This is a work in progress proposal for a series of lecture and workshop. The series will be ideally hosted at a higher level academic institution or art space in collaboration with research labs. This series will explore how human brain works in relation to computational technology.
How can we learn to remember and how can we learn to forget?
Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux explains plasticity of synapses in our brain is the core mechanism that enables human sense of self. Thus we know that we exist by remembering things past and anticipating things to come.
How is our sense of self transforming with computational technology in daily life? And specifically, what role does mobile device play in our communication with past and present? By finding answers to these questions, we can begin to understand integration of mediated experience, constructed memory and permanent storage.
Revolutionary developments occurred simultaneously in computer science and neuroscience since the 60s. However, neuroscience have had less greater effect in the realm of art and culture, while popular recognition of Cybernetics and Artificial Intelligence continues to inspire notions of thinking and feeling machines.
This series is an opportunity to engage in critical thinking on technical topics ranging from neuroscience, analog computers to object oriented programming in its social context. We will examine the history of art and computation in relation to the sustained pursuit in understanding human nature. For example, dominant paradigm of cybernetics in post war United States in relation to abstraction in visual art. Towards the second half of the series, participants will be encouraged to make new work (research or art work) inspired by technical and theoretical possibility of recently gained understanding in human brain and computation.
Still Life with Turkey Pie by Pieter Claesz (1627). This image is mentioned in week 6 on Taste.
Week 1 Course introduction
This class is about imagining what happens in our brain when we remember and when we forget. And what happens in our brain for this to happen? Human labor of remembering and the machine assisted memory by contemplating on the mediation of experience, archivial desire, and materiality of permanent storage.
The comparison between brain and computers, for example, voltage is applied to synapses during brain activity as well as electrical circuits during computation, comes to a limitation as we understand more about brain and it’s its plasticity. On other hand, is it possible to image a truely thinking and feeling machine?
The class will develop around text of following authors mentioned in the syllabus. The lecturer will deliver introduction to the text each class, students are expected to participate in discussion.There are in class activities and assignments that are categorized as ‘student output’.
Student output: Students will make a ‘Mystic writing pad’ (Etch A Sketch) in class.
Week 2 Memory and storage
How is historic memory shaped by technical reproduction and visual representation? Why is archive important and how can it be reanimated?
Student output: Students will visualize their computer harddrive and mindmap of memory.
Week 3 Neural plasticity
What is the memory mechanisms in neurons? How do humans use working memory? and why is attention so important?
Student output: Students will visualize their understanding of human memory after reading reference material.
Week 4 Love and affection
How do we fall in love? What is the difference between romantic love and euphoric states?
Student output: Students will write a short script about the moment they fell in love. They will enact the script in class.
Week 5 Language and sound
What is the difference between noise, speech and how is human sonice memory constructed? What is perceptual coding and how does audio compression take advantage of it?
Student presentation: Students will make sound composition about a place in their memory
Week 6 Taste
For Proust, eating madelaine with tea brought back certain memory. In out daily activities related to taste, such as cooking, smelling and eating, we are reminded of past memory and creating new one. Artificial flavoring industry have mastered engineering of taste as instigator of memory. Artists such as Conflict Kitchen, Rirkrit Tiravanija use taste as the medium for social and asthetic confrontation.
Student output: Students will host a picnic and tell a story about the food they prepared.
Week 7 Learning and teaching
One of the biggest use of memory is to learning new skills. How is education system affect our learning behavior and how is our memory affected in return? We will review Joseph Beuys’s lecture performance and contemporary alternative education practices.
Student output: Students will teach each other their secret knowledge.
Week 8 Presence
What about human presence different is different from that of animal or object? How do we feel comfort or fear in presence of another person? What kind of change happens in our consciousness being in a crowd and being in solitude?
The intimacy shared in family is different from distance shared among strangers. The comfrot of familiarity
Student output: body movement workshop
Week 9 Cybernetics
Introduction to concepts of Signal, Feedback, Entropy. This class will review history of few disciplines, Cognitive Science, Human Compute Interaction and Art and Technology circa 1960’s.
Student output: Students will write an essay about a fictional work of art by appropriating language from art and technology studies from the 60’s onward.
Week 10 Technical objects - 1
This class will introduce Gilbert Simondon’s concept of tools and instruments.
Student output: reading notes and questions.
Week 11 Technical objects - 2
This class will introduce Simondon’s concept of technical objects, automation and open machine.
Student output: reading notes and questions.
Week 12 Thinking machine
This class will be a discussion and presentation about recent achievement in Artificial Intelligence and its social impact.
Student output: Plan for the final project.
Week 13 Feeling machine
What is the difference between emotions, feelings and affects? Artists such Melanie Gilligan have been making performance and video art that question the boundary between affects and currency. Brody Condon’s participatory performance reverse participation and spectatorship through game mechanics. What now, if machines can feel?
Student output: Updates on the final project.
Week 14 Final lecture
Reflection on the course and final discussion.
Taeyoon’s lecture slide example.