Ludic Technologies: A Dance with Complexity

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


What do artists-(h)activists like jonCates, etoy, Jaromil, The Yes Men, Helen Nissenbaum, and Jon Satrom have in common? The short answer is: culture jamming. The longer answer is: the use of ludus, or rule-based strategies, and paideia, improvisation-based tactics, digital détournement and la derive (the drift). The main idea behind this workshop is that AI, as used in administration, banking, education, and the gig economy, is both an invisible (and invisibly violent) hegemonic force, and an ‘alien’ form of thought (Weizenbaum 1976). Our current cultural experience is one of simultaneous over-determination (black-boxed AI procedures arriving at unfathomable conclusions such as ‘automatic’ bank account termination or ‘automatic’ health insurance claim refusal) and indeterminacy as constant change.This workshop will explore how ludic technologies, seen as material and immaterial transformation techniques and methods, can navigate this paradox. The workshop is divided into three parts:

I Paths and Detours: As preparation for this part of the workshop please perform and document (in several images, sounds, a drawing, notation, or similar) Ken Friedman’s 1967 event score Unfinished Symphony: “Find Something. Carry it out to its logical conclusion”. An event score is a performative instruction that can be realised in any medium or combination of media. The presentation shouldn’t be longer than 2 min and you should be able to share it with us by sharing your screen. Please also reflect on the following question: what is the relationship of cause and effect, intention and accident, stasis and development in the piece you created?

II Distributed Agency: After a presentation on ‘alien thought’, as based on action-reaction and distributed agency, ludic strategies and improvisational tactics that employ alien thought will be analysed. You will be asked to compare the embodied/digital experience of creating the above piece and reflect on how environments and media ‘think’, how different agents of thought/action come into being, and how they behave. This will be followed by a plenary discussion, and a presentation on the semantics of code writing.

III Encoding Ludicity: After a discussion of machine learning and its relationship to programming – in software such as wekinator, which learns in real time – we’ll brainstorm the enmeshment of simple code semantics (no prior experience of code writing is necessary) and actional thought based on distributed agency, (rule-based) ludic structures, and (non-rule-based) improvisation. We’ll share these conceptual sketches in a plenary session. We’ll also reflect on the creative, social and cultural possibilities of integrating detours into AI systems in light of the shortest definition of ‘intelligence’: a subtle dance with novel complexity (Lushetich 2021).
Period29 Jul 2021
Event typeWorkshop
LocationAberystwyth University and the University of Nottingham (Online Event), United KingdomShow on map