Tag Archives: art

Process Theory for Roboticists

Andrew Murphie’s take on Whitehead and McLuhan’s media theory is very succinct. McLuhan has become popular again but close examination of his work reveals sources including Whitehead and Innis, both of whom have more depth to their theories. Whitehead’s process philosophy seems increasingly relevant in understanding a world where the ‘original’ separations between animate and inanimate, human and non-human are shifting and “the relation is the smallest unit of being and of analysis”(Haraway 2008:156).

Btw. I don’t know why Andrew Murphie’s blog is called Adventures in Jutland. More reading is called for.

Whitehead’s Media Theory—a beginning

(Alfred North for those not living in the 1930s) Whitehead presents a little remarked upon but comprehensive ‘media theory’ that resituates media in the world, not “bifurcated” from a large slice of it. This theory is arguably more complete, if similar to, and yet predating, McLuhan’s. Indeed McLuhan read Whitehead extensively (see Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! 45, 59). In Whitehead’s theory of media there is no “bifurcation” between different types of signal (technical or natural, for example). Thus Whitehead’s philosophy becomes one in which the complexity of signal at the level of the world is paramount. Signals become “vectors of transmission” for the (“prehension” of) feeling which is central to his account of process. The world is a medium (Whitehead, Process and Reality, 286)—or a multiplicity of worlds (284) are mediums—for such vectors. For “the philosophy of organism the primary relationship of physical occasions is extensive connection,” (288) not simple extension of previously existing “things” (such as “us”).

Whitehead also preempts the very basis of both McLuhan’s thought–“the medium is the message.” He writes, “These extensive relations do not make determinate what is transmitted; but they do determine conditions to which all transmission must conform” (ibid.–see also Steven Shaviro, Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics, 52). In a similar but again perhaps more comprehensive manner than McLuhan, Whitehead further understands the “the human body” as a kind of signal transducer or modulator, “…as a complex ‘amplifier’–to use the language of the technology of electromagnetism” (119). Even more than this,  “the predominant basis of perception is perception of the various bodily organs, as passing on their experiences by channels of transmission and of enhancement” (119).

There is more to say on this on another occasion. Here I will just point once again to the undoing of the bifurcation of nature within Whitehead’s philosophy with regard to signal.

Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! [New York: Atlas, 2010]

Steven Shaviro, Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics[Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009]

Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality [New York: The Free Press, 1978]

Robotics I | ISEA2011 Istanbul | The Robot State

The papers/events at ISEA2011 present a smorgasbord of interesting reading from robotics to embodiment, augmentation, virtualization, sensory modes and cultural perceptions.

Oh to be in Istanbul now that ISEA 2011 is there!

“If/Then” by Ken Feingold (2001) – Existential AI Chatbots

Art presages popular culture again.

xkcd: AI


Randall Munroe reads my mind. Only he seems to be a thought or two ahead most of the time. I was there with the chatbots but I did not see them at burning man. Yet. And also, I’m still trying to understand what is with the family car decals over here. Every second car has them. If you’re in the school queue we already know. And if you’re not, we don’t care. Why bother? Maybe my fantasy car decal has minions surrounding every business car and inserting symbolic children into/onto them.

Apple Spy Story is good for electronic arts?

Artist Kyle McDonald installed a program on computers in two New York Apple Store locations that automatically takes a photo every minute. Now his personal computers have been confiscated by the U.S. Secret Service.

McDonald’s project was to capture people’s expressions as they stare at computers, a subject he had first explored in a recording he made of his own computer time over two days using the same program.

“I thought maybe we could see ourselves doing this we would think more about our computers and how we’re using them,” he says.

Over the course of the project, McDonald set up roughly 100 Apple store computers to call his servers every minute. That’s a lot of network traffic, and he learned that Apple monitors traffic in its stores when he received a photo from a Cupertino computer of what appeared to be an Apple technician. The technician had apparently traced the traffic to the site McDonald used to upload the program to Apple Store computers — and installed it himself.

McDonald figured that Apple had decided the program wasn’t a big deal. That was until four Secret Service men in suits woke him up on Thursday morning with a search warrant for computer fraud. McDonald, who has a master’s degree in electronic arts, admits the project might make some people uncomfortable.

via mashable.com

Kyle McDonald’s work is viewable at the eponymous http://kylemcdonald.net/. He’s a promising artist and I want to see what future revisions of his basic themes and techniques will bring. Who’s going to offer him a residency in a startup accelerator?

The Robot State – another side of the story

Through Quartet, Margie Medlin took an artistic approach in creating complex new tools that can be used by humans/artists living in an augmented reality. The resulting 60-minute performance presented to the audience in real time was a highly aesthetical rendering of Margie Medlin’s interpretation of our world as an augmented space.

The title Quartet points towards the use of technology in various combinations, as does the line up of the different sections on the program. The four instruments: the dancer, the robot, the musician and the virtual dancer played in different combinations together. The duet between the dancer and the robot is visually easily perceivable and rewarding for the audience. An interesting connection between spatial analogies is evident when the camera eye of the robot is projected onto the screen, seemingly having a conscious will to recognize the dancer. On the other hand, the wish of the dancer to understand its own existence is perceptible through its play with the machine.

After the initial stages of setting up the computer & audio systems involved in this ground breaking project, these systems interacted with live performance by Carlee Mellow. The intention was to show what systems were brought into play in the Quartet project and what can be achieved by the use of such systems.

via DanceNSW – Critical Path Update.

The play – Robots – Les Voyages Extraordinaires – Compagnie de théâtre

The question of the play Robots – Will he give up his robots for ‘her’?

“A stylish mechanical danseuse shifts sensually around the room, troubling the already somewhat addled mind of our gentleman. We have entered an alternate universe, on that’s at once poetic and decadent.”

I suppose we must call this an alternate universe but I think it is very real. Many people find their virtual interactions more comforting than their ‘real’ ones. The core appeal of the play is the first real use of ‘real’ robots on stage. Hybrid or virtual robots are far more successful at infiltrating our lives.