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<eyebeam><blast> CLOSING SUMMARY 3

<eyebeam><blast> artistic practice in the network 


This current runs from "posthuman" to "puppetry" to performances of a
drag queen, and in between, several participants attesting to strange
interactions between their "qi-fields" and their powermacs.

Katherine Hayles began a discussion thread on the posthuman, which
involved issues of embodiment and human/computer interface systems. 
Katherine argued for "the importance of embodiment in re-thinking issues
around cyberspace, and for the posthuman as a distributed cognitive
system, with human and non-human components." For her, the posthuman is
best understood not as an antihuman annihilation of human life as we
know it, but rather "as the newest phase of a process that has been
on-going for thousands of years of cognitively enriched environments."
Seen in this way, the posthuman offers us "a way to think about
human-machine interfaces in ways that are life-enhancing rather than
life-threatening." It also offers opportunities to get out of some old
dualisms and put embodiment back in the picture.

Brian Holmes summarized pertinent concerns of Merleau-Ponty. "I
certainly sense, from time to time, the presence of bodies through their
electro-poetic traces on my screen - traces which remain
material-energetic and finite, despite the immense scope of their
reproduction through the net." Brian wondered whether posthuman
cyberintelligence would have a more supple approach to human relations
than the earlier varieties, or whether it would just be more efficient.

Katherine wrote that as she sees it, one of the major driving forces
behind the posthuman is "the desire to conceptualize human being, and
human cognition, in terms that allow it to be seamlessly articulated
with intelligent machines. Very often, in practice, this means erasing
the importance of embodiment (as when Hans Moravec foresees human
consciousness being downloaded into a computer), because as soon as one
attends to embodiment, it becomes obvious that humans and computer are
built (and operate) very differently." Far from wanting to simply
reinscribe the posthuman as it is currently formulated (in science
fiction, etc.), Katherine wants in very specific ways to contest it as a
term, to draw into question certain assumptions now associated with it.

Joel Weishaus asked if this posthuman was any different from the human
inscribing itself. He also reminded us that at the same time we focus on
embodiment or disembodiment, the psychological also needs investigation.

Jon Ippolito wrote about humans in terms of emergent systems.  Brian
Holmes, referring to Eve Laramee's post about ants as cellular automata,
didn't see how to make a leap between the actions of cellular automata
and human consciousness. Katherine Hayles pointed out the work of
Francisco Varela, who takes up Minsky's idea of consciousness as a
"society of mind," a collection of more or less autonomous agents, each
of which runs its own little program. Varela suggests that Minksy's
model can explain certain states of consciousness, but doesn't at all
explain how these agents can fit together smoothly to create impression
of continuous, uninterrupted thought. Katherine explains Varela's work
as suggesting that "what actually happens is that the microstates
generated by these agents comprise a nonlinear dynamical system, and
that the transition between one state and another...constitute moments
when the different states interact dynamically until one 'emerges' as
the resultant of these complex dynamics.  This is effect combines the
kind of discrete model embodied in all cellular automata models (which
artificially go from one set of states to another with no transition in
between, by asking the computer to 'update' all the states into a new
generation) with complex nonlinear dynamics." (A discussion occurred
under the heading "Recombinant Poetics," which explored these issues and
others in the context of hypertext, emergent text systems, and
authorship. Bill Seaman introduced his work with "The World
Generator/Engines of Desire.")

Ben Williams reminded us that we use our technologies to conceptualize
our consciousness. Given that technologies are always changing, the
models have always changed throughout history. "The channels are
plural." Simon Biggs writes that the computer, as a language machine, is
first and foremost an extension of the technology of writing, and if we
are to accept Foucault's argument regarding the human as a
linguistically determined thing, the computer does have an important
role in defining it.  Brian Holmes responded that there is a richer
understanding of the notion of discourse. Foucault also speaks of
discourses as technologies of power and shows that all discursive
formations are bound up in specific material practices, each with their
own potential for mobility and inertia. Saul Anton also pointed out that
the notion of writing in Foucault is "far more complex than the
simplistic notion of technology that is usually batted around." Ben
Williams, in reply to Simon, mentions that the question is more "what
kind of a language," and positions the work of Friedrich Kittler.

Regarding the interface between human and computer, Adnan Ashraf then
described how he has observed "phenomenal idiosyncrasies between my
qi-field (my life, my energy) and the powermac I use." He writes that
"At the risk of seeming paranoid or solipsistic, I'll say there's been
evidence on a regular basis of a bioelectric interface between me and
the machine. It probably has a lot to do with intentionality, and the
quality of qi." He describes that some time ago when he was stressed, or
ill, or stuck in a feedback loop of contrary expectations, the machine
would backfire, lock up, or crash. "I'm not saying the machine's alive,
but I've suspected that it interacts with my qi."

Judith Thorn attested to this phenomenon herself. She writes that "a
number of years ago when I was really unstrung--struggling with
life/world--I had a few days in which every piece of electronic
equipment I touched would fail. A friend and skeptic who worked in
theoretical physics was present on one of these down days and said that
had he not seen it for himself he would not have believed it. I tend to
think that the electronic and magnetic circuits of the body release
currents/ions/ charges or whatever they are called which have effects on
machines. I associate the application of this energy with other sorts of
what are known as supernatural or spiritual practices."

Organon also attested to this phenomenon. He describes that last year
when he was working on a book intensely for a deadline, his powerbook
was threatening to crash. He did not have the time or money to fix it
and the project was important. "I became sensitive to my focus in
whether I could boot the machine up or not and was able to keep it going
throughout the project. The day I finished the machine crashed for good
-- as if it had been trying to hold out for me or my own 'qi' supported

Melinda Rackham described a similar experience "whereby I often feel
that I am in an embodied parasitic relationship with my powermac --  it
sucks energy through me as I push/pull/suck information through it. My
operating system has assumed relational subjectivity." Melinda is drawn
to the idea that our bodies are the screens by which the machines access
reality, so "it makes perfect sense that if 'they' are our conduit to a
'virtual' world we are their conduit to the 'fleshworld.'"

Alan Sondheim, who has been "running on the Net and co-moderating on the
Net and advising on the Net for close to four and a half years now," is
thinking about how his life turns segmentary vis-a-vis the cycles of the
Net, "as if there were a daily breathing." 

Sally Jane Norman described her work with puppets at the International
Institute of Puppetry in France. "What constitutes a puppet is in itself
a vast debate," she writes. At the Institute she frequently has to
(expediently) redefine what it means to "bring something alive." She
describes that her last fieldworkers' seminar, which to a certain extent
focused on ritual and effigy (Middle East, Africa, Oceania).  Her next
seminar will deal with gestures and objects. "When you frequent people
who animate figures and shapes all over the planet, the 'myth' of
universal gesture becomes questionable." Sally describes how her friend
Claire Heggen, who directs the "Théâtre du mouvement" and is a brilliant
mime/body master, is running a series of workshops in Madrid, Porto and
Bratislava, on how the town, the urban environment, is expressed,
translated, across the body, its movements, its deambulations.
"Calvino's Invisible Towns read through gestures."

Alan Sondheim remarked earlier on the "quasi-demise" of the older,
text-based net, which includes the MUDs and MOOs. It is always
interesting how little discussion on network practices refer to these
and other text-based social environments - even if only the chat rooms. 
Here issues of embodiment in the network are most vividly played out. 
Alan also presented some of his work with avatar-constructs and
introduced some transcripts from a log of the interactions of "Nikuko." 

Mez posted a "Dance Floor Dilemma" - a text-based role-playing
environment with templates of variables, the abbreviations for which
E W B - euro white boy
R F V - retro fashion victim
S S P - same sex preferencing
L T E - late teen envelope
O S P - opposite sex preference
B T T - better than a transplant
I N F - intentionally nondescript face
F V S - fashion victim status
I C R - incidental character rating
N S Q - nervous smiling quality
E V S - eternal victim status
A P F - addictive personality functioning
E L V - exceedingly loud volume
s&m - sado-masochism
b&d - bondage and discipline
b l - bloodlust
BaBE - beautiful adequate buxom elf
L8TR - later
D S P - designated swapping place

E Sayeg posted a localization as follows: "gender class country
education salary profession job ethnicity religion scruples cognitive
profile IQ sex acquisitive level consumer profile address telephone fax
number name surname expertise skill achievement gift nickname tagline
signature index page code voice pitch fingerprints retinaprints
DNAprints escape clause reboot button site url gender class country
education salary profession job ethnicity religion endless list margin
edge of time womom womym female male second millenium immodest modest
witness judge @ http:// self local real virtual general possible
impossible body embodied environment immersion vast database web network
surveillance point node emergence local global emergence immersion
recursion link backbutton escape key reality.sys corrupt, comma grammar
right wrong correction erasure closure refutation science myth cyborg
citizen virtual city brutal third world universe reboot he she it…"

And Angus Trumble's MOO creation "vitruvius" -- ever-hungry for action
-- swayed through the forum on numerous occassions, sprung from the
reality of the MOO into the public realm of the e-list.    

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