Algorithm, Analog Computing, Art, Automata, Bacteria, Biological Computation, Biology, Cybernetics, Deep Learning

Beyond design: cybernetics, biological computers and hylozoism (Pickering 2008)

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Architecture, Art, gas, PDF, Photography

Gas Tanks (Bernd and Hilla Becher)

“Typological, repetitive, at times oddly humorous,  photographs of industrial structures are, in their cumulative effect, profoundly moving. The Bechers’ serenely cool, disarmingly objective, and notoriously obsessive images of water towers, gas tanks, grain elevators, blast furnaces, and mineheads have been taken over several decades, under overcast skies, with a view camera that captures each detail and tonality of wood, concrete, brick and steel.
In this work, the Bechers’ present four principally different forms of gas holders or gas tanks in 140 photographs taken during the years 1963-1992 in Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, and the United States. The subjects are photographed under overcast skies that eliminate expressive variations in lighting; the Bechers make no attempt to analyze or explain them. Captions contain only the barest of information: time and place. On the subject of gas holders, the Bechers limit their remarks to a minimal functional description, leaving the aesthetic dimension of their subject to the photographs themselves: much of the fascination of these photographs lies in the fact that these unadorned metallic structures, presumably built with little concern for their visual impact, are almost invariably striking in appearance.”

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Art, Biology, Cybernetics, ecology, History, music theory, systems theory

communication +1, 3(1): Afterlives of Systems (2014) (pdf)

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“Under the impression of today’s global crisis and the rise of ecological thinking, confronted with smart, ubiquitous technosystems and the impression of interconnectedness, there appears a new urge to excavate the remnants of the past. The articles of this issue suggest that in order to understand present technologies, we need to account the systems thinking that fostered their emergence, and that we cannot gain insight into the afterlives of systems without exploring their technologies.

The nine contributions ask how these debates and affective states survive and live on in today’s discussions of media ecologies, environmentalism, object-oriented philosophies, computer simulations, performative art, and communication technologies. In this sense, they take the renaissance of systems thinking in the late 20th and early 21st Century as an effect of various system crisis and explore new media technologies as stabilizing ‘cures’ against the dystopian future scenarios that emerged after World War II. The articles of this issue suggest that in order to understand present technologies, we need to account the systems thinking that fostered their emergence, and that we cannot gain insight into the afterlives of systems without exploring their technologies.”

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Art, Biology, Biometrics, Brain, Education, Mind, Psychology, Science, Society

Secrets of the Creative Brain

“Part of what comes with seeing connections no one else sees is that not all of these connections actually exist. “Everybody has crazy things they want to try,” that same subject told me. “Part of creativity is picking the little bubbles that come up to your conscious mind, and picking which one to let grow and which one to give access to more of your mind, and then have that translate into action.””

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Anthropology, Art, Biological Computation, Biology, Biometrics, Brain, Deep Learning, Music, Neural Networks, Psychology, Science, Social intelligence, Society, Sound

The Neuroscience of Improvisation

Charles Limb has been investigating rap. “It’s what kids are doing spontaneously when growing up… and improvisation is a strong theme. It incorporates language and rhythmic music very equally.” Limb has been scanning the brains of rappers the same way he looked at jazz musicians: comparing fMRIs when they recited memorized passages to when they “freestyled,” or improvised in rhyme. Although the study is still in progress, preliminary data suggest “major changes in brain activity when you go from memorized rap to freestyle.” Can studies of improvisation unlock more general secrets of creativity? Limb hopes to do similar investigations of artists as they draw or paint. The moderator ended with an inevitable question about art and science: “It is worth the effort to measure and quantify something abstract and artistic… to demystify what we enjoy the mystery of?” Limb saw nothing “threatening or reductionist” in the work of neuroscientists. “Humans are hardwired to seek art, and there are very few things that engage the brain on the level that music does. To understand the neural basis of creativity teaches us something fundamental about who we are, why we’re here.” Improvisation “shows us what the mind can do,” Marcus added. “The ability of human beings to improvise tells us a lot about the ultimate scope of our capabilities.”

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Architecture, Art, Biology, Biometrics, Brain, Capitalism, Economy, Education, History, Mathematics, Medicine, Nature, philosophy, Psychology, Science, Society

Kantian Legacy in Nineteenth Century Science

“The book examines Kant’s influence on five strands of nineteenth-century scientific thought: Naturphilosophie and the effect of German Romanticism (especially Goethe) on biology; Fries’s philosophy of science; Helmholtz’s rejection of Naturphilosophie and Romanticism; neo-Kantianism and its return to “methodological” concerns in natural science and academic philosophy; and Poincaré and his reflections on scientific epistemology. The essays give a nuanced picture of Kant’s legacy to nineteenth-century thinkers and of the rich interaction between philosophical ideas and discoveries in the natural and mathematical sciences during this period. They point to the ways that the scientific developments of the nineteenth century link Kant’s thought to the science of the twentieth century.”

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