Intellectual property (patents, copyright, and trademarks) has a major impact on how we shape our lives. It determines what we read, watch, and listen to, the technologies we use to do that, the brands we buy, the medicine we use, and so on and so forth. The aim of this course is to frame the material culture of intellectual property in a long-term historical perspective. The course highlights that the emergence and growth of intellectual property was not without struggle and that the expanding scope of exclusive ownership over intellectual capital implied a continuous redefinition of what we came to call the public domain.

Based on the principles of participatory learning, students in this course will research objects that illuminate the material history of intellectual property. The objective is to build a collective website where each student will present his/ her object on the basis of visual material and an additional text. This text could be a short essay of ca. 2500 words, an interview, an ethnography of producers and audience, or something similar along those lines. Using video or other multimedia resources also belongs to the possibilities. The final contribution should emphasize the influence of broader societal developments on the creation of our legal notion of intellectual property. Aside from learning how to think academically, students will also learn what it means to set up a research proposal, to give an oral presentation, and to do peer-review.

Semester: SuTerm 2020