Friday, April 30, 2004, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
EDA Room, UCLA Kinross Building
11000 Kinross Avenue
Westwood, CA 90095
Parking and Directions
Live streaming video available at http://www.design.ucla.edu/index.php. Requires RealPlayer. Video of the event will be archived and available approximately a week later at http://eda.ucla.edu/archive.
Organized by Nicholas Gessler and Katherine Hayles
Speculations about spontaneous creation – of awareness, self-organization and evolution – have recurred across cultures, through time, and over space. In the last half-century, we have developed the algorithmic and computational technologies that can bring life and form to these ideas – as digitally inspired reactive and intentional entities inhabiting galleries, laboratories, and literature.
The conference will bring together artists, humanists, and scientists for panel discussions about the present and future of these trends.
8:30-9:00 am: Coffee, Juice and Pastries
9:00-9:30 am: Introductions
* Katherine Hayles, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, UCLA (conference co-organizer)
* Roberto Peccei, Vice Chancellor for Research, UCLA
* Nicholas Gessler, Co-Director, Human Complex Systems Program, UCLA (conference co-organizer)
9:30-11:00 am: Panel 1 – Self-Organizing Processes
Moderator Nicholas Gessler, UCLA
* Jean-Pierre HÃ©bert, Artist in Residence, UCSB Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. â€œArt Is/As Algorithms: rEvolution of Kazimir Malevichâ€™s â€˜Black Squareâ€™ from 1915 to the Present and Other Examplesâ€
Additional examples include Jean Tinguelyâ€™s â€œMeta Malevichâ€ and â€œMeta Kandinski,â€ sculptures and conceptual art, as well as current perspectives on these and other works.
* Charles Ostman, Institute for Global Futures. â€œThe Emergent Evolutionary
Eventstreams of NeuroAesthetics: The Intersection of Biological Metaphors in Computing and the NeuroAesthetic Influences of Natureâ€
For millennia, in virtually every indigenous culture known to exist, humankind has probed, explored, and even amplified the apparent aesthetic potential of the natural world via the lens of artistic expression. Recently, this mechanism of â€œaesthetic nourishmentâ€ has been translated into the realms of computing, particularly in the arena of computation that utilizes biologically inspired processes and algorithms to manifest a new form of aesthetic nourishment, via the lens of exploration into the realms of â€œvirtual nature.â€ This poses the question of a new realm of evolutionary influence upon our current and future cultures, catalyzed by aesthetic influence from realms beyond the boundaries of organic nature.
* Nathan Brown, UCLA Dept. of English. â€œImagining Materiality at the Limits of Fabricationâ€
From Derridaâ€™s graphic materialist to more recent work by Johanna Drucker, N. Katherine Hayles, and Steve McCaffrey, the materiality of writing has been figured and refiguredâ€”tracked through its unstable modes of participation in an emergent medial ecologyâ€”over the past forty years. But what happens when we resituate scriptural materiality in relation to, and as an element of, condensed matter research at the â€œlimits of fabricationâ€â€”at the intersection of physics, solid-state chemistry, and molecular genetics enabled by nanotechnology? I want to suggest that such a structural coupling of â€œartâ€ and â€œscienceâ€ constitutes the site of irritability at which the ethico-political stakes of technologically producing self-organizing solids should be imagined.
* Michael Dyer, UCLA Dept. of Computer Science. â€œThe Death of the Static Visual Artistâ€
Evolutionary programs could remove the division between the artist (as producer of art) and the viewer (as consumer of art) by turning everyone into a producer of art through the application of selectional pressure (i.e., taste). This â€œdeathâ€ wonâ€™t happen for literature or the visual performance arts because there are few artificial generators in these areas (and they are very primitive) and also the process of applying selection pressure in these areas is too slow and tedious.
11:00-11:30 am: Break
11:30 am-1:00 pm: Panel 2 – Evolving Systems
Moderator Margie Luesebrink, Electronic Literature Organization
* Michael Chang, UCLA Dept. of Design | Media Arts. â€œCellular Automata and Morphologyâ€
Computers have become more and more capable of producing simulations. Future art, science, and research using evolutionary programming can take advantage of simulating â€œcellular morphogenesis.â€
* Casey Reas, UCLA Dept. of Design | Media Arts. “. . . —. . .”
The creation of self-organizing systems as a contemporary artistic practice has roots in works dating back over forty years. Working with modern digital computers introduces new possibilities and methodologies for working within this domain. A range of current works based on scientific research and simple behaviors build a foundation for an exploratory and aesthetic approach to self-organizing systems.
* Brian Attebery, Idaho State University Dept. of English. â€œLiterature as a Self-Misregulating Systemâ€
Literary production and criticism all too often form a closed loop: writers write variations on what they have written before, and the critics praise them for meeting expectations. Generally these expectations have to do with writing about the moral dilemmas and psychological turmoil of characters that just happen to resemble those same writers and critics. To break out of the loop, literature needs periodic infusions of new ideas from history, politics, and especially science, which can question the most basic assumptions of human nature. The writers who have successfully integrated ideas from genetic engineering, nanotechnology, or neuroscience into science fictional narratives may be among the most important writers of our era, although you wouldnâ€™t know it from most critical discourse.
* Kate Marshall, UCLA Dept. of English. â€œNon-Productive Waste and Systemic Interrogation in
Popular and critical accounts of contemporary fiction form a literary system inflected by the distinction between productive and non-productive forms of Bataillan â€œexpenditure.â€ As a test case, Don DeLilloâ€™s 2003 novel Cosmopolis, panned by critics for its inability to escape the destruction it portrayed, both formally and thematically enacts a form of waste that refuses to reroute negative expenditure into productive meaning. While DeLillo has been considered a â€œsystems novelistâ€ by Tom LeClair for taking the principles of self-organizing systems as his thematic concern, Cosmopolis and the texts that surround and constitute it provide a way of examining how a work functions as, rather than merely describes, the system.
1:00-2:00 pm Lunch
2:00-3:30 pm: Panel 4 – Cultural Worlds
Moderator Carol Ann Wald, Electronic Literature Organization and UCLA Dept. of English
* Simon Penny, UC Irvine ArtsComputationEngineering Program. â€œLiving with Agents: Experiments in the Aesthetics of Behavior.â€
Over the last decade, the technical complexity of intelligent or autonomous agents and their possible interactions has developed rapidly, yet by and large, HAI (Human Agent Interaction) is unexplored, the idea of the socially intelligent agent is underdeveloped, the concept of a culturally intelligent agent remains shapeless. Complex communities of agents â€˜in silicoâ€™ remain, for the most part, graphical traces, images or text, locked behind the screen like fish in an aquarium, to be influenced by the mouseclicks and keyboard strokes of a solitary sedentary user. Modalities of human interaction with agent systems has remained constrained by conventional notions of interface and limitations of commercial sensor/effector technologies. I will present documentation of several works utilizing custom sensor scenarios, in which an agent or agents share physical space with a user, whose bodily gesture and dynamics perturb the system.
* Bill Tomlinson, UC Irvine ArtsComputationEngineering Program. â€œCommunities of Agentsâ€
A lone autonomous agent may find out about its world by exploring; a community of agents, on the other hand, can exchange information among its members, thereby becoming a distributed learning system. This system breaks down, though, when certain agents provide incorrect or deceptive information. Computational social relationships can help agents remember the weak links and keep the distributed learning process on track.
* Colin Milburn, Harvard Dept. of English. â€œThe Horrors of Goo: Nanotechnology and the Logic of
Nanotechnologyâ€™s spectacular rise to prominence over the past several years has been accompanied by increasing concern over the potential dangers of self-organizing nanosystems, such as the emergence of hostile artificial intelligences or the worldwide destruction of the biosphere in an apocalypse of â€œgray goo.â€ These fears embody a cultural fantasy, endemic to modernity, that our technology will somehow get “out of control,” run amok, and take over the world. Such fears negatively impact public moral support for nanoresearch, as well as the venture capital and governmental funding made available to nanoscientists. I will talk about some recent popular representations of nanotechnology that have contributed to public perceptions of nanotechnology as a science â€œin controlâ€ and in no danger of giving way to â€œgray goo.â€ Taking a psychoanalytic approach to these texts, I hope to briefly suggest that nanotechnology becomes a â€œsafeâ€ science not by any feat of intellection or engineering, but rather by a rhetorical logic of control that appeals to scientific authority.
* Nicholas Gessler, UCLA Human Complex Systems Program. â€œArtificial Culture: Itâ€™s Agents All the Way Downâ€
Bertrand Russell was once confronted by a woman who claimed that the Earth is carried on the back of a giant turtle, standing on the back of another – â€œturtles all the way down.â€ Today, from nanoscience to cosmology we are confronted with the problem of how smaller â€œcomputational turtlesâ€ (John Smart) give rise to a pyramid of turtles of increasing sizes. â€œOld turtles in new shellsâ€ are reappearing in conferences on â€œcomputational synthesis,â€ â€œdynamical hierarchical synthesisâ€ and â€œdynamic ontology.â€
3:30-4:00 pm: Break
4:00-5:30 pm: Panel 3 – Emerging Minds
Moderator Katherine Hayles
* Dario Nardi, UCLA Dept. of Anthropology. â€œAgents Are Systems Tooâ€
Over 2,500 years in various cultures, similar patterns in individual behavior have been repeatedly identified. Until recently, people called these patterns â€œtypesâ€â€”essentially static boxes without scientific grounding in the reality of human diversity. But today we understand that a finite number of attractorsâ€”dynamic patternsâ€”necessarily appear in many (all) highly complex systems. Agents, as individuals, self-organize within the systems of which they are a part. I will argue that psychologyâ€™s current trait-based ideology is hopelessly mired in 19th century statistical tools. A new understanding will add tremendously to the realism of our models and simulations, and also act as a critical counterpoint to our individual biases as model creators.
* Brooks Landon, University of Iowa Dept. of English. â€œMore Brains: The Magnificent Arrogance of Science Fictionâ€
A good part, if not the greatest part, of science fiction is not as much about science or technology or the future as it is about finding ways of getting smarter. Indeed, SF might be considered the literature of radical auto-didacticism with learning machinesâ€”of various shapes, sizes, ontogenies, and ontologiesâ€”the recurring subject of SF narratives, while those narratives also present themselves as learning machines. In these terms, the self-organization of knowledge, ideas, cognitive processesâ€”always an important aspect of literary experienceâ€”becomes the organizing principle, defining characteristic, and primary agenda of science fiction.
* Rudy Rucker, San Jose State University Dept. of Computer Science. â€œThe Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soulâ€
The title embodies a dialectic triad: (thesis) we can computer-model a personality by an interactive super-blog that I term a lifebox; (antithesis) we feel like we have a soul or spark that canâ€™t be captured by a program, but (synthesis) it may be that certain kinds of naturally occurring computation are in fact rich and unpredictable enough to behave like a mind. Examples of these rich computations are the cellular-automata-like rules that create the markings on cone shells and, more generally, activator-inhibitor rules which produce spots, stripes and scrolls. I would also submit that the textures of events within a novel are themselves driven by activator-inhibitor computations in the authorâ€™s mind.
* Sue Lewak, UCLA Dept. of English. “‘I’m sure those are not the right words’: The Language
of â€˜No-Senseâ€™and Self -Organizing Systems in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”
Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, approaches the idea of self – organization through the dissolution of macroworld rules. Indeed, it is through Alice’s negation of conventional rules that she develops the ability to “form” a coherent microworld system. Thus, as Alice’s gradual acclimation into the wondrous language of â€œno-senseâ€ indicates, self-organization at the microscale lies in the ability to perceive an existing system, rather than in the creation of a new one.
Self-Organizing Systems: rEvolutionary Art, Science, and Literature is sponsored by a DiMI Grant from the University of California, UCLA Human Complex Systems Program, UCLA English Department, UCLA Design | Media Arts Department, Electronic Literature Organization, and the Center for Digital Humanities.