#1160: Interview with MIT Co-Creation Studio’s Book Authors of “Collective Wisdom: Co-Creating Media with Equity and Justice”

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 change

Cizek, 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.”

10 Principles of Co-Creation (source)

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.

  1. Create projects that don’t originate from the single-author vision. Rather ideas originate from relationships.
  2. Create projects that emerge from the process, potentially with many outcomes rather than solely outcome-driven processes.
  3. Make media with people and from within communities, rather than for, or about, them.
  4. Reframe who gets to tell which story, who owns it and why. Grounded in principles of racial equity, narrative sovereignty, and digital justice.
  5. 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.
  6. Ensure all partners respect each other’s expertise, including first-hand experience. Challenge power dynamics, and prioritize inclusion, equity, and diversity.
  7. User appropriate technology, workflows, tools, protocols, leadership, teams and roles, and multiple modes of storytelling.
  8. Ensure that impact, sustainability, healing, and reciprocity are paramount. How will communities benefit from the project?
  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.
  10. 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.

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Music: Fatality