By Dr. Tincuta Heinzel, Senior Lecturer in Textiles and Open Research Lead, School of Design and Creative Arts
Starting with the 1st of April 2022, all submitted for publication research that a public body has funded must comply with the Open Access policy. This rule applies to all UKRI research councils, Research England, and Innovate UK-funded projects. Open Research and Open Data compliance means that the researchers must make their research publications Open Access, make their research data as open as possible, follow good research data management practices, and acknowledge their funder in any outputs. (for more details, please check here). Still, many particulars are to be addressed regarding Open Science and research, like, for example, the right to privacy when it comes to Open Data or the way each discipline will implement this policy.
Given the previous research publication models, this new policy implies a paradigmatic change that aims to facilitate everyone’s access to the research results and enable them to re-use and build upon them. The Open Access Policy builds on ideas popularised by movements such as Free Software (Free Software Foundation) launched in 1983 or Open Source Software Initiative, both aiming to offer alternatives to commercial computer operating systems to facilitate experimentation and innovation in the digital arena. Both movements adhere to philosophies that place free access to the source code and collaboration at their core. As their manifestos state (here and here), it is about the freedom to use, study, distribute, create, and modify any operating system, with the difference that the free software focuses on the users’ freedom, while Open-Source software is focusing on collaboration and transparency of the source code to provide improvements to the operating systems; which translates in the fact that not all Open-Source software is free software, for example. The same principles also apply to free hardware, which refers to the freedom to build, modify, and distribute hardware designs. Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards are good examples in this sense. The educative role of most of these projects is at the core of all these cases.
The application of the Open Research and Open Science policy in creative arts and design has nothing of the obvious. At the crossroad between science and technologies, between humanities and natural sciences, the place of research in creative arts and design is a minefield. Concepts such as “tacit knowledge” (Polanyi, 1958) often address the complexity of research in creative arts and design, expressing the limits of translating certain aspects of the practice into generally accepted forms of research. The nature of the outputs makes things even less straightforward. An exhibition is already an open, public presentation of an artist’s work, but does it count as research? What exactly is research in creative arts and design? What is the role of design theory and design practice in design research? How to find harmony between “research for”, “research into”, and “research through” design (Savic et al., 2014; Zimmerman et al., 2010), for example, with Open Science and Open Data policy?
Moreover, not all artistic and design research results in texts; in many cases, it is about products, objects, swatch books, processes, and methodologies. In some cases, it is about industrious initiatives and not merely educational purposes. The research in creative arts and design might reflect and use different media, such as images, sound compositions, video recordings and films, codes, or, as in the case of interactive arts and design, it might be about all of them.
Let’s take a closer look at the case of textiles and textiles patterns. In general, when it comes to textile designs and patterns, these are defined as designs (see the difference between artistic copyright, designs, and trademarks). As an e-textiles designer, I came across situations where the status of Open Publication and Open Research has been challenged.
The Open Software movement inspired designers such as Hannah Perner-Wilson (aka plusea.at) to develop a series of textiles-based sensors and to release them into the public domain. Her “tilt sensor” developed during her master studies at MIT (Perner-Wilson, 2011) has been appropriated by a group of scientists (Hyung Sun Lee, Daejeon (KR); Hyung Cheol Shin, Daejeon (KR); Thad E. Starner, Atlanta, GA (US); Scott M. Gilliland, Atlanta, GA (US) and Clint Zeagler, Atlanta, GA (US)) from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, Daejeon, Korea and, respectively Georgia Tech Research Corporation, Atlanta, USA, and patented based on the argument that her work would be an artistic product and not scientific research. Still, it is to question how legitim such a patent is when it doesn’t recognise the scientific merit of an author and boycotts the designer’s ideological choices (Heinzel, 2018).
The same ambiguity can be seen when it comes to the cultural appropriation of traditional textiles’ patterns. Plenty of cases show the appropriation of the work of “collective authors” has been used for the financial gain of some brands. It is the case of the legal action of the Indigenous Mexican Community against Isabel Marant, who used their patterns for her collection, or the Maasai Association for Preserving and Celebrating Maasai Cultural Heritage legal action against companies like Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, or Jaguar Land Rover, who were using the image of Maasai warriors to sell their products (Pilling, 2018). In the same category could be included the media campaign “Bihor, not Dior” (Davies, 2018). Still, when it comes to woven structures, for example, we can easily argue that we deal with a certain form of ethnomathematics (logical structures that await to be discovered) and not really designs.
In some cases, the designs are about the notations of the steps to produce the pattern and not about the patterns themselves. This logic of notation approach brings us closer to the aspects related to programming and digital rights. We can notice a series of ambiguities when defining and applying a pattern’s legal status and a series of breaches into the legal system(s) (Heinzel, 2018).
Suppose there is justified to request that the public-funded research be publicly released. In that case, aspects still need to be pondered as they interfere with the existing legal, economic, or ethical orders. Moreover, as the cases of cultural appropriation are proving, there is also an aspect of legitimacy that should be considered. Certainly, there is still work to be done to address these issues.
Below are a series of useful links related to Open Research compliance guidance and links for information related to designs, patents, or trademarks.
- Funder Open Research compliance guidance: https://doi.org/10.17028/rd.lboro.c.6376638.v2
- Online tool for data management plans: https://dmponline.dcc.ac.uk/
- Loughborough University’s Open Research Position Statement: https://doi.org/10.17028/rd.lboro.11709975.v1
- Link to Research Repository: https://repository.lboro.ac.uk/
- Link to the government’s page on designs information: https://www.gov.uk/topic/intellectual-property/designs;
- Link to the government’s page on patents: https://www.gov.uk/topic/intellectual-property/patents;
- Link to the government’s page on trademarks: https://www.gov.uk/topic/intellectual-property/trade-marks.
Davies, K. M. (2018). Bihor, not Dior: check out the new campaign reclaiming Romanian folk style, The Calvert Journal, URL: https://www.calvertjournal.com/articles/show/10465/bihor-not-dior-watch-the-new-campaign-reclaiming-romanian-folk-style. (Retrieved on line on 29th of April 2023)
Heinzel, T. (2018). Patented Patterns: On the art and science of patterns. A critical inquiry, Proceedings of the Politics of the Machines – Art and After (EVA Copenhagen) Conference, May 2018, DOI: 10.14236/ewic/EVAC18.8.
The Open Source Definition (2007), URL: https://opensource.org/osd/. (Retrieved 1st of May 2023.)
Pilling, D. (2018). Warrior tribe enlists lawyers in battle for Maasai “brand”, in The Financial Times, URL:
Perner-Wilson, H. et.al. (2011). Handcrafting Textile Interfaces from A Kit-of-No-Parts, TEI’11 Conference Proceedings, Funchal, Portugal, p. 61-68, DOI: 10.1145/1935701.1935715.
https://www.ft.com/content/999ad344-fcff-11e7-9b32-d7d59aace167 . (Retrieved the 15th of June 2018).
Polanyi, M. (1958). Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-67288-3.
Savic, S., Huang, J. (2014). Research Through Design: What Does it Mean for a Design Artifact to be Developed in the Scientific Context?, Proceedings of the 5th STS Italia Conference : A Matter of Design. Making Society through Science and Technology, Milan, Italy, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4306.6729.
US Patent 9316481 (2016). Sensor for measuring tilt angle based on electronic textile and method thereof. URL: https://patents.justia.com/patent/9316481. (Retrieved the 15th of June 2018).
Zimmerman, J.; Stolterman, E.; Forlizzi, J. (2010). An Analysis and Critique of Research through Design: Towards a Formalisation of a Research Approach; ACM: New York, NY, USA, 2010; pp. 310–319.
What is Free Software? (2001), URL: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html. (Retrieved 1st of May 2023.)