CO-OS is a growing online community of creators and do-ers, all coming together to collaborate and exchange creative ideas, skills and resources in a cashless system based on the concept of timebanking. Here ideas can be shared, evaluated and developed collaboratively through trading units of time in exchange for skills and resources.

The project is part of ‘Creative Collaboration’,, a British Council arts initiative that builds networks for dialogue and debate across the arts communities of South East Europe and the UK. The programme aims to enrich the cultural life of Europe and its surrounding countries, as well as fostering understanding, skills development, trust and respect across borders.
The artists commissioned for CO-OS Ignite are:

tat-ort: WOLFGANG FIEL (Austria)
The CO-OS Ignite commissions are developed in partnership with:

AMORPHY, Greece –
i-DAT, UK –
tat ort, Austria –

The ‘New platforms for innovation’ project conducted by i-DAT builds on existing platforms of open innovation and Co-OS ( (formerly Co-Here) – an international digital network project which supports artistic innovation through collaboration. The Platforms for Innovation project has allowed us to explore more fully issues relating to online collaborative environments that have the potential to support and underpin economic innovation within the creative arts.

This research activity has been conducted in parallel to the production work carried out to develop the Co-OS platform and the negotiation with the project partners and collaborators. Co-OS has now been launched in beta version with the support of pump priming provided by the British Council’s Creative Collaboration, Partnership in the Arts funding.

i-DAT has been developing these models to explore and nurture innovation as a tool for economic development and sustainability of creative practice during and beyond the current international economic downturn.

i-DAT’s core activities for 2008-2010 have been focused on developing and strengthening partnerships and implementing new digital platforms for production, engagement and distribution of work. These activities are being framed as ‘Operating Systems’. These systems enable the collection and distribution of environmental data for artistic production, and are establishing a new mode of participation and production of artistic practise.

The Operating Systems has been developed through i-DAT’s unique environment for critical, collaborative and creative projects operating within HE institution, the University of Plymouth, but delivering and collaborating externally with other organisations, artists and companies. This provides an active research and knowledge base to build its’ activities, and further provides resources such as technology, venue, legal and administrable support, staffing etc.

i-DAT has also actively been developing mechanisms for enabling wider access to the knowledge and resources within these HE research environment for the wider arts community. In particular funding from British Council with project partners from 5 countries to develop the Co-OS project.

The range of ‘Operating Systems’ being developed are intended to dynamically manifest ‘data’ as experience and extend human perception. Arch-OS [], an ‘Operating System’ for contemporary architecture (‘software for buildings’) was the first i-DAT ‘OS’, developed to manifest the life of a building (currently being installed as the i-500 ( in Perth Western Australia. More recently S-OS was released (Social Operating System) in collaboration with Plymouth Arts Centre and now C-OS is being released in beta form. The intention of these Operating Systems is to explore data as an abstract and invisible material. Data generates a dynamic mirror image of our world, reflecting, in sharp contrast and high resolution, our biological, ecological and social activities.

These activities are of particular importance to i-DAT as it does not have a core funded program but has over the last 4 years established a way of working which dynamic and flexible, and where all activities are developed in partnership to pool resources, reach audiences and share knowledge and expertise. The organisation feels that the notion of openness, collaboration and exchange (across organisational as well as cultural boundaries) are key to the development of innovative and new practises in the arts, in particular at times where resources are limited. Where previously this has appeared to be a limitation to i-DAT, this is now emerging as a strength and a necessity for the field in which the organisation operates. These issues are of critical importance to other organisations, collectives and individuals within the region and, as our research and collaboration has demonstrated, at a national and international level.

Co-OS, a ‘Reciprocity Engine’, is a cultural brokerage and social networking project which facilitates a radical new network model of collaborative creative production, consolidating and building on i-DAT and partners existing activities and network of audiences, participants, artists, and collaborators from across the City of Plymouth, the region and through a national and international network.

Co-OS is establishing a social networking platform that incorporates web 2.0 (tagging, blogging, streaming media and dynamic media posting, etc), technologies in an open and reciprocal exchange of ideas, knowledge, skills and resources. The key innovation which has received so much interest from i-DAT’s partner organizations is the coupling of an open Web 2.0 online network environment with a modified LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) scheme. ‘LETS’ are local community-based mutual aid networks in which people exchange all kinds of goods and services with one another, without the need for the direct exchange of money.

A credible and stable technological infrastructure to support the Co-OS project has been established through a number of i-DAT online projects (see below). A network of collaborators who are committed to pump prime the activities of the Co-OS community has been developed and design work for the web interface has been commissioned and completed, providing a look and feel for the site. Development continues of the back end database and mechanisms to calculate and balance the various transactions that will take place through the Co-OS community.

The project will offer radical new opportunities for:

• engaging with new audiences within the Creative Industry sector.

• developing rich interactions between audiences and creative producers

• establishing access for artists/designer/producers to high end resources (research, software and technologies)

• sharing off skills, knowledge and resources in mutual beneficial relationships

• enable creative practitioners in developing economies access to knowledge, skill, ideas and resources

• trading of skills, knowledge and resources on a non-monetary basis

• a system of evaluation based on LETS (Local Exchange Trading Schemes)

• commissioning new works within the sector

• curating high profile activities that operate on a local, regional, national and international level.

Co-OS creates an open access and distributed environment for individuals (artists, producers, coders, audiences, researchers etc) to high-end innovation, research and development within institutions, and these institutions will be provided with access to new ideas, skills and knowledge. This will generate new opportunities, practices and collaborations in mutually beneficial or reciprocal relationships capitalising on available resources and those generated through new non-monetary trading model.

Co-OS use interest-free credit so direct swaps does not need to be made. For instance, a member may earn credit by providing software-programming skills for one person and spend it later on access to another member’s technological resources. Each transaction is recorded and generated by the network software system and evaluated by its members in a distributed relationship with all data open to all members, in a mutual credit system.

Co-OS is being created on an experiential, anecdotal and theoretical understanding of shared networks and resources forming a major part of creative industries ‘working culture’. It is intended to address practical issues around production and practice that leads up to the dissemination of works. Primarily but not exclusively these works would have been previously been described as ‘New Media’ products, however as these practices and processes are now endemic to all areas of the sector such distinctions are worthless. This sector is a resource heavy field that relies on good will and exchange in order to function. Co-OS aims to address these issues and to attach value to the actions and services that people provide in a network and to formalise that exchange of  knowledge within the sector. It also looks to expand the resources out beyond traditional geographical networks through e-learning/exchange and knowledge sharing online. A major part of the scheme will be to measure the value that is placed on particular activities and resources and how this fits into the creative economy.

According to the recent NESTA Research report: Creating Innovation, Do the creative industries support innovation in the wider economy? (Bakhshi, H. et al. February 2008) there are huge assumptions made about the creative industries sector.

“There is also a widespread belief that the ‘creative economy’, as a focal point for creativity, has a particularly important role to play in innovation throughout the economy (Potts, 2007). But there is little quantitative evidence for this.” (Bakhshi, H. 2008)

Co-OS has the potential to provide highly accurate data on the behaviour and activities of its participants.

To date the Web 2.0 environments such as the Community Recycling Network and social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook and established tools such as Rhizome and lists such as Spectre, Nettime, Syndicate, Empyre and CRUMB provide network of links, contacts and information exchange. However, there is no facility to build an open exchange of human and technical resources which can be openly ‘traded’ and valued by the community. In a distributed region such as the South West, networks are focused on urban centres which undermine to potential offered by digital technologies geographical independence. Co-OS effectively separates location from the production process by placing a tangible value on traditionally ephemeral ‘artefacts’ such as ideas and social networks.