Friday, July 31, 2009

[Yasmin_discussions] august discussion on yasmin: collective genius ?


this is the last day of our cyborg discussion

alec, francis and simon have started a discussion on creativity
and genius= this is a large topic with hundreds of books and articles
and i am not sure how we can develop new ideas in this area=
I personally didnt find the elizabeth gilbert ted talk very enlightening

one thing i picked up on in simon's comments, is that indeed today
so much problem solving and creative activity is developed in groups,
teams, collaborations

we are faced with many hard problems in our world= and it is very
unlikely that an individual ;'genius' is what is needed- to transform
our societies into ones that are sustainable/ and whose impact
on our climate and environment is not catastrophic= we need
systemic social change- elsewhere i have called this the
problem of the 'hard humanities'= and one of the things that
i think makes art-science collaboration urgent today is that
for these hard problems we have to couple problem solving
in the technosciences with social systems on large scales=
artists and scientists must figure out how to collaborate

so perhaps we need to shift the question from genius to
the question of how we encourage good problem solving
communities, (or question askin communities)

there are now hundreds of examples of web based problem
solving communities= from Innocentive
or Bricolabs to name just two but i am sure
yasminers can suggest other examples

so to pick up on simon's argument re distributed agency= i suspect
that there is still room for the concept of 'genius' or at least how
one creates the conditions for exceptionally good problem asking
and solving

a number of yasminers have been involved in the emobilart project

European Mobile Lab for Interactive Media Artists (e-MobiLArt) is a
project tailored around the process
of collaboratively creating interactive installation artworks. Such
mediated environments may
involve the use of ubiquitous computing, communication networks and
mobile or locative media technologies.
Participants in this project will be artists and scientists who are
active in creating interactive media art
or pursuing innovative interdisciplinary research and wish to
collaborate in order to create interactive media artworks.

The project involved bringing together 35 artists and researchers, who
had never worked together,
three workshops were held (in greece, finland and austria) = 13 teams
developed that each
created their own installation art works that were exhibited in greece
and will be shown in poland
in the fall

as an observer of the process= it raises many questions about how one
creates conditions for innovative
teams to emerge, perhaps some of the emobilart participants can
contribute to this discussion=it was
a painful process, one that is being carried out in hundreds of
communities of practice worldwide

do yasminers have examples of interesting collaborative projects in
the art-science area ?
which ones demonstrate 'genius' or exceptional outcomes ?


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Alec Robertson <>
Date: Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 9:52 AM
Subject: Re: [Yasmin_discussions] cyborgs skin and programmers


I would like to recommend a TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on 'genius'
related indirectly to the posts below at

"Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from
artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of
the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a
funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk."

Alec Robertson

-----Original Message-----
From: on behalf of
Francis Wittenberger
Sent: Fri 31/07/2009 12:26
Subject: Re: [Yasmin_discussions] cyborgs skin and programmers


i am wondering:

how much/what/which human/bio/other parts/capabilities must be present in
a cyborg 'mixture' in order for an organism to be called 'cyborg'?

must the 'parts' be physically adjoining the body or could those also be

must a cyborg eventually have a body? or could an evolved (human?)
residing (say, 'on the net' or in space/ether) be called a cyborg? (it
is has a human consciousness and some type of energy as 'body parts'

if a (say, a male) cyborg gained (say, a female) artificial sexual
organs would 'it' then be a he/she or an 'it' ?

can an addition alone render a bio-organism be cyborg? any minimal
requirements as of the extent and or physical/virtual properties of the

are cyborg eligible for Inheritance? (what part of a human is eligible
for Inheritance? is it the body? life itself? the notion of 'self'?)
what if his/her/it's sense-of-self has evolved/changed or removed?

- -

"Simon Biggs" <> wrote:

> Which brings us to your point about genius and the jump of creativity.
> Whilst I agree that creativity does not work in straight lines or as a
> coherent progression I do not think there is such a thing as genius. As I
> have already indicated, I have a lot of time for Newton's idea of team-work.
> I regard individuality as a contingent characteristic, preferring the
> Foucauldian notion of the distributed self or Latour's of expanded and
> diffused agency. In these models the individual is regarded as an instance
> of the collective and enabled through that context, drawing on and defined
> by the resources within and without them (there is no notion of an essential
> or irreducible self - the self is more like a construction). In a sense I
> find it difficult to identify what is in and what is out. As such, all our
> activities are more or less distributed and collective in nature. I do not
> see how genius can fit in that model.

Simon - holding a firm grip over a notion such as 'there is no thing
such as genius' simply because it does not fit into your will cause
the occasional
appearances of a genius to be disregarded thus we are all forced into
the linear progression of scientific research.

isn't it a pity to give up on our chance to 'jump' just because a model
is too narrow?

- -

best regards,

> Hi Simon, and everybody
> Your trail about cyborg flesh and robots' skin seems very interesting
> to me. As I said in a previous post, I think one fruitfull way to
> explore cyborgs is to investigate what kind of body they are. This
> body question is not just a matter of envelope giving a look to more
> or less sophisticated abstract programs. Nor is it the mere mechanics
> allowing a robot to enact the programs it is supposed to perform.
> The embodied interface is more than just a thin and smooth
> interchangable skin, like in most 3D simulations. Skin is a surface
> producing images, but it is also part of a body. Its thickness is even
> more important than its surface. I think developing interfaces'
> thickness and even roughness is an important task, parallel to the
> task of making them smooth and fluid for better interaction. This is a
> field where engeneers, programmers and artists meet.
> David Cronenberg's vision, in the 1990s, was mindfull. In "Existenz",
> he imagined "bio ports", organic connections between machines and
> bodies. "Naked Lunch" is the story of a writer (William Burroughs) who
> looks for the "black meat" extracted from centipedes from Amazonia.
> There is a strong connection between this drug and his writing. His
> type writer mutates into a beetle. Here, human language, machine and
> animal body ("meat") fuse or mutate into each others.
> Beyond the SF aspect, what about "cyborg flesh"?
> Best
> Stéphane
> stephane dumas

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