10-12 December 2009
University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain 

Conference Report from the Chair

Across disciplines, intensive or topological approaches to the study of culture treat change as normal and immanent rather than exceptional and externally determined. Culture is understood in terms of possibility and topological approaches provide a set of tools to think about engaging different kinds of change - learning, transmission, innovation, adaptation, self-organisation and evolution. This conference asks: what is the potential of topological and other intensive approaches for thinking about change? It explores the value of thinking about culture as a privileged site or mechanism for change, but it also asks how and why the question of change is being posed in relation to culture today. This question is especially important at a time when calculation and complex technical systems have become ubiquitous elements in human life, in specialised sites of scientific enquiry and in everyday life. In contemporary society, numbers do not just describe but they construct and - in topological thinking - take on virtual properties, building abstract spaces of calculation and opening up the possibility of new perspectives on the questions of cultural predictability and innovation.

What are the tools, techniques and artifacts of thinking topologically about cultural change? What spaces do they make? How can the current development of material culture of topological thinking be taken into account, reflexively, as a research topic? What are the cultural implications of the growth of technical systems, quantitative calculation and ideas and procedures concerned with number, counting, and logic, the increase in lists and registers, and the rise of logistics, of innovations in thinking about linkages and technologies of address, and the combination and organisation of these operations into systems in everyday life? What kinds of engagement are adequate to the task of thinking and acting in response?

Finally, the conference will also address issues of method, and in particular examine the current interest in the use of quantitative methods to investigate and understand qualitative change. Can anything - or everything - be measured in numbers? What role do modeling, simulation and experimentation have in the study of culture? How can we understand cultures of qualification? What are the implications of studying culture for the uses and meanings of numbers?



More than 160 delegates world-wide attended the ATACD conference. Countries represented were: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Sloveniam Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.
The Student Day was attended by more than 25 postgraduate students and the cultural policy event on Topology, Innovation and Cultural Policy attracted an estimated local audience of over 70 participants.


Topology, Innovation and Cultural Policy
Arts Santa Mònica, Saturday 12 December
Organised by: YProductions in collaboration with Goldsmiths and University of Barcelona
Download the Report here

In recent years the concept of innovation has been introduced into the cultural sphere, importing some of its meaning from management and economic theory but also acquiring a new dimension as a consequence of the peculiarities and singularities of the sphere. An alternative approach to innovation has emerged in the last decade that presumes that the cultural sphere is a space in which knowledge is produced in processes of collaboration. This collaboration takes place in spaces in which agents are actively connected to each other, in which public institutions, universities, cultural agents and private firms create virtuous networks aimed at sharing and transferring knowledge, ideas and objects between each other. Innovation is understood as a context rather than as an output, and is to be found in the creative basins that lie at the heart of the cityfs life. The role of policy-making agencies seeking to support this form of innovation is unclear; how can policy promote emergence rather than designing top-down cultural schemes? This form of innovation is inspired by movements such as free/open software, and encourages forms of cooperation as opposed to competition. It implies self-organization, encourages new ways of measuring value and gives autonomy to cultural agents. All these changes present important challenges to policy makers who are used to defining culture as a static element or completed work that needs to be preserved and protected. In this new scenario, the aim is to maximize the circulation of objects and ideas in ways that enable collaboration.
This panel will address the problems that come from trying to apply this dynamic view of culture to the design of concrete measures or institutional structures aimed at managing culture. Cultural policy has traditionally operated with a notion of culture understood as a set of closed artifacts. Many new agencies are challenging this notion and are designing policies aimed at reinforcing cultural networks, promoting the emergent properties of cultural production and designing complex spaces of interaction between institutions, technologies and cultural producers. The following debate aims to analyze the extent in which these experiments can help to redefine cultural policy and how can these ideas be transformed into specific measures.
This half-day event will run for 3 hours, after a brief presentation carried out by YProductions each speaker will do a 20 minute presentation followed by a 15 minutes Q&A. The event will conclude with a 30 minute round table with all the speakers.
Speakers include:

Jose Luis de Vicente (Barcelona, Spain)
Ramon Sanguesa (Barcelona, Spain)
Monika Fleischmann (Bonn, Germany) -
Ronaldo Lemos (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Arts Santa Mònica , 10 December 2009 - 28 February 2010
Curators: Josep Perelló and Pau Alsina
Arts Santa Mònica ( ) housed in an exceptional building on the Rambla in Barcelona, is a space of convergence and crossover between the different disciplines of contemporary artistic creation and science, thought and communication.
Attentive to the cultural mutations and social changes accompanying the transition to the knowledge society, and working in conjunction with universities and academic institutions, research institutes and centres for the production and presentation of art, science and communication, Arts Santa Mònica generates ideas, projects, research and materials that stimulate dialogue between the local and all it has to offer and the global dimension of society today.
Cultures of Change proposes to explore social and cultural dynamics from a radically multidisciplinary perspective. The new technologies in the realms of Artificial Intelligence or the Internet and other digital communication tools have made it possible to visualize, monitor and quantify aspects of our society and culture in ways that were all but unimaginable until very recently. At the same time, the theory of complex systems, which seeks to explain these phenomena through the collaboration of science, is regarded by some as playing a very significant part in this research. The exhibition aims to open up discussion about multidisciplinary practice and the problems bearing on communication between closed disciplines when studying cultural and social communities.
The following partners from the ATACD research network have been invited to participate in the exhibition: Celia Lury, Goldsmiths, Richard Rogers, Amsterdam, Alex Adriaansens, V2_, Tiziana Terranova, University of Naples gLfOrientaleh, Luc Steels, SONY LAB, Florian Cramer, Piet Zwart Institute.

Arts Santa Monica, Wednesday 9 December
Organised by: the ATACD postgraduate student research network
A post-conference report from the Student Day can be downloaded here 
The Student Day will be a training day involving postgraduate students participating to the conference. It will consist of a workshop-based session that will facilitate facilitate an exchange of ideas and encourage interdisciplinary discussion and two eynote presentations chosen from the list of plenary speakers participating in the conference. It is hoped that the Student Day will enhance participantsf awareness and understanding of topology and cultural dynamics and offer an insight into the potential but also the limitations of the topological approach. Active participation from all those attending will be encouraged in a relaxed and friendly setting.
The attendance of the Student Day is free of charge, but participants must register in advance of the event. Those who have registered for the event will be contacted in the weeks preceding the event and asked to prepare a short text responding to the keynote presentations (these will be publicised in advance), as well as a statement on how their research relates to the topological approach to cultural dynamics.
Keynote speakers
Alex Arenas, Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Rosi Braidotti, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands
Xin Wei Sha, Condordia University

Morning Session
09:30 Registration
10.00-11.30 Opening and workshop
11.30-12.00 Refreshments
12.00-13.00 Workshop with Xin Wei Sha

Afternoon Session
14.30-15.45 Introduction and keynote presentations (Alex Arenas and Rosi Braidotti)
14.45-16.15 Refreshments
16.15-17.00 Discussion of keynote presentations


Plenary speakers included: 

Rosi Braidotti, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands
Matthew Fuller, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
Alex Galloway, New York University, USA
Penny Harvey, University of Manchester, UK
Dirk Helbing, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Scott Lash, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK
Richard Rogers, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Brian Rotman, Ohio University
Luc Steels, SONY-France, France
Sergi Valverde, University Pompeu Fabra, Spain
Eyal Weizmann, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK