Keynote Speaker – Stelarc
Second Life- http://goo.gl/GsJBA
Dan O’Hara (Welcome Address)
Non-Human Agencies: A Skeuomorphological Account of Virtual Futures
Virtual Futures occurred at a tipping point in the technologization of first-world cultures. Whilst it was most often portrayed as a technopositivist festival of accelerationism towards a posthuman future – the “Glastonbury of cyberculture”, as the Guardian put it – its actual aim, hidden behind the brushed steel and silicon, the jargon and the designer drugs, the charismatic prophets and the techno parties, was rather more sober and more urgent.
In 1994 and 1995, Joan Broadhurst, Eric Cassidy, Otto Imken and I sought to use VF, among the other conferences we organized, as an instrument of ontological clarification. As philosophers, we wanted to understand what entities could be legitimately said to exist in a world which was dematerializing its organizational systems and cultural activities with ever-increasing rapidity, whilst at the same time re-engineering that most material thing, the human body itself. We tried to produce a new interdisciplinary materialism that could account for the nonhuman agencies – Gilles Deleuze’s “abstract machines” – which we considered to be driving both artificial and natural production. And we attempted, perhaps vainly, to confront a non-academic public with the then-imminent reality of their mediated, internetworked lives.
How was it that VF subsequently became a talisman of aestheticized apocalyptic futurism, failing to fulfil its designed epistemic function? In fidelity to our original aims, I will offer a neomaterialist history, via a skeuomorphological theory, of the hyperaccelerated success and demise of VF itself, demonstrating how both human and nonhuman agencies shaped the actual future of Virtual Futures.
Professor Kevin Warwick
Kevin was born in Coventry, UK and left school to join British Telecom, at the age of 16. At 22 he took his first degree at Aston University, followed by a PhD and research post at Imperial College, London. He subsequently held positions at Oxford, Newcastle and Warwick Universities before being offered the Chair at Reading, at the age of 33.
As well as publishing over 500 research papers, Kevin’s experiments into implant technology led to him being featured as the cover story on the US magazine, ‘Wired’.
Kevin has been awarded higher doctorates (DSc) both by Imperial College and the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, and received Honorary Doctorates from Aston University and Coventry University in 2008. He was presented with The Future of Health Technology Award in MIT, was made an Honorary Member of the Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, in 2004 received The IEE Senior Achievement Medal and in 2008 the Mountbatten Medal. In 2000 Kevin presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, entitled “The Rise of the Robots”.
Kevin’s most recent research involves the invention of an intelligent deep brain stimulator to counteract the effects of Parkinson Disease tremors. The tremors are predicted and a current signal is applied to stop the tremors before they start – this is shortly to be trialled in human subjects. Another project involves the use of cultured/biological neural networks to drive robots around – the brain of each robot is made of neural tissue.
Perhaps Kevin is though best known for his pioneering experiments involving a neuro-surgical implantation into the median nerves of his left arm to link his nervous system directly to a computer to assess the latest technology for use with the disabled. He was successful with the first extra-sensory (ultrasonic) input for a human and with the first purely electronic telegraphic communication experiment between the nervous systems of two humans.
Professor Ian Stewart
Mathematics of Life
How can slime mould design a railway system? What shape is a virus? How does DNA work inside a cell? Why are plankton so diverse when they all occupy the same environmental niche? These questions belong to biology, but their answers increasingly involve mathematics. Traditionally, mathematics was associated with the physical sciences, with ‘laws of nature’ expressed by mathematical equations. The life sciences were different. You could study the life cycle of a butterfly without doing any sums. You didn’t calculate the evolutionary trajectory of a fish by applying Darwin’s Equations. Mathematics was restricted to routine calculations, such as testing how significant statistical patterns in data might be. It didn’t contribute much conceptual insight or understanding. Today, this picture is changing rapidly. Mathematical biology is a major growth area worldwide, because new discoveries in biology have raised new questions, which cannot be answered without new mathematics. Molecular biology has made huge advances in finding out what living creatures are made of, but does not tell us how living processes work. Mathematics is ideal for bridging that gap. In the 20th Century, the main driving force behind new mathematics was the physical sciences. In the 21st Century it will be the life sciences.
Professor Steve Fuller
Who will recognize Humanity 2.0 — and it will it recognize us?
Professor Andy Miah
Professor Alan Chalmers
Real Virtuality: High-fidelity multi-sensory virtual environment
Humans perceive the world with all five senses: visuals, audio, smell, feel and taste. Crossmodal effects, i.e. the interaction of the senses, can have a major influence on how environments are being perceived, even to the extent that large amounts of detail of one sense may be ignored when in the presence of other more dominant sensory inputs. Real Virtuality environments (also known as there-reality) are true high-fidelity multi-sensory virtual environments which provide the same perceptual response from viewers as if they were actually present, or “there” in the real scene being portrayed. Unlike traditional virtual reality environments, Real Virtuality allows all five senses to be stimulated concurrently in a natural way.
This talk gives an overview of Real Virtuality, describes how such a system may be achieved, and shows why Real Virtuality is a step-change from current virtual reality systems.
She has won a number of awards, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1992 and 1995 for her novels Synners and Fools, a World Fantasy Award and the 1988 Locus Award [for her short story 'Angel', included in Patterns ], and she has several times been a finalist for the Hugo Award as well as the Nebula. Her first novel, Mindplayers , was nominated for the Philip K.Dick Memorial Award. Patterns , her short fiction collection, won the 1990 Locus Award for best short-story collection, and was nominated for the Bram Stoker and the Thorpe Menn Awards.
Pat Cadigan’s short fiction has appeared in various publications, including Omni and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and in many anthologies. Her work has been translated into French, German, Polish, Japanese and Czech.
Professor Sue Golding
Collaborative Performance with Stephen Kennedy
Stephen Kennedy is a political philosopher and dj composer/sound musician. He has written extensively on the political economy of media, and is currently re-thinking the advent of sound as a fractal economy which lends a political and historial tone (colour, shape, politic) to all cultures. Embodied in his reseasrch: Sound Economy: A Motorcity Project, and his latest manuscript Re-thinking the Technology Agenda, Dr Kennedy is also Head of the MA in Media-Arts Philosohy Practice and the associated BA/BSc degrees (Media-Arts Production and BA in Media and Communication.
Professor Sue Thomas
I fell into LambdaMOO at Virtual Futures
The text-based virtual world of LambdaMOO was set up in 1990/1 by Pavel Curtis, a software architect at Xerox PARC. It began as a technical experiment but soon became a social experiment preoccupied with questions of community management in an online society where privacy and freedom were considered equally paramount. Anonymity was fiercely protected, along with one’s right to take any form or identity – an apparent contradiction but just one part of the heady anthropological mix to be found there. And unlike the richly-featured graphic worlds like Second Life, LambdaMOO was confined to plain text, making it a digital heaven for anyone who enjoys spinning words to create new environments and personas. My own first encounter with LambdaMOO was at a workshop run by Australian cyberfeminist and performance artist Francesca da Rimini (aka Gashgirl) at Virtual Futures 1995. It inspired my cyber-travelogue ‘Hello World: Travels in Virtuality’ (Raw Nerve, 2004) and I’ve been returning there recently to collect landscapes for my forthcoming book ‘Nature and Cyberspace: Stories, Memes and Metaphors’. Visit it yourself by pasting this into your browser telnet://lambda.moo.mud.org:8888 and following the onscreen instructions. (Telnet is a special protocol – you may need to get help to enable it on your machine.)
Dr. Rachel Armstrong
Life: The Ultimate Technology
The concept of ‘living technology’ calls attention to the fact that modern science is increasingly capable of engineering systems whose power is based on the core features of life (ISSP, online). My research investigates the development of ‘living materials’, a particular example of living technology, which exploits the energetics inherent in terrestrial matter to create design solutions for the built environment that are ‘programmable’ using chemistry and physics. Many of these properties are regarded as characteristic of ‘life’ but do not infer ‘aliveness’ on the system. The particular system that I am investigating is a dynamic oil in water droplet system, which is capable of emergent behaviour and demonstrates some complex properties that can be thought of as architectural: shedding skins, motility, modification of the environment, population scale behaviour and the production of complex structures. Speculative proposals for applications of these ‘living materials’ in the built environment are explored, particularly with respect to environmental interventions such as, the development of carbon fixing surfaces, reclaiming the city of Venice by growing an artificial limestone reef underneath it, oil producing solar panels and water producing claddings.
Dr. Diane Gromala
Gromala has always pushed the envelope for art beyond traditional canvas and computer graphics domains into Virtual Reality (VR) and Physiological Computing. Her work has been performed and presented in North America, Europe, the Middle East and has caught the attention of media networks such as Discovery Channel and the BBC. Along with collaborator Lily Shirvanee, Gromala was a semi-finalist for Discover magazine’s Award for Technological Innovation in 2001 for work which combines biomedical technologies with mixed reality.
Gromala’s critical analyses of virtual media are informed by her work as an artist, designer and teacher. Gromala is the co-author, with Jay David Bolter, of the forthcoming book Windows and Mirrors: Electronic Art, Design, and the Myth of Transparency, which reexamines the issues of human computer interaction and interface design from the perspective of media and cultural theory.
A Brain on Fire, A Visceral VR: An Always-Already New Pharmakon
An occluded vision, extended flesh, a utopian collective, real-time dream. Such were the hopes ascribed to the then-new technology of immersive virtual reality (VR) in the early 1990s.
Its realization supplanted by technologies that connected human around the globe, and VR’s failure to deliver a ready gratification of unwieldy desire, VR seems to have died a death of disinterest. Following Robert Romanyshyn’s examination of technology as symptom and dream, this talk explores the twinned strands of VR — at once an enveloping, enfleshing technology, and discredited vehicle for dis-ing meat from mind, the cultural diversity of ascribing meaning to pain and from the threat of the new insistence that any “interior” experience is On Technology as Symptom & Dream.
Hub Culture – Cyberspace and Postcapitalism
Professor Nick Fox
In this paper I examine the ways in which a Deleuzian perspective on embodiment dissolves the boundaries between bodies, identities and technology. I will review my work on health identity, desire and sexuality, creativity and the emergence of cyborg bodies (in which technology is intimately associated with embodied actions). Throughout I show how the ontological construct of the assemblage can make sense of embodiment and identity.
Dr. Richard Barbrook
In the early 1980s, Richard was involved with pirate and community radio broadcasting, including helping to set up the multi-lingual Spectrum Radio station in London. Having worked on media regulation within the EU at a research institute at the University of Westminster, much of his material was published in his 1995 Media Freedom book. In the same year, Richard became the coordinator of the Hypermedia Research Centre at Westminster’s Media School and was the first course leader of its MA in Hypermedia Studies. Working with Andy Cameron, he wrote The Californian Ideology which was a pioneering critique of the neo-liberal politics of Wired magazine. His other important writings about the Net include The Hi-Tech Gift Economy, Cyber-communism, The Regulation of Liberty and The Class of the New.
In 2007, Richard moved to Westminster’s Politics & IR department and published his study of the political and ideological role of the prophecies of artificial intelligence and the information society: Imaginary Futures: from thinking machines to the global village. In 2008, Imaginary Futures was awarded the MEA’s Marshall McLuhan prize for outstanding book in the field of media ecology. Translations of the book have also been published in Brazil and Poland. Richard is currently writing a book about the political and military lessons of Guy Debord’s The Game of War.
Imaginary Futures traces the history of the future. While I was working articles about the Net in the late-1990s and early-2000s, I became fascinated by how contemporary analyses of the social impact of new media were inspired by concepts from the 1950s and 1960s.
Imaginary Futures examines the Cold War origins of two of the most popular visions of the computerised future: artificial intelligence and the information society. The book explores how the ideas of Norbert Wiener and Marshall McLuhan were appropriated to produce ideologies for the propaganda struggle between the rival superpowers. In its conclusion, the book argues that – since the Cold War is over – the imaginary futures of artificial intelligence and the information society are now also history.
Professor Jeremy C Wyatt
His research explores the use of evidence and new models of care to innovate in clinical practice and self care, and evaluating the impact of this. He was the first UK Fellow elected by the American College of Medical Informatics and is the third most cited researcher in his field worldwide with an H index of 24. He trained as a physician in Oxford and London then in medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in London, Stanford and Amsterdam; he still sees patients in a diabetes clinic. Jeremy enjoys demystifying health informatics and has written article series for the Lancet, BMJ and JRSM, the ABC of Health Informatics (Blackwells, 2006) and a handbook on clinical knowledge in practice (RSM Press, 2001).
In his spare time he makes titanium sculpture and jewellery and is a member by portfolio of the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen. He is a micropower advocate and has recently launched his own carbon offset scheme, a one kilowatt grid-connected wind generator.