Originally, the objective of the workshop was the production of the common good. Since medieval times, the workshop has been a place for learning and teaching craftworks. For example, xylographic printing workshops, typographic cutting and foundry workshops, typesetter and illuminated manuscripts, among others. The creation of a single object, such as a book, united various workshops in an organized manner. The function of the workshop is thus threefold: linking social life, producing goods, and distributing knowledge.
During the second half of the XX century, the workshop acquired a new understanding that differed from the original purpose. it became a space for alternative education that was open to pedagogical exploration and experimentation. For instance, ‘The blueprint for counter education’ (Stein & Miller, 1970) serves as a portable learning environment for a new process-based model of education. This bookwork is proposed as a self contained workshop facilitated by a book and composed by a series of visual posters. Imagine: a workshop facilitated by no human. Today, there are workshops about poetry, design, yoga and dancing, workshops to develop psycho-emotional skills, and even workshops to manage workshops.
Some other workshops are about computation, herbalism and dreams and/or secret depictions. Or even, there are workshops that work as a playground to play, exchange common goods, or meet new people. While some workshops take place as a physical experience, some others might happen ‘online’ in the networked and programmable media. There are workshops that last one hour, some last a day, and others last generations, practised and shared among families of artisans. The format of the workshop is as flexible as the content that is played.
Under the context of the fourth industrial revolution, the idea of the common and “the social” are questioned by the constant privatization of cultural goods and natural resources. What do we mean when we use the pronoun ‘we’? Who are the actors coming together within a workshop? How do we socialize and empathize with our environments? Who are the owners of production of the common goods? Which are the borders of the workshop as format?
“Some other workshops manifesto” thus observes innovative ways to produce and distribute knowledge. Also, it looks for different ways to assemble the social within the workshop format.
So then, the workshops aim at knowledge dissemination and production, practical problem solving and the development of (the) common good(s). This manifest proposes parameters to visualize the workshops in this historical context and to understand it as a creative practice; such as writing, painting or performing.
1. Time, space and purpose
- The workshop is limited by the time and space.
- The workshop’s objectives don’t limit the workshop itself, but they do draw the workshop horizon.
- All workshops always have purposes, even when they refuse to have them.
- The workshop is an agreement between participants.
- The workshop facilitator is another participant with administrative credentials during the workshop.
- The workshop facilitator is an old-fashioned way to call somebody who accompanies during a learning-working process, he, she, they, or it (if the facilitator is a non-human actor) is a partner.
- A workshop is a tension between participants in space-time.
- The participants of the workshop are actors. so they do act or, even better, they make others act.
- Some of those actors are visually manifested; some others sound like the wind. and some others are a set of instructions.
- The workshop participants are not necessarily humans. For example, there are biological actors in a parmigiano-reggiano cheese workshop, such as the bacteria that ferments the cheese for months. or computational actors, such as the algorithms behind the user experience in a video conference room. both of them are non-human actors.
- All the actors’ actions leave traces of their presence.
- Some actors are presented during the whole workshop, some others last an eye glance. When an actor is not performing, does it become an artifact?
- The social is an emergent system where the actors interact. Some of those interactions are meant to be, some others are spontaneous and meaningless.
- Each interaction can be designed or inducted with a specific purpose.
- Other interactions can not be controlled. They do belong to spontaneous events, like errors. Those interactions belong to the unpredictability field.
- The nature of each system is entropy.
A set of workshop interactions with a purpose are the workshop dynamics. They draw the structures and they hold the workshop intentions. For example, some workshops repeat the discourse as propaganda. They produce deliverables, such as one tonne of cheese. Other workshops, hold participants within an umbrella, they create room for participant interactions, hypotheses and experimentation
Workshop iterations modify each of its elements, such as the time, space, objectives, interactions, and participants. Therefore, a workshop never dies, it mutates or it is forgotten.
The workshop is a constant creative practice. Each workshop session is different, as any other day.
A workshop is not isolated from its environment.
The best workshops are independent organisms of anybody. They can continue even if the founder or any participant is not alive.