Networks for art work
Frédérik Lesage, PhD
A thesis submitted to the Department of Media and Communications of the London School of Economics
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, London, June 2009
Frédérik Lesage, coordinator of the MARCEL Observatory at LSE, has successfully defended his thesis based on a detailed case study of specific aspects of the MARCEL Network. The field research took place over a 31 month period from September 2005 and involved participant observation, interviews with over 30 respondents, and extensive document analysis. The overall research project was made possible by an EDS MARCEL Studentship from the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. If you have any questions or comments about the research, please contact Frédérik at
The principle objective of this study is to examine the culture of networks that are implicated in the production of culture, specifically as it pertains to artists’ design and use of digitally networked information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the production of artworks. The analysis in this study seeks to reveal a better understanding of the working practices that underpin artists’ creative engagements with new media while recognising the significance of discursive continuities that inform such engagements.
Theoretically, a case is presented for combining several theoretical perspectives into a multi-layered conceptual framework for examining the circulation of power as it relates both to artistic creativity and to technological innovation. The former is accomplished through a critical assessment of the production of culture theoretical tradition. In calling upon concepts of discursive conduct as a means of developing relations of power, the concept of maverickness is proposed to understand how certain artists do not necessarily bring about change in an art world but instead dedicate themselves to the production of artistic creativity through a contention among various conventions. The latter is problematised drawing upon theories of mediation to develop a model of the conversion and classification of new media standards into art world conventions. A novel methodological approach is developed based on the development of multiple biographical threads of an individual and of a technology within a single case study of an art world network.
Empirically, the thesis contributes insights into the diverse and contingent collective work practices involved in the design and use of ICTs by artists for the production of artworks. The findings suggest that individual artists are able to develop designer roles consistent with their situated understandings of creative conduct for modifying aspects of the ICT infrastructure despite shifting technological and social new media standards. However, in order to coordinate such roles within wider collective social structures, artists also initiate forms of mediation, articulation, and classification work that extend beyond the production of artworks and into attempts at programming art world networks within which such artworks were produced and distributed.