In this talk I will sketch my PhD project, which explores the figure of the “laboratory” as mobilised by international artists and designers based in Barcelona to investigate their modes of collective organisation and forms of alternative knowledge creation. My key research participants are creative professionals, predominantly the art collective BeAnotherLab and the designers of the makerspace Fab Lab Barcelona, who invent new technologies through which they seek to change the world for the better. While there have been numerous studies of scientific laboratories in anthropology and cognate disciplines, comparatively unexamined in the literature is the role of the laboratory for knowledge processes in the field of cultural production. Yet the increasing relevance of the “laboratory paradigm” as an emerging framework for creative practices in both art and design suggests that the narrow conception of the laboratory as a space for science limits our understanding of how knowledge is produced today. In my thesis, I focus on creatives’ laboratory practices, which, I argue, afford modes of collective organisation and alternative forms of knowledge production in tension with institutions of the academic-industrial complex. Rather than producing “scientific facts”, I demonstrate how artists and designers’ create novel experiential environments for exploring, inhabiting and critiquing our contemporary relations with science and technology.


Norma C. Deseke is a PhD candidate at the Anthropology Department at the University of Cambridge and a visiting researcher at the Anthropology Department at Stockholm University. She is also part of the independent research collective BeAnotherLab which draws on art and neuroscience to create embodied Virtual Reality and other media experiences. In her research she focuses on how knowledge is being created with and through digital technologies in the fields of art and design. She conducted her PhD field research in Barcelona. She is especially interested in people´s visions for a better world, human-machine interaction and forms of knowledge creation through transnational and interdisciplinary work/life experiences.