Caring + Sharing

In Conversation with Julie Gendron

Artengine’s Artistic Director Ryan Stec in conversation with Digital Economies Lab (DEL) participant, strategist, designer, artist and independent creative director, Julie Gendron, where they discuss Gendron’s work on the Offer Need Machine (ONM). Within this discussion Gendron addresses quantifying value by breaking down the mechanics of trust, recreating the ephemerality of chance interaction, and rating and evaluating with care.

Julie Gendron was driven to participate in the Digital Economies Lab by her desire to explore how more artists could join, or create, the creative economies without needing to rely on the granting system. This is just one of Gendron’s questions as she works toward her broader goal of seeing more people create in general. She sees regular creative practice as a pathway to critically considering how and what one thinks, as well as how one may think more independently. Drawing on her experience creating participatory art and her background in strategic design, Gendron places the individual at the centre of the design for the “machine” she, Kofi Oduro, Kalli Retzepi and Macy Siu are developing. The somewhat tongue-in-cheek naming of the Offer Need Machine suggests a machine that will counter the mechanics of capitalism by requiring an offering first to initiate generous exchange. Each day social media robs us of our privacy more and more; meanwhile, we are conditioned to exclusively rely on the contractual agreement between purchase and commodity. With these two realities in mind, how does one integrate trust into every level of the Offer Need Machine? Is ephemerality the key to building trust? Participants need to feel safe to contribute freely and confident they will not be taken  advantage of. Further, how can the Offer Need Machine make participants feel they are not mere users but co-collaborators in the creation of a compassionate network of care? How can time be valued as a modicum of exchange without a monetary value attached? Join us in this conversation with Julie Gendron on the Offer Need Machine, and consider what boundaries you need to feel safe enough to trust.

Learn more about Julie Gendron:

julie (@julielyngendron)

Desiring Productions


Homepage | vivo Global


Check out some of the bigger ideas:

What is Copyleft?

The Gift Economy


Collaborators and Projects mentioned:

emma hendrix

Art City – Winnipeg


The Offer Need Machine Collaborators:

Kofi Oduro

Kalli Retzepi

Macy Siu

Produced by the Artengine Stream Team:

Mikke Gordon aka Seiiizi

Ryan Stec

Kimberly Sunstrum


Editorial Assistant

Erin Galt


Production Design Consultation

Leslie Marshall/MAVNetwork

Post-Production Support: Chris Ikonomopoulos

DEL Theme Music by Mikki Gordon aka Seiiizi


Artengine’s Digital Economies Lab brought together a diverse group of artists, designers and other creatives to rethink the infrastructure of cultural production in the 21st century.


Funding for the Digital Economies Lab was received through the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategies Fund.

It was more about, “How do we connect people and connect people in order to create more prosperity? It was more about, “How do we connect people and connect people in order to create more prosperity? It was more about, “How do we connect people and connect people in order to create more prosperity? It was more about, “How do we connect people and connect people in order to create more prosperity?”

Instead of purchasing culture all the time, I wanted them to make culture.


Julie Gendron

The ONM stands for “Offer Need Machine,” and it’s a theory so far that there would be some sort of digital tool that we would eventually create…that would allow people to connect online to offer one hour of service to another person in the arts…Then, from there, that person that offers an hour,…that person can receive an hour of expertise from another person. 


It’s not directly reciprocal…They can offer something, of that kind of scale, to someone that wants that. The idea is that one person offers and in order to receive they have to offer first. 


We are not intending on facilitating long term connections. 


This is not Facebook. 

We are just creating the spark…

Ryan Stec

It’s almost like a little incubator of relationships. 


The idea of you having to input something, whether right now the unit is an hour of time and knowledge and expertise that you might have, you sort of put it into the system, an offer for others, and then that allows others to kind of pick it up. 


It’s not, like you said, a one-to-one exchange. 


This is a distributed idea of there being a network of possibilities for you to draw upon. 


Do you see it as, I hesitate to say transactional but in the sense of, if you put one in and then you take one out, are you sort of expected to be giving and receiving in like an alternating form? Like, is there supposed to be a kind of sum zero, do you think, for a participant?

Julie Gendron

Not necessarily. 


Someone, if they feel very altruistic, can go and give as much as they want but they don’t have to take anything back. 


The idea is that you have to give first, because there’s a whole set of values being created through this project. 


It’s not just about this transaction…there’s more to it. 


I think what’s unique about this project is that we are expecting people to come to this–we haven’t decided on the technology–so, this thing, machine. It’s called the Machine…Between Macy and Kofi, we have created a code of conduct that we work together with an understanding of how we’re going to work and what we want to achieve and what we want to learn from each other and we’re going to carry this out into this machine that we create.


Julie Gendron

The idea is that when someone comes to ONM, they will actually have to commit to a certain value system. And that value system, what we’re going to try to do is normalize respect and care. 


So, you can’t be on there if you’re going to take advantage of anyone. 


We’re also trying to normalize something that doesn’t happen much anymore, especially, because the internet and social media makes everyone jealous of each other. 


We’re trying to normalize taking joy in other people’s success. 


That’s the spirit that you have to come to in this, that you were actually trying to make other people’s success and that success is not limited. It’s actually infinite in the same way that people think about love, right? Like we can live together and all be successful. And so, with that, people have to know what their boundaries are. 


People have to self-reflect. People have to work on their trauma, because there’s a lot of it in this world. I think I said this already, but people need to know what their boundaries are and they need to know when they start saying, “No.” 


They need to know what the limit is of what they’re going to give in that one hour. Going onto that platform means, or whatever it becomes, that they’re almost agreeing too, in ‘terms of service.’ That’s very different than a corporate ‘terms of service,’ where it talks about, “Don’t sue us,” you know, or “You can’t sue us because we’re invincible.”

Ryan Stec

Yeah, you have no rights.

Julie Gendron

That’s it. 


So, what we’re saying is, “You have lots of rights and you need to exercise them.”


Ryan Stec

People are already sharing and caring for each other. 


Many of social medias’ worst parts amplify performativity, sensationalism, all of these things. 


At the same time, they’ve been instrumental to social movements and care, in the last year and a half particularly, but I think both of us sense that maybe that’s happening despite the infrastructure of the network. It’s not encouraged by the network but rather something that people overcome within the network to actually reach out and create those connections.

Julie Gendron

I think the important part is that we’re making it so that it’s fleeting in that one hour, and that you can back out of that relationship. I think a lot of other social media, because they have a business, they need to have this model and this amount of users and they need to stay online this amount, all these statistics and how it’s supposed to work. 


Their main goal is retention. 


Whereas our main goal is not retention. 


Our main goal is, like I say, that spark of connection passing on some really valuable information quickly. 


Then, if it turns out to be really valuable, then you go offline or you go onto your own, little communication tools and create a longer term. So, that brings up questions about how do we make sure they’re still safe once they’re off? 


And what is and when is our responsibility stopped?

Ryan Stec

Like, ephemerality and even anonymity are both values. Anonymity, in particular, has a value. Privacy is something that we’re losing. So we’ve lost–we lose yards of it every day, but the ephemerality of the interaction that you’re about to spark, I think that’s a really interesting condition: to think of going into a network and participating in something that actually requires a fair amount of commitment, in some ways, to be involved, but can have these sort of fleeting elements in which one can come in and, and maybe once one is initiated over a certain period of time coming in and coming out. Allowing yourself to be there and available, but also be able to…

Julie Gendron

Yeah, because, like for example, I’ll just do it from my own point of view. 


The mansplaining thing is a real thing, right. 


And so me going on there and needing some advice from someone, I might end up with a mansplainer but I can put up with that for an hour and shake my head at the end of it, but I don’t have to have that relationship past that one hour…I might still get some important information from that mansplainer, but there’s also something triggering about being mansplained too, you know what I mean? And that happens with a lot of people, from different backgrounds.

Ryan Stec

Yeah. Well, I think that’s an interesting scale of stake as well, and that idea, like you’re talking about the spark that this is like, “I’m not hiring you for a big contract in which 50% of it you’ve been explaining to me things I already know.” We’re engaging in a smaller thing and there’s much less at stake.

Julie Gendron

Yeah, and hopefully if someone gets a dead hour maybe they can go and teach how to knit for one more hour, to another person, so that they can get another hour that maybe it feels better to them.

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