Network of Excellence in Internet Science

Opening innovation and knowledge: the relevance of Internet Science

open field

The approach we take to Internet Science has implications for art, science, and the future of knowledge. I've been travelling in the USA and Canada this month trying to understand the broader relevance of work we have been doing on open modes of governance.

In particular, I have been working with researchers from library and information science, fine art and art history to help them understand the insights we've gathered about governance and standard setting - and interdisciplinary work.

As part of JRA4 I have been investigating open modes of knowledge production involving internet hardware. I investigated the framework and rationale for developing an open source hardware license as an open source project. It continued by looking at the boundaries and overlaps between different kinds of knowledge as developed within this open innovation ecosystem. In particular, researchers based at CERN, the physics lab, played a significant role in integrating this kind of knowledge and developing consensus on how to best create an open hardware license (") that would keep knowledge in the public domain but also allow for innovation in the future internet. To understand how the questions of open source governance and its boundaries applied to different kinds of contexts, I visited an art gallery that had just completed a three year experiment in "opening" its practice.  The Walker Arts Centre (, in Minneapolis USA has just published a book about its three year experiment in open-sourcing art production on the field next to the gallery.

This project, called Open Field, solicits contributions and participation in creating all kinds of events on the field and at the picnic tables adjacent to the gallery. It has run over the past three summers an Sarah Shultz, the curator of public practice, discussed with me the different ways that art (in her project) and science (in the CERN OHL project) engage with the ideas of open source and collaborative knowledge production.

In science, as in internet governance, a tradition of peer review means that the authority of loosely organized groups is significant for creating the progress of knowledge. But in the case of art, the authority of experts associated with a gallery is still significant. Curators decide what is valuable art and what is not. In the Open Field project, the activities happening outside on the field were clearly separated from the curated projects mounted inside. The barrier? The wall of the gallery, and the entry fee. Sarah and I agreed to work together on a project discussing openness in art and science.

I took an extra day in Minneapolis and visited with Justin Schell at the University of Minnesota, who has just developed an Institute for Advanced Study Research on Code Work: Exploring Digital Studies Through Code. Justin is based in the DASH centre ( at the University of Minnesota library which is developing a cluster of research and capacity in data visualization, networking tools for research, and a thematic exploration of code as it operates across disciplines.  Justin’s centre includes several postdoctoral and doctoral students, one of whom runs a popular podcast on open culture called the OKCast ( I’ll be appearing on an OKCast later this summer, and likely returning to the University of Minnesota for an Institute event to speak more about open governance.

It turns out that the internet is an exemplar of for many ways of negotiating This underlines the importance of the interdisciplinary work that EINS is doing: although our joint research will help to understand the present and future internet it will also have significant impacts on areas that have also been shaped by the social and political shifts associated with the internet age.