The first shift was supervised by the Edinburgh-based artist Keith Farquhar:
“The participants in this exercise are placed in two groups, in this case the Green team and the Blue team. Each team is then split in half.
Each group is given an initial word and a camera phone. Half of each team is then asked to take a photo that they think corresponds to this word and email it to the other members of their team. Collectively, these other members attempt to find as-close-as-possible a match from the entire available images on the web. When they are satisfied that they have the best match (aesthetically, formally and/or conceptually) they should take a note of the website containing this corresponding image. A relevant word is chosen from the website’s title page and is texted back to the awaiting members with the camera phones. These members in the field then take another photo illustrating this word and once more email it back to be matched to a web image. Another word is procured in this way and texted back and so on and so on. The exercise forms a loop which can be continued indefinitely to generate images that evolve and mutate from each other in ways which stimulate creative decision-making and group discussion.” 
This first shift foregrounded the post-Fordism’s romance with information technology, applying an allegedly defunct technology (SMS/MMS) to creative ends. The continuing popularity of SMS over automatic geolocation-based messaging is related to a need to find a sensorial dimension for immaterial experiences.  In this light, Farqhar’s shift functioned as a ‘ham radio’ of the semantic environment, using SMS and MMS rather than more recent and much more accurate geolocation devices such as RFID and WiFi, technologies that are posterboys of the creative economy. A deliberate attempt to simplify geocaching parlour games, this shift was a good example of ‘hypo-technology’, a mix of anachronistic and new technologies applied to minimal compositional play.
The groups worked quickly in relay to generate a series of images that were iterated by the decisions of each group. Three participants would debate the choices on each occasion that they were required to send or receive data. The shiftworkers just as quickly started to find ways to increase the ambition of the challenges they set each other, playing a game of brinkmanship. The two groups generated their own mnemosynes of their image-texts, finally deciding to compile them into two rival books and publish them through ESW as Green and Blue. While it began with no particular end in sight, Farquhar’s shift found its own conclusion in the production of a non-repeating pattern. The publications produced through the workshop always have the same catalyst (a photograph of stone sculpture of a sleeping lion) but would generate different narratives in a garden of forking paths. The publications that ensue form part of a series, but no two will ever be the same.
In making explicit causal relations between online and offline environments, shiftworkers engaged with the consequences of working in a virtual world. Information sent out the field was returned filtered through the field. In this sense, the invisible labour that belies the web was made a little more opaque. The time taken to relay data from and to the base station creating a sense of the time and effort involved in producing what otherwise is quickly and easily consumed. Discussion among the shiftworkers on this point encouraged the idea of running the shift in a variety of ways to calibrate these relations of production, distribution and consumption. Obviously, moving the base will change the nature of images that are returned to it.  Extending the distance between the base station and the field workers will slow the relay further while creating a greater sense of detachment between the two groups of producers. 
There were a few things to be learned from this experience. Participants engaged with relations between on and off line environments, command and control that were multidirectional and deschooled. It wasn’t clear who occupied the position of producer or consumer, the shiftworkers and supervisor at the base station or those out in the field. The shift foregrounded and maintained the significance of self-learning, the democratic exercise of power wherein every participant's contribution was important and valued, all part of a shared ontology of practice. There remained a strong sense of the shift’s deliberate overidentification with neoliberal flexible specialisation. The images generated during the shift were cyphers of post-Fordist ‘creative’ practice, specialised products generated by consumer choice, a manifestation of the mass customisation’ maker-culture popularised by Pine and Gilmore. 
The second shift was supervised by the Berlin based artist Tobias Sternberg:
“...The focus of the three day workshop I led was on some non material aspects of sculpture, such as Functionality, Ownership, Intended use, Placement in space, Role in society, Suggestively, Taboo, Quality, and others that cropped up during discussion. The purpose of the workshop was to make the participants aware of and suggest manipulations of such aspects of sculpture mostly taken for granted or ignored in art practice. For example; how can an art object be owned? For most sculptures ownership is simply supposed to be something that is imposed from the outside. Ownership is something that just happens to the sculpture, so to speak, seldom is it an intentional and meaning-carrying part of it.
The participants learned to play with and manipulate such assumptions through the physical work on objects that they had themselves brought with them to the workshop. The work was interspersed with short discussions and decision making processes but consisted mostly of practical work on the objects. The participants were divided in three groups and the objects wandered between them, forming a thread of thoughts that came together at the end.” 
Sternberg’s workshop was concerned with how we come to value things ethically through our interaction with and experience of them. The process began with The Gift, a potluck of dysfunctional objects donated by shiftworkers to processed by their fellow shiftworkers. The objects were selected for reinvention, the shiftworkers devising a new life for unwanted and obsolete goods through up-cycling and bespoke customisation. The recycling process was undertaken by the twelve shiftworkers in groups of four, all working quickly to realise their plans. In the final phase of Sternberg’s shift, the shiftworkers exchanged their handiwork and debated the fate of each object. Many of the objects were then re-gifted. Some were given a new role in life. A desk tidy was given to the workshop administrative staff. Other objects gained symbolic or ritualistic functions. A makeshift ‘hard hat’ was given to the building site Foreman working on the new Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, where it was adopted as a good luck mascot. A tall lampshade, reconfigured with a fan at its base, became a kinetic sculpture.
In baring witness to the process of their transubstantiation into sculptures and functional designs, the objects spoke of their ‘biography’, of their cultural life: “...the same thing may, at the same time, be seen as a commodity but one person and as something else by another. Such shifts and differences in whether and when a thing is a commodity reveal a moral economy that stand behind the objective economy of visible transactions.”  What were once one kind of commodity, one based in a monetised system of exchange value, were now other kinds of commodity circulating in a gift economy or symbolic economy. All, of course, remained capable of once again becoming commodities of monetary exchange through future sale, something that may be secured by their highly individualised life cycles.
The third shift was supervised by the Glasgow based artist Sarah Tripp.
In the sequence, Tripp’s shift functioned as a way of reflecting upon ‘best practice’, amplifying a process of self-evaluation that is systemic in post-industrial work environments. This shift was, effectively, a staff development session designed to examine what had occurred earlier in Shift/Work and, more generally, the individual practices and artistic aspirations of the shiftworkers beyond the shiftworkplace.
Tripp’s shift foregrounded the role of the tutorial in artistic learning. Tutorials and group critiques, while endemic in art education, are not subject to much scrutiny. The system is taken for granted. As James Elkins demonstrated in Why Art Cannot be Taught, many of the assumptions surrounding these teaching methods are dangerously undertheorised. The relationship between tutor and tutee almost always obeys an unwritten law of dominant-submissive behaviour. Tripp’s shift was an important attempt to begin to unravel and rebuild these relations.
To begin with, Tripp asked the shiftworkers to openly feedback their personal experiences of tutorials. What aspects of tutorials had they found to be helpful, unhelpful, inspiring? What conditions were required to have a helpful and inspiring tutorial. In soliciting their responses, the shiftworkers generated their own table of preferences, iterating a covenant for a better tutorial. Tripp then asked them to sign this covenant in agreement that it constituted a consensus on best tutorial practice.
In the second phase of her shift, Tripp started to establish a system of ‘Triad Tutorials’, one based on her own experience of psychoanalytic training. (35) In this model, would-be therapists work in groups of three, taking on different roles.
- Speaker – Carefully prepares for the tutorial by bringing an issue with their work to the listener for discussion. Speaks for a fixed period of time completely uninterrupted. Concludes by asking the listener to resolve specific questions in their practice.
- Listener – Prepares for the tutorial by looking at the speaker’s practice in advance of the tutorial. Listens carefully to the speaker. Attempts to help the speaker resolve issues in their practice. Has an equal amount of time respond to the speaker. Should aim to ask the speaker questions that will help them resolve the issues they have in their practice. Can engage in dialogue if they wish to. Gives the Speaker their notes at the end of the tutorial.
- Observer – Watches what is said and how it is said (in silence) and feeds back following the end of the discussion session between the Speaker and Listener. Makes reference to the ‘tutorial guidelines’ when attempting to evaluate the quality of the tutorial they have witnessed. Gives the Speaker and Listener their notes at the end of the triad.
Following one session, the shiftworkers would swap roles. Speaker becomes the Observer, Observer becomes the Listener, Listener becomes the Speaker. In the third session they would swap again so that they had all occupied each role. The principle of alterity is central to the value of this educational model. Each participant understands each role equally well through a process of experiential learning and so gains a greater awareness of the needs of others in their roles and of their own responsibilities to them. Following a quick demonstration of the model in action, Tripp asked the shiftworkers to split into four triads. Triads ran over the remaining period of her shift, each time creating a slightly different means of speaking, listening and observing, each time extending the length of the speaking and listening sessions.
Tripp’s shiftworkers were deeply embroiled in a process of learning to learn, one that led to intense speculation on the tutorial process itself as well as upon their development of their own practices. Simple to establish and to replicate, Tripp’s triad format has since become a regular feature on the MFA programmes at Glasgow School of Art and Edinburgh College of Art.
The three workshops presented much to reflect upon. While they had to work with very different media and processes, the shiftworkers had shown themselves to be very adaptable, working well in teams to take on each challenge with aplomb. Similarly, the artists supervising the shifts had all excelled in writing their unique curriculae. The experience of supervising or taking part in each workshop was instructive in terms of considering what ‘worked’ (and what did not). Everyone had a part to play in scripting the learning process and everyone was able to take something away with them. The shiftworkers left with new skills and knowledge and, in some cases, a collectively authored ‘masterpiece’. The supervisors also parted with something that was of artistic and financial value to them, a workshop that they could reinterpret and reanimate.
The shiftworkers and their supervisors had worked remarkably quickly, adapting the initial structures laid down by each shift. There was a notable element of competition between the different teams in Farquhar and Sternberg’s shifts that may have driven the pace, but this did not dominate their shifts. Movement of shiftworkers between the teams, and changes to the structures meant that there was no way of discerning individual contributions (or ‘bundles of skills’) from those of the teams. By the second day of each shift the process was already beginning to iterate a further set of parameters and approaches. In effect, the shifts became self-generating educational processes. While this is what we had hoped for in planning the project, everyone was surprised by how quickly and easily it emerged. In hindsight, one reason the shifts functioned well was that there was a common level of professionalism and commitment to the process among shiftworkers and their supervisors. The process of selecting the supervisors, therefore, appeared to be vindicated. The question of how to invite shiftworkers and who to invite, however, remained open.
To some extent, this question was answered in the first Shift/Work. Sarah Tripp stipulated that shiftworkers had to have a ‘practice‘ (the precise form of practice was not specified) in order to have something to reflect upon in her tutorial triads. While there were no specific technical skills or prerequisites beyond this, the requirement to be able to discuss their practice meant that shiftworkers were a mixture of (predominately) artists and writers with a degree of experience and a ‘professional’ outlook on the process. Only one shiftworker was an art student. The shiftworkers understood what they wanted to gain from participating and that this would only emerge from fully committing themselves. Generating the conditions assumed to be conducive to artistic learning involves establishing a territory in which people can freely associate. However, to establish such a territory is to delimit a field and establish invisible disciplinary power, a form of governmentality. The hope that participants in such a field will generate their own curriculum is one that rests on carefully selecting the kind of participants who will flourish in such circumstances. Of course, the resulting community of practice was, ultimately, closed.
The neoliberal focus on the ‘successful’ negotiation of these communities of artistic practice, as if they were simply a competitive marketplace, normally serves to obfucate the issue of why such communities are established in the first place. In contrast, Tripp’s workshop deliberately set out to discuss and negotiate such processes. This was one way of addressing this issue. Given that we wanted Shift/Work to remain free at the point of access, how could we ensure this level of critical commitment in future shifts? Would the processes work with a completely open call for shiftworkers who did not have a practice? Conversely, by exclusively inviting a more established coterie of ‘supervisors’, would the learning process be further accelerated? This was something that would be explored in future iterations of Shift/Work.
Another surprise was that the outcomes were more tangible than we had expected. Each shift produced something that could be viewed at the end of the project. While the finissage was never intended to be more than a wrap, a chance for everyone to socialise, the shiftworkers decided to display some of the images, objects and observation notes they had produced during the process. As such, it became a very short-lived exhibition, albeit one that did not present a coherent ‘integrated outcome’. To those who had not taken part in the process, the finissage initially looked like a three-person group show with a loose curatorial vision. On closer inspection, the teams had produced a few ‘masterpieces’ that demonstrated what and how they had learned together. That this emerged was a happy accident and testimony to the ingenuity and hard work of everyone involved. The presence of a telos, of something to work towards, nevertheless remains a thorny issue. On the one hand, too much of a focus on the end results can impede learning, on the other, the sense of urgency it produces can generate a productive group dynamic. In future shiftwork projects, the ‘masterpiece’ trajectory of the wrap was, in turn, deliberately over emphasised (By the sea circa nineteen thirty three) or completely surpressed (Developing participatory workshop models for educating contemporary artists).
Hosting the first Shift/Work at ESW had proven to be crucial to reflect upon the practice-based learning processes that are thought to take place exclusively in art schools. Working in the workshop space of ESW generated a very different dynamic. In historical terms, it associated the process with alternate practice-based educational traditions to those nurtured in the academy. ESW’s ILA registered courses are heavily invested in assisting in the acquisition of sculptural skills such as carving, casting, moulding and metalworking. This pedagogy is inherited from the European guild system, a system of incorporation that was intertwined with the rise of medieval cities and burghs. For this reason, it is tempting to think of the learning shifts as echoing those of medieval workshops and guilds, wherein a master would pass on specialist knowledge to their apprentices. Shiftworkers were, effectively, undertaking the role of ‘journeyman’, compagnon working their way through a tour designed to impart practical wisdom. Of course, while ESW and Shift/Work had medievalist connotations, they were not precise re-enactments of medieval divisions of labour. The analogy fell only on elements of premodern practice that have adapted well to a post-Fordist environment. The master-apprentice hierarchy that is normative in the compagnon tradition was directly challenged.
This aspect of Shift/Work has since proven to be a way of engaging ESW with the global rise of maker culture, a phenomenon that has largely bypassed contemporary art centres in the UK but that is dominant in the west coast of the USA. As craftspersons, makers are heavily invested in the liberal business of acquiring a specialist skill set, a practice that has its roots in the compagnon tradition of practice-based education. However, since they are thought to have emerged “from an unexpected collision of right-wing neo-liberalism, counter-culture radicalism and technological determinism”,  makers are frequently painted as neoliberals free-trading their products in the frontiers of the world wide web. In practice, the maker combines liberal and neoliberal tendencies in equal measure.  Where makers can be seen as aligned with the objectives of Shift/Work, is in their commitment to passing on their skills, as open source ‘how-to’. Maker culture is disseminated online, via the creative commons and through huge maker meets such as Maker Faire. It is a culture of openness and sharing rather than a closed proprietorial culture. While it was a common concern of all three artists, the kind of transparency that is particular to maker culture emerged most forcefully in Sternberg’s shift in which each stage of transforming one object into another was openly staged.