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Fourth Annual ISHTIP Workshop

Call for Papers

Fourth Annual ISHTIP Workshop:

Intellectual property as cultural technology

London School of Economics, 25 & 26 June 2012

Intellectual property rights are generally supposed to function as means of stimulating and diffusing cultural production. This instrumentalist understanding of how intellectual property works as a cultural technology has survived for more than two centuries; it has been amplified and refined by a long tradition of economic analysis and economic history, and it has now been retrenched as the basic premise of contemporary debates about public domains, digital commons, and the expansion of corporate semiotic power. How plausible or illuminating is this pervasive representation of the agency of intellectual property rights?
There are some familiar ways of testing this representation. Lawyers and economists ask whether patent laws work as they should in the domains of, for example, software or biomedical innovation, they speculate as to the reasons why creativity in the fashion industry seems to flourish in a ‘negative space’ (a domain unframed by copyright law), and they ask how formal intellectual property rights work with ‘social norms’. But these lines of inquiry still reduce culture to what can be rendered in terms of scarcity, efficiency, and instrumentality.
The theme of this conference seeks to elicit alternative approaches to the cultural implications of intellectual property and cultural property laws. A rubric that turns on the terms ‘culture’ and ‘technology’ can only be open-ended, but the following questions might be taken as a rough starting point for reflection:

  1. How might we understand the implication of different forms of intellectual or cultural property in economic, political, aesthetic, or scientific cultures? How might we schematize the ‘functions’ or ‘effects’ of intellectual property law in terms other than those of instrumentality, efficiency, or repressive power?
  2. Do intellectual property regimes themselves have specific cultures? Here, ethnographic, historical, or sociological analyses might reveal the specific practices, techniques and media that condition the existence and effects of intellectual property forms.
  3. Might we understand intellectual property as a mode of cultural creativity in its own right? Intellectual property law has evolved a complex set of fictions, semantic artifacts, themes, and figures that have an existence in broader cultural life, not just as agents of encouragement or constraint, but as conceptual resources that have shaped the discursive fields of various social cultures. Somewhat more abstractly, regimes of intellectual property have turned the improbable notion of ‘intangible property’, or of ‘intangible things’, into common currency. So, instead of seeing legal forms as secondary ratifications of cultural figures, might we instead explore intellectual property law’s own cultural intelligence and authorship?

We invite contributions from established and doctoral scholars working in the broad field of the humanities and the social sciences, including anthropology, economic history, history of science, media studies, literary theory, science studies, and critical theory, as well as legal history and legal theory.

Papers selected for presentation at the workshop will be circulated in advance to registered participants. Abstracts of proposed papers (together with a brief author bio) should be submitted by 1 March 2012. A maximum length of 9,000 words is recommended.

Important dates

  • Submission of proposal (abstract and bio): 1 March 2012
  • Notification of acceptance: 31 March 2012
  • Submission of paper: 1 June 2012
  • Workshop: 25-26 June 2012


For information and programme updates visit the ISHTIP website

Please also visit the specific website for the Workshop at the LSE

Abstracts and author bios can be submitted to any of the following, who will circulate these to the Program Committee.

Alain Pottage, Law Department, LSE:

Tatiana Flessas, Law Department, LSE:

Dev Gangjee, Law Department, LSE:


Workshop 2009 – Participants

  • Emanuela Arezzo, Luiss Guido Carli, Roma
  • Jose Bellido, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Lionel Bently, Cambridge U
  • Mario Biagioli, Harvard U
  • Michael Birnhack, Tel Aviv U
  • Maurizio Borghi, Brunel U
  • Kathy Bowrey, University of New South Wales
  • Dan L. Burk, U California, Irvine
  • Margaret Chon, University of Michigan Law School
  • Rosemary J. Coombe, York University, Toronto
  • Peter Decherney, University of Pennsylvania
  • Johanna Gibson, Queen Mary U
  • Gustavo Ghidini, U degli Studi di Milano
  • Eva Hemmungs-Wirtén, Uppsala U
  • Andrew Herman, York University, Toronto
  • Peter Jaszi, American U
  • Friedeman Kawohl, Bournemouth U
  • Martin Kretschmer, Bournemouth U
  • Fiona MacMillan, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Luca Molà, Warwick U
  • Maria Lilla Montagnani, Bocconi U
  • Alain Pottage, LSE
  • Katarina Renman-Claesson, Stockholm U
  • Brad Sherman, University of Queensland
  • Sukhpreet Singh, Bournemouth U
  • Jamie Stapleton, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Martha Woodmansee, Case Western Reserve U


Workshop 2009 – Programme

First Annual ISHTIP Workshop

The Construction of Immateriality

Practices of Appropriation and the Genealogy of Intellectual Property

Università Bocconi, Milan Italy
26-27 June 2009

The ISHTIP 2009 Workshop has been organised with the kind support of Angelo Sraffa Department of Law and of ASK Research Centre of Bocconi University, Milan.

>> Programme <<

Friday 26 June

  • 9:45: Opening Remarks (Gustavo Ghidini, Università degli Studi di Milano and LUISS Guido Carli, Roma)
  • 10:00-13:00: Morning session (chair: Gustavo Ghidini)
    • Michael Birnhack (Tel Aviv University), “Hebrew Authors and English Copyright Law in Mandate Palestine”
    • Friedeman Kawohl (Bournemouth University) “Copyright History as a Means to Justify Current Positions on Copyright Politics”
    • Jaime Stapleton (Birkbeck College, University ofLondon) “The Immaterial Image: Creative, Legal and Economic Theory 1435-1607”
  • 14:30-18:00 Afternoon session (chair: Fiona MacMillan, Birkbeck College, University of London)
    • Martin Kretschmer and Sukhpreet Singh (Bournemouth University) “The Paradox of Television Formats: Why pay forsomething that is free?”
    • Emanuela Arezzo (Luiss Guido Carli, Roma) “Towards a New Definition of Technology andtowards a Broader Definition of the TermInvention?”
    • Alain Pottage (LSE) and Brad Sherman (Universityof Queensland) “Reproducing Nature”

Saturday, 27 June

  • 9:30-13:00: Morning session (chair: Peter Jaszi, American University)

  • 14:30-16:00: Afternoon session (chair: Dan Burk, University of California, Irvine)
    • Mario Biagioli (Harvard University) “Nature and the Commons: The Vegetable Roots of Intellectual Property”
    • Rosemary J. Coombe and Andrew Herman (York University, Toronto) “Theories of Authorship, Ownership and Value in Networked Sociality”
  • 16:00: Concluding remarks by Lionel Bently (University of Cambridge) and Martha Woodmansee (Case Western Reserve University)