Emergent Distinctions in an Interdisciplinary Collaboration

I have just read this very interesting article by anthropologist James Leach who for a number

of years has been studying art-science practice as an anthropological phenomenon ( and

also groups in Papua New Guinea ( this in itself is a trans-disciplinary feat )





I think he really illuminates fundamental social and epistemological realities

He states

“I pursue an exploration, through ethnographic material, of the way that dis­
tinctions between art ­as ­knowledge ­making and science ­as­ knowledge­ making
emerged for the participants of this interdisciplinary research.”

But more interestingly he links this to the way that intellectual property

approaches arise from these different cultures:

“Intellectual property law is based on a fundamental divide between expres­
sion (copyright) and utility (patent). Expression has potential aesthetic or artistic
value, while patents apply knowledge for practical uses. Both require novelty,
but in a different sense for each: expression is based on the right of an author
over a novel creation, while utility is based on a demonstrable effect on the
material world with no reference to aesthetic value. ”


I have flagged this as a key text for the SEAD white paper that we are currently developing:





The Self of The Scientist, Material
for The Artist
Emergent Distinctions in an Interdisciplinary Collaboration
James Leach


Abstract: This article analyzes ethnographic material from several art
and science research collaborations that were funded under a single
funding scheme in the UK between 2003 and 2006. The material illus­
trates the way that distinctions between aesthetic value and utility
value emerged during the interactions of the participants. It outlines
how conceptual positions about the contrasting value of art and of
science shaped their collaborative practice. I relate key distinctions
that emerged in their statements to the parallel division in intellectual
property law between copyright and patent. The intention is to show
how seemingly natural and given differences that inform both law and
disciplinary practice are generated and regenerated in a manner that
divides persons, things, and disciplines in the very  practices that these

categories reciprocally inform and shape.