Thoughtforms: Transdisciplinary Transformations

In April of 2005, I attended a lecture by Roy Ascott titled Transdisciplinary Transformations: Art and Design in a Culture of Connectivity. Mr Ascott is Professor of Technoetic Arts at the University of Plymouth. He is the founder of the Planetary Collegium, an “international network for research in art, technology and consciousness.” Many of his ideas and philosophies on aesthetics, technology and the sense of self within the communities of cyberspace have been compiled into the book Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology and Consciousness.


Three years later, looking back at my notes, his lecture makes more sense to me. Below are the notes I took- just quotations, ideas, themes etc with my thoughts now. If you would like a more concrete summary, visit the recap over at Rhizome.

Notes: Being telematic

Every fibre, every node, every server on the Net is a part of me.

It’s a phase space I’m in, a sort of tele-potentiality.

As I interact with the Net, I reconfigure myself.

My net-extent defines me, just as my body defined me in the old biological culture.

I am weightless and dimensionless in any exact sense.

I am the reach of my connectivity.

Reflections: Proving and pushing one’s existence once relied in the physical, or as said above “the old biological culture.” Now, one can push their existence by pushing the “reach of their connectivity.” Just by writing articles for this blog, I’ve defined myself in a virtual but very real way = “As I interact with the Net, I reconfigure myself.”  I think it all comes down to being influential and being influenced. Influence does not require physical presence.

Notes: How can exotic and ancient cultures mix with techno?

Reflections: This is an extremely interesting question. It relates to what I said about Design by the Other 90%. What would happen if a culture went straight from Agrarian society to Information/Conceptual society, i.e. skipping an Industrial Age altogether? Would their endeavors be less driven by financial gain? Would their aesthetics reflect tradition as opposed to Western assimilation?

Content > Context
Object > Process
Perspective > Immersion
Paranoia > Telenoia
Reception > Negotiation
Representation > Construction
Autonamous Brain > Distributed Mind
Nature > Artifical Life
Certainty > Contingency
Resolution> Emergence

Reflections: The arrow represents an evolution from one concept to a new one. From Content to Context- we see this in consumerism. The product is starting to matter less than the story behind it, is it handmade? is it organic? does my favorite actress own this?

Objects are moving to process, which for me means a move from a concrete identity to an ever-changing state of being. Mass-customization is easily the most obvious example. Are you part of your product? Is the product an extension of yourself? Does the product’s function change along with your needs?

We are moving from Paranoia to Telenoia. Privacy is predominantly an issue of cyber activity. Stalking is done virtually. Personal theft occurs from thousands of miles away.

Reception to Negotiation is a matter of the increasing power of the populace. No longer can one source tell you what you like, who you are, or what to do. Because you are connected. And because you are connected, you have influence. You have the ability to research the product before you buy; the ability to review and recommend once you do; the ability to just make it yourself if you don’t like what’s out there. The world is now a conversation.

I have nothing to say on Representation > Construction. : )

From Autonomous Brain to Distributed Mind… crowdsourcing, flickr, wikipedia, youtube, etc.

Nature to Artificial Life is pretty straightfoward. Science can create; life is not strictly reliant on natural processes.

Certainty to Contingency goes back to the world being a conversation. There are more and more influencers, more variables every day. As Roy said later in the lecture, “Meaning is negotiated.”

Notes: “Everything we do in Cyberspace is a rehersal for what we’ll do with Nanotechnology.”

Reflections: I hope I live this long.

Notes: “The world exists only to the extent to which you participate in it.”

Reflections: I really like that quote.

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