Plasticity and Feedback: Schemas of Indetermination in Cybernetics and Art


Presentation Title:

  • Plasticity and Feedback: Schemas of Indetermination in Cybernetics and Art



  • Abstract (long paper)

    The paper addresses the problem of representation of the processes of change in dynamic systems, specifically focusing on the mechanisms of feedback and plasticity. How adequately can diagrams and schemas explain temporal relations and predict behavior in exceedingly complex systems? How can we know and render visible what happens in between the discrete moments in which decisions are made? How does the material medium of signal transference affect the resulting mechanisms and schemas that represent them? The aspect of representation forms here a special tension with what Andrew Pickering (in reference to cybernetics) names performative epistemologies and ontology of unknowability. In this paper I explore the ways of describing the mechanisms of signal transference and feedback loops in three different types of systems – neuronal network, electro-chemical assemblage, and live organism, each of which represents different scale and principles of biophysical organization. In particular, I consider Warren McCulloch’s diagrams of neural circuits, Gordon Pask’s and Stafford Beer’s experiment with chemical computers developing new senses, and a work by a Russian art collective “Where the Dogs Run”, in which the activity of a live mouse in a labyrinth is determined by the movements of its virtual doppelgangers.