Founded in 1994 in Basel, “THEswissTHING” provided a Bulletin Board System (BBS), website, and a media lab for artists and cultural producers. Inspired by sharing culture, they sought to reframe artistic practice outside the institutional art world and approach it as infrastructural labor.

The project “Sharing Knowledge in the Arts” analyzes what we can learn from this experiment to design novel research infrastructures in and for the arts. We aim at a) analyzing “THEswissTHING” as a bottom-up initiative for sharing knowledge to understand how ethical issues of sharing were negotiated in this context and b) learning from those insights for current Open Research Data (ORD) publishing practices.

While practice-based research in the arts has existed in Switzerland for more than twenty years, there is a lack of infrastructure to bridge the gap between researchers’ every day sharing practices and open research repositories. Our analysis of the “THEswissTHING” will inspire the development of community standards for sharing and open research data in the arts. Combining approaches of art history and media studies with archival and critical infrastructure practice, the project investigates the role of a pioneering project in testing radical open access practices in the arts.

The project conducts practice-based research towards analyzing “THEswissTHING.” The primary source is the private archive of founding member Barbara Strebel in Basel, which contains digital and analog data documenting the publishing, pedagogical and infrastructural work of the “THEswissTHING.” We will collect, organize, describe, and secure the archival material. Archival analysis will be complemented with stakeholder interviews to contextualize “THEswissTHING” within the recent history of artistic knowledge practices, the history of media labs, and radical open access approaches. Further, the project designs and develops an interface to publish the research data exploring the socio-political connotations of “openness” in FAIR ORD practices. Based on this design research, we will reflect on the processes of sharing the project’s research data.

The project’s team combines art history, design research, and media studies expertise and cooperates with digital preservation experts, digital humanities scholars, and audio-visual producers. We draw on research on artistic knowledge practices and critical infrastructure studies, such as the investigation of research infrastructures and experimentation with open access and open research data. Our findings aim to produce reflexive feedback between digital preservation, scholarship, and design around sociotechnical imaginaries of accessibility and openness in sharing knowledge in the arts.

Contribution to Workshop «A Media History in n+1 Sources»

24 November 2023, University of Basel.

Event «Daten, Datenbanken und Datenmodelle in den Geschichts­wissen­schaften – Digital History in der Schweiz»

14 November 2023, University of Bern.

Panel on databases of historical material from a designer’s perspective.