Tuesday, July 3, 2007

at de Waag Society for Old and New Media

Today I went to visit de Waag and met with Bart Tunnissen and Sher Doruff who are finance manager and head of the research dissemination program, respectively. This was an interesting meeting because de Waag takes a very different approach from either Piet Zwart or V2; though they conduct research they are not academic and they have a very broad target audience, and have many community connections. Though they have not been around for so very long--11 years, they have become very important in shaping the agenda for the "creative industry" in the Netherlands, in part it seems because their founder and director general, Marleen Stikker earlier created the "Digital City" in Amsterdam, and so has been a real pioneer in this area. Also, like V2_, they have established a reputation for good practice and innovation.

So where to begin, well Bart gave a brief run-through on the history, but that's on the website so I won't repeat it. Mostly they talked about how they go about connecting with the community, choosing projects and carrying them out, and then some about funding and those challenges. They get 6-10 proposals per week and make a first pass through them to look for those that will a)match one of the 4 domains and 6 programs they have chosen to focus on, and b) appear to have a good chance of really succeeding--I'm not sure how they measure that though, except it may mean they can create new knowledge that eventually leads to a new product heading to market.

Bringing products to market seems to be one of the bigger challenges for de Waag, because the Netherlands doesn't have so many venture capitalist types (comparatively). --After the tech crash I'm not sure how easy it is anywhere, really. This is one way the are really different from PZI and V2_ though, in having this as a goal. But they also emphasized that you can't start working with a partner and have profit as a goal, or why would that partner trust your intentions? Intellectual Property issues are thus a double concern for them, both in theory but also in their practice. --In fact I think this must be quite tricky and I will have to email some follow up questions because de Waag really emphasizes what they call a "user as designer" approach, so if something does eventually end up being developed for the market, then what? Who is the designer and to be blunt, who profits? I admire the approach for its Freirean quality, and I think it certainly would strengthen the commitment from community groups to a project, and strengthen ties between them and de Waag, besides of course being more educational for everyone. I appreciate though how balancing different concerns takes real skill.

Well, there is more to say, but today Remediating Lit. starts and I have to get ready for the trip to Utrecht.

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