us in the past. And, of course, that we continue to move in that direction in the future, but it's not just future-oriented. Yeah, the book is concerned with how new tech can allow us to do this in new ways, but these are, in fact, old and persistent practices that we just have been occluded because of the obsession with the author and the industries and the intellectual property bit. So let's just kind of look at the world around us with new eyes and discover what's already here and embrace that and foster that and learn from that as we move into the future.
[01:00:47.198] Katerina Cizek: We definitely don't want this to be a prescription for a bunch of boxes to tick in another form funding application. We do want to engage in conversations with funders, with institutions, with organizations, with organizers on how to change those structures and make this work a little bit easier to do. It's often our own systems that have trapped us from being able to do this. And we need to be more efficient as we do this work. We can't be butting up against ourselves. You know, we're just we're shooting ourselves in the feet when we try and make this work in systems around it that aren't working. So we've got to kind of take this to the next levels. And that's why we started the studio. That's why we wrote the book, is just to try and move the needle and push this up a little bit more and we're very hopeful because people are coming to us with, I think, a very authentic need to try and make this happen quickly.
[01:01:48.530] Kent Bye: And finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of this type of collective wisdom or co-creative processes might be and what they might be able to enable?
[01:01:58.532] William Uricchio: You know, right now the studio is doing a lot of project incubation, a lot of brainstorming with makers, and a lot of that's going up online, so we're learning. We're continuing to learn a lot about how this process plays out in the world, how it's playing out with radically different kinds of communities. We continue to learn. So I guess the one thing I would just say, and it's not a direct answer to your question, but folks should check in with the studio's website just to kind of keep up with our learning curve, because we're definitely, you know, what does this mean in terms of curricular development? How might one use these ideas with students who are learning production practices? Or how might one put this together with the notions of worlding and digital twinning? Where might that lead? So the horizon of this continues to move, and a lot of that learning is showing up on the studio's website.
[01:02:45.579] Katerina Cizek: Yeah, the enthusiasm that I feel for a spatialized web is almost akin to the enthusiasm I felt when the internet first came along. It's really the first time I'm feeling like there's a potential there for that kind of work again, if we can do it right. And that's the caveat. And I guess ultimately I would say that this is, it's not religious work, but it's spiritual work. I think, you know, the stuff is messy and ugly and complicated and painful often, but when it works, it's really poetic and beautiful and joyful. And it really puts us in touch with the beauty of life and the beauty of being part of something much larger than yourself. I think that's certainly why I do it. It keeps me waking up every morning.
[01:03:31.634] Kent Bye: Awesome, yeah. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader Immersive community?
[01:03:35.829] William Uricchio: Amen.
[01:03:38.680] Katerina Cizek: Well, we're up for rough waters. I do think that we're at a transition point, a really big one. And I'm not sure we know. I certainly don't. But there's a lot of huge, huge transformation happening within technology, within our distribution systems, within this very complex world of, well, we're in person, but maybe not for long. I don't know. So there's just a lot of unknowns. And Yeah, I don't think we'll be, we might not be having the same conversation in a year or two, for sure.
[01:04:10.099] Kent Bye: Yeah, I guess my final thought is that Lawrence Lessig often talks about, you know, he calls it the pathetic dot theory, which I think is more of a theory of looking at how there's laws that are written, there's culture, there's the economy, and there's technology, and that in some ways the technology and culture are on the bleeding edge of trying to bring forth some of these more, you know, through the metaphor of XR and these immersive technologies, you know, facilitating more of these co-creative collaborative processes that are really driven by the culture in the communities and that the technology can enable it. But eventually there's going to also need to be changes in both the economic and legal structures to kind of mirror some of this, because without that, we're kind of still in this institutional drive towards pushing us towards these single authorships or intellectual property. And that it's starting with the culture and starting with the technology and these community-driven processes, but it's a holistic process that's going to have to take these type of underlying process-relational ideas and thinking into these other modes of our economy and our modes of exchanging value and also our legal structures. But that this book is really at the frontier of putting that forward.
[01:05:15.371] William Uricchio: Yeah, and what's striking at this moment, I mean, there are a lot of stress in the system economically, in terms of the climate, you know, whatever. But if you just look around the planet at the number of strong men who are leading countries, I mean, a large number of countries have kind of flipped from a consensual democratic process to a cult leader. And the US is on the brink of you know, on the brink of that kind of a transformation as well. So I think that's really interesting. It is a sign, indeed, of impending crisis of some kind. And there's nothing, there's no antidote like collectivity, finding ways to coherently and progressively work together. There are dangers, of course. It's an easy system to tap and misuse and you know, populist and fascist movements are brilliant at doing that. So just to say that, yeah, this is a fraught moment and this is a methodology, again, with the emphasis on equity and justice, that it can be done right. It can also be the road to peril. So we have to really attend to this.
[01:06:13.620] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Kat and William, congratulations on the publication of this book. I know it's been a long process and I'm really excited for this to get out there and for the ideas to spread. And yeah, thanks for joining me here on the podcast to help unpack it all.
[01:06:25.235] Katerina Cizek: Thanks for having us, Kent.
[01:06:26.156] Kent Bye: This is wonderful. Thank you very much. So that was Kat Cizak, who's one of the founders of the Co-Creation Studio at MIT, as well as William Maricchio, who's one of the founders of the MIT Open Doc Lab. And they worked and collaborated together on this book called Collective Wisdom, Co-Creating Media for Equity and Justice. So I have a number of takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, Well, just as I am listening and hearing into a lot of the different themes that they're talking about, first of all, there's a lot of overlap into what's already been happening within the context of XR and immersive storytelling, because it does require this interdisciplinary fusion and trying to bring together multiple different perspectives to even understand what the medium is, but also bring together all the different stakeholders. Just like a film production includes many different disciplines, XR is kind of like amplifying that into other aspects of the game developers and the spatial designers and architects and experiential designers and interaction and the storytellers and the lighting and the theatrical elements and the staging and the interactive components from human computer interaction and the way to engage and make choices, but also this dimension of social media. So it's a complex of all these different elements that are all coming together. And the theme of trying to understand it as a process and a relationship and how to shift the balance of rather than going into more of an extractive mode and creating these asymmetries of power, but try to create it more and beyond the single authorship, which I think the director of IDFA is really confronting for somebody like IDFA, which is so focused on featuring documentaries that have such a singular, clear, authorial vision from the director to be challenged with what does it mean to kind of relinquish different aspects of that singular vision. You heard it a little bit in my previous interview that I did with With These Hands with Tessa Ratjuszynska, who was trying to get into new consent models where the folks that she's collaborating with are actually more on an equal pairing, where they can veto or have more of a cooperative approach for how they're producing their stories and their media, and not having it so that they have to relinquish total control into how their stories are communicated. So I think just in thinking about equity and justice and all these various marginalized communities and finding ways of both how the technology can be a balancing force, but also a completely different change in the mode of how the media are produced. And also how these underrepresented and marginalized communities have for a long, long time already been engaged in these different types of cooperative and co-creative strategies. And so a part of what this project is doing is looking at the racist erasure of a lot of these practices and from an academic perspective, trying to reconcile that by cooperating with a lot of different creators who are kind of telling these stories of how these processes have been ignored for a long, long time and erased from the history, and so trying to reclaim different aspects of that history of co-creation, but also featuring a number of different projects and creators throughout the different sections of the book, which is, you know, looking at co-creation within communities and in person, co-creation online and with emergent media, co-creation across disciplines and beyond, and then co-creation beyond humans and non-human systems. And there was the 10 Principles of Co-Creation, which we focused in on, and I think it might be just worth rereading through all those again that we went through. And so this is from a post that Kat Cizak made back on June 12, 2019. There's a Twitter post of these 10 Principles of Co-Creation that were synthesized from listening to 166 people and reviewing 260-plus projects in the Co-Creation Studio's new study of collective wisdom. and they were showing this graphic during one of their presentations at DocLab. Someone had taken a picture of it, and I saw it on one of the WhatsApp channels, and it helped me set a broader context as I was doing this interview with them. And so, just to recount those 10 different principles, which kind of create, in some sense, a manifesto of co-creation. So, number one, create projects that don't originate from the single author vision. Rather, ideas originate from relationships. Create projects that emerge from process. potentially with many outcomes rather than solely outcome-driven processes, make media with people and from within communities rather than for or about them, reframe who gets to tell which story, who owns it, and why, grounded in principles of racial equity, narrative sovereignty, and digital justice, work with citizens, communities, and scholars across institutions, across disciplines, in a shared parallel discovery process. These processes are often entangled with non-human systems. Ensure all partners respect each other's expertise, including first-hand experience, challenge power dynamics, and prioritize inclusion, equity, and diversity. Use your appropriate technology, workflows, tools, protocols, leadership, teams and roles, and multiple modes of storytelling. Ensure that impact, sustainability, healing, and reciprocity are paramount. How will communities benefit from the project? Not only interpret the world, but change it. Tackle complex problems by acknowledging a multiplicity of points of view and ensure that solutions come from within communities. And finally, number 10, share and learn, be open, contribute to transparent, open, and public knowledge frameworks. That gives a real broad overview of some of the major takeaways that we talked about here. For me, going back again to both the relational aspect of trying to be in right relationship to these communities in many different ways, there's a theme that goes throughout all these, but also focusing on the process. There's different elements that I was referencing in my interview with Matt Siegel, the Whitehead scholar, talking about process-relational philosophy back in episode 965, as well alluding to the 13 different philosophers that Grant Maxwell covered in Integration and Difference, Constructing a Mythical Dialectic, which is a very dense book and a very dense conversation, but I recommend going check that out in episode 1147. But going back into this conversation, how there's been such a focus on the end product of this object, which is a story that people see that has that singular authorial vision, and how when you start to move into this more process focus, then it becomes more about what are the media artifacts to either facilitate or document different aspects of a communal relationship. And so how can you create something that's going to facilitate and cultivate community in a way that may go beyond just a project that has a singular vision? And so getting many different perspectives, but also trying to facilitate this process of cultivation of community. For me, as I start to think about my own work of The Voices of VR, that's trying to document the different stories of people and get a little bit more of their story, their context, where they're coming from, and these multiple braids of their individual personal memoir, their story, and their journey into this exploration of immersive technology, but also their own specific processes for how they're creating their work and understanding has, they document their process and share their process and their journey that helps other people orient into understanding how that may unlock someone's own creative process. And then there's the story that they're telling, and so they're trying to also tell a specific type of story that they're doing. So you have these three main braids from their individual personal journey and story, the story that they're trying to tell, as well as their own process of how they're creating it. And so focusing on that process relational way, for me at least, has been a real insight for how to cover this community, especially for some of these projects that you may or may not be able to see. How can I start to document different aspects of the experience, share my own reaction to their stories that they're telling or their process, and have different questions and Yeah, so that's at least how, as I hear both Kat and William talk about different aspects of co-creation, it makes me reflect upon my own process of co-creation through the process of the Voices of VR project, which in a lot of ways is a co-creative process of people contributing their knowledge and information and stories to the wider community. So as I read through this book, there's a lot of things that resonate for me personally in my own creative practice, but also just reflecting the process of looking what's happening in these emerging technology fields. And there is this quote that I had read before at the very beginning, but I wanted to read it again because If folks are listening to this and wondering why am I so focused on documentary, well, first of all, I'm just a total documentary nerd. I love watching documentaries. But there's this quote from the book. It says, Nonfiction filmmakers have been at the forefront of innovation with emerging technology. More than 90% of the films copyrighted in the first decade of cinema were documentaries. Some of the first color films, some of the first sound films, some of the first uses of portable synchronous sound technologies were documentary. So too, when the cameras came off the tripods and documentarians literally took the technology and ran with it, they followed life as it unfolded in front of the moving camera. These highly adaptable forms of innovation are closely connected to extended circuitries of co-creation, yet are often attributed to single authors. So again, going back into not only the documentary as a form, being on the forefront and the bleeding edge of, as you have new emerging technologies, what better thing to do to look at reality and reflect it in different ways? So documentarians are naturally at the forefront of these emerging technologies. which is why, when you look at the frontiers of immersive storytelling, why the structures and forms of documentary have been such a key part of developing that. Going back to Hunger in L.A. with Nathalie de la Peña, who took these field recordings of a man who's collapsed from a diabetic shock of being so hungry that he isn't able to get enough sugar into his system in time and collapses in front of you. And so, in Hunger in L.A., you're actually embedded into a virtual recreation of this. But at the foundation of a lot of Nathalie de la Peña's work and frontiers of immersive journalism and immersive storytelling have been at the foundation of journalism and documentary as a form. So, yeah, as I go through Sundance, New Frontier, South by Southwest, Tribeca Immersive, Venice Immersive, IFA DocLab, and other regional festivals around the circuit from Five Hours to Geneva and Sheffield Docs and Vancouver International Film Festival. So lots of different festivals. And for me, a common theme has been these immersive stories that are really pushing forward and innovating in ways that stories are being told. Of course, there's other genres as well and animation and other genres that have been a part of it. But for me, I've just been, you know, really fascinated with the documentary. So also, we'll just wanted to throw that in because that last phrase of how, you know, kind of the collective innovation that's happening in these communities are also this relational process that goes above and beyond what an individual can do. There's this relationship to the new emerging technologies and what's possible for artists, but it's all in the context of this innovation cycle that has all these other relational dynamics and so often attributed to single authors, but has a deeper relational context that's there as well. And documentaries being 90% of the first films, I think also reflects how documentarians have been on the bleeding edge. So I highly recommend checking out this book. There's a lot of case studies and very rich and online. There's an executive summary. There's even a interactive co-creation wheel that goes into different dimensions of all these different aspects that they found. It's a deep, deep dive that they're distilling down many different symposias. And there's a collection of manifestos that they've done. And yeah, just a lot of resources that they have not only in this book, but also on their website of the co-creation studio. as well as the MIT OpenDocLab, which I've done a couple of interviews with William Ricciu before, and I'll be covering more in-depth again here with another interview that I did with Sarah Wallison to be able to dig into a little bit more of the MIT OpenDocLab. So, that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the WUSES of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a less-supported podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. so you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voices of er thanks for listening