Cybernetics in Society and Art

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Session Title:

  • The History of Things to Come

Presentation Title:

  • Cybernetics in Society and Art

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Abstract:

  • Panel: The history of things to come

    Keywords: Cybernetics, self-regulating systems, Cybersyn, conversation,  interactive art.

    This paper argues that cybernetics is a description of systems in conversation: that is, it is about systems ‘talking’ to each other, engaging in processes through which information is communicated or exchanged between each system or each element in a particular system, say a body or a society.
    It proposes that cybernetics describes the process, or mechanism, that lies at the basis of all conversation and  interaction and that this factor makes it valuable for the analysis of not only electronic communication systems but also of societal organisation and intra-communication and for interaction within the visual/electronic arts. The paper discusses the actual process of Cybernetics as a feedback driven mechanism for the self-regulation of a collection of logically linked objects (i.e., a system). These may constitute a machine of some sort, a biological body, a society or an interactive artwork and its interlocutors. The paper then looks at a variety of examples of systems that operate through cybernetic principles and thus demonstrate various aspects of the cybernetic process. After a discussion of the basic principles using the primary example of a thermostat, the paper looks at Stafford Beer’s Cybersyn project developed for the self-regulation of the Chilean economy. Following this it examines the conversational, i.e., interactive, behaviour of a number of artworks, beginning with Gordon Pask’s Colloquy of Mobiles developed for Cybernetic Serendipity in 1968. It then looks at some Australian and international examples of interactive art that show various levels of cybernetic behaviours. These include Stan Osotja-Kotkowski’s interactive paintings of the early 1970s, Mari Velonaki’s Fish-Bird robotics project circa 2006 and Stelarc’s Prosthetic Head (2003-2009).

    Full text (PDF) p. 8-20

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