The Logics of Initiation | The Cybernetic Challenge

[preliminary abstract for the Interactive Media Arts Conference IMAC 2012 in Copenhagen  / accepted May 29]

In the short story “Mimse go the Borogoves” written by Catherine Lucille Moore and Henry Kuttner under the pseudonym of Lewis Padgett, and for the first time published in 1943, a box with children toys that originate in future’s time and place is sent to Earth. A young boy finds it and carries it home. He can play with some of the toys and make sense of them, but he cannot fully understand them. They present riddles to him. While he is at the borderline of understanding the toys, to his parents - ‘conditioned by Euclid’ - they remain absolutely obscure. It is the boy’s younger sister - still unconditioned by language - who seems to understand best the toys’ spatial configuration. And thus, from this understanding of a different order, she draws an exit, and both the children escape the world of prediction.

Wouldn’t we all want to escape this world of prediction?

The story “Mimse go the Borogoves” was included by editor Gotthard Guenther in a volume that translated for the German speaking audience a series of American Science Fiction short stories. The volume was published in 1952. In his editorial comments entitled “The Overcoming of Space and Time” Gotthard Guenther wrote:

[…] who experiences that there are more intensive and higher forms of spiritual life, than are represented through the human Gestalt has no other chance but to desert from humanness. For it is the categorical responsibility of consciousness to realize in itself the highest form of experience that it can possibly realize. (Guenther, 1952, p. 232)

Gotthard Guenther published his first major work, a book whose title translates to “Idea and Outline of a Non-Aristotelian Logic”, in 1957. History tells us that, a few years later, Heinz von Foerster received a phone call from Warren McCulloch suggesting him to invite this strange logician who is understood by no one. In 1960, Gotthard Guenther joined Heinz von Foerster’s Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he stayed until 1972.

This article develops on the idea of second order cybernetics as a logics of initiation – feasible exclusively on the basis of a theory that extends the well known binary logic that has been dominant in the Western world since the times of classical metaphysics. Openness is intrinsic to the logics of initiation. It is logic - within this context - that the history of cybernetics often appears to be resistant against the classical form of a scientific historical narrative as a history of ideas. It may be best understood as a history of events.

Time: Mar 17, 22:58 GMT

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2012/07/01 :: deadline for abstracts :: MutaMorphosis II

Prague in December, don’t miss this conference! Recently the call for abstracts for the MutaMorphosis II | Tribute to Uncertainty conference has been published. I would especially also welcome contributions to the stream of interest that I will be moderating: Addressing the Future | The Tactics of Uncertainty. If you have questions about it please feel free to contact me.

MutaMorphosis | Tribute to Uncertainty
Prague, December 6 – 8

Call for Abstracts

We invite you to respond to the Tribute to Uncertainty theme and/or to address one of the 21 streams of interest led by 28 conference Attractors.

Deadline: July 1, 2012

Submission page:

Do you have something original to say about our world that is increasingly fuzzy, unstable and chaotic? Are you interested in how crisis, uncertainty and complexity can come together in order to question the known as well as predict and/or model yet unknown? Do you want to share projects intrinsically linking domains of scientific, artistic and technological research and creativity that can be introduced as relevant tools for better understanding of our common future?

The aim of this Call for Abstracts is to provide opportunity for community of interdisciplinary practitioners to get engaged in a transformative conversation on mutant futures.

Feel free to address conference Attractors and respond to a specific stream of interest in order to get involved with other interested individuals and collectives in structured collaborative efforts before, during, and hopefully also after the conference. Research groups formed by the Attractors -who serve as the Reviewers- will be expected to elaborate on the general theme Tribute to Uncertainty while turning attention to concrete research objectives as defined by the streams.

The results should be curated panels, roundtables, workshops as well as publications.

Priority will be given to innovative and challenging proposals.

For more details please check out the MutaMorphosis website.

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2012/04/30 : : deadline 01 : : An Ecology of Ideas Conference

Asilomar, California, July 9 – 13,  2012. 

Invited and confirmed speakers include: Graham Barnes, Eric Bateson, Nora Bateson, Fritjof Capra, Ximena Dávila, Terry Deacon, Debora Hammond, Klaus Krippendorff, Humberto Maturana, Rex Weyler.

Our ideas form, grow, and thrive in relationship. Ideas inspire and transform each other and their bio-cultural medium. New ones emerge unexpectedly, some persist, some change, and some are lost, as if they were living.

The American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) and Bateson Idea Group (BIG) come together to hold a conference on the relations among ideas as seen from multiple perspectives. We come from many disciplines but have common roots including cybernetics, circularity, reflexivity, language, culture and systems. For many of us these roots are enmeshed with biology, information, pattern, design, art, aesthetics, ethics and more.

In a world rife with factionalism and disenchantment, we will engage in conversations to integrate disciplines of knowing while taking into account our histories and considering our futures. We will regard both the parts and the whole that arises from the relations between the parts — and thus becomes the context for all the parts. We are concerned with the world that arises from how we live our ideas.

ASC and BIG have common interests in dynamic systems of thought, wisdom and learning. We accept that there are many views and value exploring the relationships between them, rather than in insisting that any view is “right”.

see website for registration, submission of abstract and other ideas:

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From the Eastern Journeys series | 01

From the Eastern Journeys Series -Claudia Westermann- LITRA

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Escape Routes to the Future


We hope future generations find our humour useful for the models of thought and other escape routes that they shall construct!

Arakawa & Gins

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An Update on Bateson’s An Ecology of Mind

I previously mentioned on this blog the Gregory Bateson documentary An Ecology of Mind that was directed by Nora Bateson. This post is just a quick update, giving some additional sources.

There is a review of the documentary published in The Ecologist:

The Ecologist | An Ecology of Mind: film interprets a life of unconventional thought

The American Museum of Natural History has published a podcast of a conversation that was held at the museum on September 12, 2011:

The American Museum of Natural History | Podcast: An Ecology of Mind

Curator Laurel Kendall, chair of the Museum’s Division of Anthropology, introduces the filmmaker [Nora Bateson]. Joining the conversation are another daughter of Gregory Bateson, anthropologist and writer Mary Catherine Bateson; psychotherapist Mary Pipher; Lance Strate, president of the Media Ecology Association; Susan Oyama, professor of psychology at John Jay College; and Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace International.

I have also just received an e-mail mentioning that further information on the An Ecology of Ideas Conference will be available within days. So make sure to check the links below for further information. The conference will be held in July 2012 in California, and is jointly organized by the American Society for Cybernetics & The Bateson Idea Group (facebook page):

An Ecology of Ideas Conference
Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove CA
July 9-13, 2012

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CAiiA Recipient of the 2011 Award for Best Practice in Higher Education

Happy to announce that the institution at which I conducted my PhD research  -  the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Integrative Arts (CAiiA), hub of the Planetary Collegium  -  is the 2011 recipient of the World Universities Forum Award for Best Practice in Higher Education.

It is good to see that Roy Ascott‘s long time critical endeavour in challenging education has been recognized with this prestigious award.



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2012/03/17 : : deadline for projects and abstracts : : Cybernetics Revisited – Towards a Third Order?

Cybernetics revisited  -  towards a third order?

re-new / IMAC 2012 has now opened the call for papers and artistic works. Submission deadline is March 1st, and the event takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark on

November 19-24 2012

The combined media art and conference event is a critical and inclusive project that addresses the use of interactive media in art and everyday use. It combines a reflective attitude with an active approach and it is transversal in that it goes across institution profiles, production formats and consumption segments. The scope includes conferences, workshops, featured keynotes, video programs, installations and performative works. re-new / IMAC is always looking for persons and projects that help steer and scrutinize the vast and ever-expanding realm of contemporary culture.

The overall theme for re-new / IMAC 2012 will frame cybernetics in the un-controlled/-controllable organizations that penetrate and immerse contemporary mankind and society. Interaction, autonomy, innateness, emergence, meta materials, self-construction and -organization are among the factors that contribute to the field.

For more information see the link above.

See also the organizers’ page: Telematic arts pioneer Roy Ascott (my PhD supervisor) will chair the bio-cybernetics section of the conference.

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MUZARC : : on music and architecture

I realized yesterday that, astonishingly enough, there are still some MUZARC CD-ROMs available from several online music dealers. MUZARC was the first CD-ROM on the German experimental music label selektion (see MUZARC intro at selektion).

It was published back in 1999. So, it is a bit more than 12 years old now. However, if you are an enthusiastic media archaeologist with an old Win 95/98 or Mac OS9 still somewhere running, you’ll might enjoy this work that collected pieces on music and architecture and presents an architecture on its own.

The whole MUZARC project originated in a seminar — led by Achim Wollscheid — at the University of Karlsruhe’s Architecture department. At some point in time, MUZARC made it into the course materials of Shannon Mattern’s Sound & Space seminar at the New School in New York (this is an interesting collection of materials by the way!).

Back in 1999, I was responsible for some of the works collected on the CD-ROM, as well as responsible for the navigation and cover design of the CD-ROM. LITRA’s blue room project is published on it.


Places to buy MUZARC from (let me know when you find some others):




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2012/05/15 : : abstract deadline : : Crafting the Future

The 10th European Academy of Design Conference – Crafting the Future – invites proposals for papers on nine possible tracks.

Crafting the Future :: 10th European Academy of Design Conference, Gothenburg, Sweden

Design is a central field for practice and research in visioning and crafting the future – and facilitating changes that could lead to a better future. Business has realized this to a great extent but also many public organizations have discovered the value of design for developing and communicating services. With the changing role of design, the boundaries of design as well as its practice has changed. When packaged in a process format and language to appeal to managers and large organizations, the core of what designers do is at risk of getting blurred. Designing is about crafting, making, visualizing, and imagining the future, regardless of whether we are involved with products, services, fashion, interactions, or other areas of practice. Have these core activities changed?

The organizing committee invites proposals for papers to the following tracks:

  1. Designing Future Mobility
  2. Design Development of Future Homes for Future Cities
  3. Design and Innovation
  4. MAKING TOGETHER – Open, Connected, Collaborative
  5. The craft of design in design of service
  6. Fashion Design for Sustainability
  7. Design history as a tool for better design
  8. Power to the People: Practices of Empowerment through Craft
  9. Design & Craft (Crafting the Education of Design)

Papers should be 3000-5000 words. If you wish to submit a full paper to the conference, please send in an “intention to submit” form, which includes a short abstract.

Important Dates
Submission of intention to submit: Until May 15, 2012
Submission of full paper: September 15, 2012
Notification of acceptance or revision: November 1, 2012
Notification of acceptance: December 15, 2012
Conference date: April 17-19, 2013

For additional information see:

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