Theory: How Machines Think, I: Cybernetics (gLV) 

History and presence of cybernetics in art and society

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Nummer und TypBKM-BKM-Th.19H.011 / Moduldurchführung
VeranstalterDepartement Fine Arts
LeitungFelix Stalder
Anzahl Teilnehmendemaximal 11
ECTS3 Credits
VoraussetzungenAbility to read theoretical texts and contribute to discussions in English
ZielgruppenInterested students of other study programmes can contact studium.dkm@zhdk.ch and will be informed at the end of calendar week 36 about a possible participation.
Lernziele / KompetenzenLearn about the history and continuing relevance of cybernetics in art and culture.
Read and discuss key theoretical texts and artists works.
InhalteIn the late 1960s, a series of landmark performances, such as Robert Rauschberg's "Open Score" (1966, NYC), exhibitions such as "Cybernetic Serendipity" (1968, London) and books, such as Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media, marked a turning point in popular culture. Once esoteric notions of "information", "openness", "feedback", and "media" began to reach wide audiences and shaped new ideas about art and artistic processes. Indeed, to understand art as an open-ended process was a direct consequence of cybernetic thinking.

Cybernetics as discipline emerged after the second world war, as an attempt to rethink the changing relationships between people, animals, and machines. The latter were no longer perceived as fundamentally different from each other, but as being coupled in "open systems" and interacting with one another through "feedback". "Thinking" and "intelligence" were no longer seen as the exclusive domain of self-conscious human beings, but were redefined as the ability to read and react to the environment. Thus, now also machines could be seen as thinking.

While cybernetics as a term fell out of fashion in the 1970s, its basic assumptions and ideas provide much of the common sense of today's techno-social worlds and remains crucial to understanding both artificial intelligence and social media.

In this module we want to investigate the origins, transformations and continuing relevance of cybernetics and the productive, yet problematic ways in which it established an equivalence between humans and machines. We will read texts, watch movies and analyze art from the last 50 years. We will discuss all of this as it relates to the experiences of our own daily lifes and our own artistic positions.

Felix Stalder is a professor for Digital Culture in the department Art & Media. His work focuses on the intersections of cultural, political and technological dynamics, in particular on new modes of common-based production, control society, copyright and transformation of subjectivity. He not only works as an academic, but also as a cultural producer, being a moderator of the mailing list <nettime> and a member of the World Information Institute as well as the Technopolitics Working Group (both in Vienna). Among his recent publications are “Digital Solidarity” (PML & Mute 2014) and “The Digital Condition” (Polity Press, 2018). → https://fs.zhdk.ch felix.openflows.com
Bibliographie / LiteraturWill be handed out at the beginning of the module.
Leistungsnachweis / TestatanforderungMandatory attendance (minimum 80%); active participation.
TermineTime: 09:15 - 17:00 Uhr

CW 43 (Monday to Friday): 21 - 25 October
Bewertungsformbestanden / nicht bestanden
BemerkungThe module will be held in English.
Termine (5)