Methodology: What should histories and theories of IP be doing? What role should interdisciplinarity play? | Martha Woodmansee (Case Western Reserve University), Moderator
Lionel Bently (Cambridge)
We tolerated the use of the term “IP” to discuss the field, though we were aware of problems with it—not used in 19th c.; often used for law, but we wanted to talk about other regimes; we were conscious of the dangers of fetishization of law or its categories. Methodological assumptions revealed in ISHTIP’s website: sometimes we post the best papers from each workshop as examples of good work: methodologically sound, productive, insightful. Also a bibliography for people in the field. Also themes for conferences show concerns: a set of methodological and disciplinary assumptions: themes like representation of the intangible; IP as cultural technology; openness.
Work that disrupts evolutionary stories that make the present seem inevitable and provides ways to think how it would be otherwise; work that exposes ways of thinking we don’t readily see in our own practices: e.g., use of visual and other forms of representation of intangible. Historical work allows you to see things that are difficult to see in present environment.
Kathy Bowrey (New South Wales)
Law is an imperialist discipline: creates its own kinds of truths through relation to power and authority. Claims about superiority of private property, freedom of contract, freedom of expression. Law & humanities have worked to deconstruct some of those normative elements. Patent scholarship has always been more empirical, but history has occurred w/o much engagement w/legal scholars until recently. New empirics underlying © scholarship and to a lesser extent design and TMs. Political ambition: contest claims to naturalness of power and authority.
Law claims for itself the authority to define/decide what the law is. Interdisciplinary work challenges that authority. Cultural studies, sociology, anthropology of professions. What it is we mean by law: fight ongoing reproduction of this imperialism. Turn to archival work is really interesting in this light. Critical lawyers need to help historians understand complexity of law as subject—we shorthand it and are reluctant to unpack.
Adrian Johns (University of Chicago)
Identifying moments of change can be difficult in the moment, as Madison says. So what can we imagine for succeeding in 25 years? Interdisciplinarity comes with an association w/virtue, seemingly b/c in the mid 20th century it developed as an alternative to entrenched and intellectually constraining disciplines. Ways of reconstituting a liberal democratic order in the face of overweening claims by behaviorism/the very idea of disciplines. Risk of creating authoritarian personality through too much immersion in rules of disciplines. Cognitive science took off as a way to be disciplinary but also free by restoring mind to the center. When interdisciplinarity worked, it worked by making compromises: constricted what the disciplines were between which you were inter. Institutionally embedded in gender studies/science studies. Brought in people from relatively closely aligned fields—anthropology, sociology. The closer the disciplines are, the more they argued, and that was productive.
ISHTIP needed to be interprofessional: scientists, filmmakers, musicians, composers, lawyers, and others. But that’s completely impossible. Playing the long game: there are whole areas to be understood that had been systematically missed. One of the most important: the realm of technologies, practices, corporate endeavor between the legal world and the everyday creative life.
Madison: How would one define success in this context? No need to have a single definition. Political ambitions are embedded in Johns’ narrative; intellectual, organizational, professional for individuals. Academics often consider the work itself evidence of its own impact. Networking is not a great mode of political organizing.
Woodmansee: change consciousness; some other organization will become the activist avant-garde.
Madison: it doesn’t have to be that way, rigid distinction b/t research and activism—crossover is possible rather than hoping for the rest of the world to listen critically.
Woodmansee: ISHTIP was founded to be a scholarly society which is not activist, unlike CC. Those things were going on at the same time.
Johns: ISHTIP ought to occupy not the space of a policymaking body, but venue of critical understanding to change consciousness in the end, and that’s success enough. ISHTIP participants will be working creatively and politically, but the organization itself is not a failure if it doesn’t do that.
Bowrey: having director from humanities and one from law: our aspiration is to have equality, though nonlawyers are regularly outnumbered by lawyers. Want to be less Anglo, but higher education is under attack. Participate/recruit fellow travelers.
Jaszi: Lawyers are likely to be with us for the foreseeable future. Consider what lawyers interested but perhaps not skilled in other disciplines could do to become part of this discussion. We operate in a very narrow channel; most of what we do is about the critique of doctrine. For people who have come up in that tradition, what methodologies are available? One possibility: learn to do other things—become better empiricists, ethnographers, etc. Another: encourage project based collaboration. ISHTIP as a space through which lawyers who know there’s more but are clueless about how to get there could identify collaborators and work actively on projects across disciplines. Also: the kind of work that was characteristic across a wide range of legal disciplines in the first flowering of Critical Legal Studies: working w/doctrine, the thing we know how to do, but w/specific emphasis not on finding its coherence as we are taught to do in law school and not to propose the way in which doctrine can be made more coherent. But look more attentively for incoherence. A great deal to learn from that.
Johns: Incoherence of a concept is not a fatal accusation in his field.
Q: Note the difference between expectations in fields: law = publish law review articles, especially early in career; other fields = publish in other journals and also books. How do we deal w/that?