John Elderfield: Kurt Schwitters (1985)

26 September 2017, dusan

“Designed to accompany the Schwitters exhibitions in New York, London and Hanover, John Elderfield’s masterly study of Schwitters fulfils all the promise of his articles on that artist from the years 1969 to 1977 and surpasses any other academic work on the same subject in five major respects: first, in its attention to all phases of Schwitters’s work (the pre-1917 and post-1937 phases as well as the classically Merz period); second, in its judicious and balanced attention to all aspects of Schwitters’s multi-media work; third, in its refusal to reduce Schwitters’s artistic and theoretical work to one simple set of ideas or to privilege one mode of expression over another; fourth, in its generous sense of the rich artistic background (Cubism, Sturm, Dada, Constructivism) out of which Schwitters’s variegated work arose; and fifth, in its prodigious familiarity with the vast secondary literature dealing with the Modernist avant-gardes. The extent of Elderfield’s research is immensely impressive and the result of this is an authoritative, clearly-written book which combines a sure grasp of factual detail, a shrewd analytical sense vis-a-vis individual works, a complex understanding of the theoretical problems posed by Schwitters’s cpuvre and a fluid empathy with all of its levels. Quite apart from the 355 high-quality illustrations, the uniform excellence of Elderfield’s text makes the book indispensable for any serious student of German and European Modernism and effortlessly accessible to the non-specialist as well.” (Richard Sheppard’s 1986 review)

Publisher Thames and Hudson, London, 1985
ISBN 0500234264
424 pages
via MoMA

Reviews: Richard Sheppard (J Eur Studies, 1986), Dawn Ades (Burlington Mag, 1986).

Exhibition
WorldCat

PDF, PDF (106 MB)

Steve Joshua Heims: The Cybernetics Group (1991)

19 September 2017, dusan

“This is the engaging story of a moment of transformation in the human sciences, a detailed account of a remarkable group of people who met regularly from 1946 to 1953 to explore the possibility of using scientific ideas that had emerged in the war years (cybernetics, information theory, computer theory) as a basis for interdisciplinary alliances. The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, as they came to be called, included such luminaries as Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Warren McCulloch, Walter Pitts, Kurt Lewin, F. S. C. Northrop, Molly Harrower, and Lawrence Kubie, who thought and argued together about such topics as insanity, vision, circular causality, language, the brain as a digital machine, and how to make wise decisions.

Heims, who met and talked with many of the participants, portrays them not only as thinkers but as human beings. His account examines how the conduct and content of research are shaped by the society in which it occurs and how the spirit of the times, in this case a mixture of postwar confidence and cold-war paranoia, affected the thinking of the cybernetics group. He uses the meetings to explore the strong influence elite groups can have in establishing connections and agendas for research and provides a firsthand took at the emergence of paradigms that were to become central to the new fields of artificial intelligence and cognitive science.

In his joint biography of John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener, Heims offered a challenging interpretation of the development of recent American science and technology. Here, in this group portrait of an important generation of American intellectuals, Heims extends that interpretation to a broader canvas, in the process paying special attention to the two iconoclastic figures, Warren McCulloch and Gregory Bateson, whose ideas on the nature of the mind/brain and on holism are enjoying renewal today.”

Paperback edition appeared under the title Constructing a Social Science for Postwar America: The Cybernetics Group (1946–1953) in 1993.

Publisher MIT Press, 1991
ISBN 0262082004, 9780262082006
xii+334 pages

Reviews: N. Katherine Hayles (Hist Human Sciences, 1992), R.V. Jones (New Scientist, 1992), Carlos A. Martínez-Vela (2001).

WorldCat

PDF (11 MB)

Timothy Druckrey (ed.): Electronic Culture: Technology and Visual Representation (1996)

14 March 2017, dusan

“A rich compilation of essays by some of today’s leading theorists and media critics, this book gathers a series of explorations into diverse forms of visualizations in a cultural environment wired into the global network. With its emphasis on the impact of the digital revolution in the late 20th century and the historical context in which it arose, Electronic Culture could not be more timely or relevant.”

Texts by Vannevar Bush, Martin Heidegger, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Jean-Louis Comolli, Kathy Rae Huffman, Lev Manovich, Vilém Flusser, N. Katherine Hayles, Siegfried Zielinski, Slavoj Žižek, Friedrich Kittler, Sherry Turkle, Pierre Levy, Hakim Bey, Adilkno/Geert Lovink, Critical Art Ensemble, a.o.

Preface by Allucquère Rosanne Stone
Illustrations by Critical Art Ensemble
Publisher Aperture, New York, 1996
ISBN 0893816787, 9780893816780
447 pages

Review: Andreas Broeckmann (Leonardo, 2000).

WorldCat

PDF (155 MB)

David Link: Archaeology of Algorithmic Artefacts (2016)

24 November 2016, dusan

“Unearthing the cumulus of transient technologies that underlie the fabric of contemporary society

As historical processes increasingly become steeped in technology, it becomes more and more necessary for a discipline to emerge that is capable of comprehending these materialities beyond their shelf life to better understand the fields they inundate such as science, art, and warfare. This effort is further compromised by the inherent complexity and complete arbitrariness of technical languages – especially when they are algorithmic – along with the rapid pace in which they become obsolete, unintelligible, or simply forgotten. The Turing Machine plays a central role in the Archaeology of Algorithmic Artefacts, wherein the gradual developments of the individual components encompassed by this complex technology are placed within the context of engineering sciences and the history of inventions. This genealogy also traces the origin of the computer in disciplines such as mathematics, meta-mathematics, combinatorics, cryptology, philosophy, and physics. The investigations reveal that the history of apparatuses that process signs is in no way limited, as one might think, to the second half of the 20th century, rather it is possible that they existed at all times and in all cultures.”

Publisher Univocal Publishing, Minneapolis, 2016
ISBN 9781937561048, 1937561046
207 pages

Publisher
WorldCat

PDF (18 MB)

Pamela McCorduck: Machines Who Think: A Personal Inquiry into the History and Prospects of Artificial Intelligence, 2nd ed. (1979/2004)

15 November 2016, dusan

“Pamela McCorduck first went among the artificial intelligentsia when the field was fresh and new, and asked the scientists engaged in it what they were doing and why. She saw artificial intelligence as the scientific apotheosis of one of the most enduring, glorious, often amusing, and sometimes alarming, traditions of human culture: the endless fascination with artifacts that think. Machines Who Think was translated into many languages, became an international cult classic, and stayed in print for nearly twenty years.

Now, Machines Who Think is back, along with an extended addition that brings the field up to date in the last quarter century, including its scientific and its public faces. McCorduck shows how, from a slightly dubious fringe science, artificial intelligence has moved slowly (though not always steadily) to a central place in our everyday lives, and how it will be even more crucial as the World Wide Web moves into its next generation.”

First edition published by W. H. Freeman, 1979.

Publisher A.K. Peters, Natick, MA, 2004
ISBN 1568812051, 9781568812052
xxx+565 pages

Reviews: Philip Mirowski (AI Magazine, 2003), Richard Ennals (AI & Society, 2004), Mike Holderness (New Scientist, 2004).

Author
Publisher
WorldCat

PDF (4 MB)

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