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)

Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 42(1-2): The Experimental Generation (2017)

3 September 2017, dusan

“This special double issue of ISR came out of the conference The experimental generation: networks of interdisciplinary praxis in post war British art (1950–1970) we organized together in 2014, exploring an apparent convergence of interest in art and science around the notion of social responsibility in the 1960s. …

It is rarely recognized that Cambridge was something of a hotbed of interdisciplinary exploration in the 1960s. Within this issue we seek to bring some of the leading figures behind this into the foreground, from the Language Research Unit led by Margaret Masterman to the Centre for Land Use and Built Form Studies created by Leslie Martin in the Architecture Department. Cambridge was, after all, where C.P. Snow (re)ignited the ‘Two Cultures’ debate in 1959; where two key figures in cybernetics and systems theory, Gordon Pask and Robin McKinnon-Wood, met as undergraduates, founded their company ‘System Research’ and developed their first early computers. Ian Sommerville, the precocious mathematician who invented the ‘Dreamachine’ with Bryon Gysin was an undergraduate at Trinity College when he invited Gustav Metzger to give his first public lecture/demonstration on Auto-Destructive Art for the Heretics Society in 1960. In 1964, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, played host to the ‘First International Exhibition of Concrete, Kinetic and Phonic Poetry’ initiated by a young academic in the English department, Michael Weaver who gathered together over 60 works by poets and artists from 14 countries for a week’s exhibition in a Cambridge college. He worked closely with Reg Gadney, Philip Steadman and Stephen Bann who co-edited a formative issue of IMAGE magazine, on Kinetic Art: Concrete Poetry in November 1964. Steadman, Weaver and Bann went on to launch Form (1966–1969).

As a founder member of the Cambridge University Artists Group, Gadney was instrumental in spreading knowledge of Kinetic Art methods and techniques through articles in the student magazine Granta as well as the London Magazine. In 1965 Metzger was invited back to Cambridge to deliver his ‘Chemical Revolution in Art’ lecture attended by Bann, Gadney and Steadman. In his article for this journal Professor Stephen Bann looks back at the art and ideas that informed his book Experimental Painting, published in 1970, which took developments in art of the previous decade as its subject.

This issue spotlights a period that is still within living memory, and still reverberates today. In encouraging such a diversity of articles we have followed our instincts as curators rather than historians. We have gathered together a constellation of voices, from pioneers to emerging scholars, in order to encourage and facilitate unanticipated connections.” (from the Introduction)

Edited by Bronać Ferran and Elizabeth Fisher
Publisher Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining, London, 2017
ISSN 0308-0188
224 pages

Publisher

PDF (33 MB)

Francis D. Klingender: Art and the Industrial Revolution (1947–) [EN, IT, ES]

17 August 2017, dusan

A classic of Marxist art history.

“Drawing on his unique command of the contemporary visual and literary record, Francis Klingender analyzes and documents the inter-reaction between the sociological, scientific and cultural changes that moulded the 19th century. His subjects range from the development of the railways to the poetry of Erasmus Darwin, from the construction of bridges and aqueducts to the aesthetic concepts of the Sublime and the Pictoresque, from the Luddite riots and the English ‘navvy’ to those artists most profoundly affected by the climate of the Industrial Revolution, among them John Martin, Joseph Wright of Derby, J.C. Bourne, and J.M.W. Turner.” (from back cover)

Publisher N. Carrington, London, 1947
Edited and revised by Arthur Elton
Revised and expanded edition by Adams & Dart, 1968
Publisher Paladin, St Albans, 1972
ISBN 0586081224, 9780586081228
xv+272 pages

Review: Fred H. Andrews (J Royal Society of Arts, 1949).

WorldCat

Art and the Industrial Revolution (English, 1947/1968, 60 MB, no OCR)
Arte e rivoluzione industriale (Italian, trans. Elena Einaudi, 1972)
Arte y revolución industrial (Spanish, trans. Pilar Salso, 1983)

Peter Shapiro (ed.): Modulations: A History of Electronic Music: Throbbing Words on Sound (2000)

29 July 2017, dusan

Modulations contains several large essays written by music critics and musicians that provide historical and critical survey of electronic music by genre, discussing labels, sub-genres, stylistic developments, musicians, and records.

Chapters by Rob Young (Pioneers), Simon Reynolds (Krautrock), Peter Shapiro (Disco, Post Punk), Kodwo Eshun (House), David Toop (Hip-Hop), Mike Rubin (Techno), Chris Sharp (Jungle), Tony Marcus (Ambient), Kurt Reighley (Downtempo), and Michael Berk (Technology).

Project director: Iara Lee
Publisher Caipirinha Productions, New York, 2000
ISBN 189102406X, 9781891024061
255 pages

Film reviews: Stephen Holden (NYT, 1998), Tony Ramos (Hyperreal, n.d.).

Wikipedia
Publisher
WorldCat

PDF (39 MB, no OCR)
See also film documentary, dir. Iara Lee, 1998, 75 min.

Jennifer Gabrys: Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (2016)

28 July 2017, dusan

“Sensors are everywhere. Small, flexible, economical, and computationally powerful, they operate ubiquitously in environments. They compile massive amounts of data, including information about air, water, and climate. Never before has such a volume of environmental data been so broadly collected or so widely available.

Grappling with the consequences of wiring our world, Program Earth examines how sensor technologies are programming our environments. As Jennifer Gabrys points out, sensors do not merely record information about an environment. Rather, they generate new environments and environmental relations. At the same time, they give a voice to the entities they monitor: to animals, plants, people, and inanimate objects. This book looks at the ways in which sensors converge with environments to map ecological processes, to track the migration of animals, to check pollutants, to facilitate citizen participation, and to program infrastructure. Through discussing particular instances where sensors are deployed for environmental study and citizen engagement across three areas of environmental sensing, from wild sensing to pollution sensing and urban sensing, Program Earth asks how sensor technologies specifically contribute to new environmental conditions. What are the implications for wiring up environments? How do sensor applications not only program environments, but also program the sorts of citizens and collectives we might become?

Program Earth suggests that the sensor-based monitoring of Earth offers the prospect of making new environments not simply as an extension of the human but rather as new “technogeographies” that connect technology, nature, and people.”

Publisher University of Minnesota Press, 2016
Electronic Mediations series, 49
ISBN 9780816693122, 0816693129
x+357 pages
via publisher

Reviews: Etienne S. Benson (Am J Sociology, 2017), Matthew W. Wilson (Cultural Geographies, 2017).
Interviews: Rorotoko (2016).

Author (with links to related articles)
Publisher
WorldCat

PDF (6 MB)

Recent comments
Recent entries
More resources