Symbiogenic Experience and the Emergent Arts: Cybernetics, Art and Existential Phenomenology

Date created: 
Interactive art

This dissertation is an exploration of the ways in which certain forms of interactive art can and do elicit experiences of co-evolution with a technologized environment. These "emergent arts", I argue, give rise to a sensory experience of a sense of being embedded and co-emergent with this environment. The term "co-evolution" is often taken to allude to Darwin biological processes of interaction between two or more species. However, much like humanities scholars such as Katherine Hayles and Mark Hansen do in their analyses of technology (Hayles 1999; Hayles 2002; Hayles 2007; Hansen 2006; Hansen 2005; Hansen 2009a), I recast the term to refer to processes of emergence, self-organization and autopoiesis. By examining these artworks and experiences via the interlocking frames of cybernetics, phenomenological philosophy, posthumanism and interactive/new media art, this dissertation articulates the movement towards a framework that fuses theoretical and experiential modes of inquiry to provide insights relevant to both interactive artists and humanities scholars. New approaches to understanding and studying technologically-based artworks are proffered that attend to how these artworks are contributing to a new range of experiences that more adeptly attune us to our techno-ecological context. Experiences that I refer to as "symbiogenic". The framework centers on the exposition of four theoretical concepts: Ambiguity and Unknowability, Boundary, Distributed Intentionality and Collectively Emergent Autonomy. In addition, a taxonomical model of artworks is put forth that outlines a number of characteristics of new media and interactive arts practice that engage in processes that establish a foundation for the shifts in perceptual and embodied experience that I characterize as symbiogenic. Along with the textual exegesis, this dissertation details the conceptualization, design, construction and exhibition of two interactive artworks: Protocol and Biopoiesis. Their function in this research is threefold: first as a concrete method of putting theories to the ontological test beyond conventional textual means, second, a way developing new concepts and techniques and modifying existing ones (this applies to both the philosophical ideas and to the technical systems that are developed specifically for each artwork) and third they serve as embodiments of theoretical concepts in their own right.

Document type: 
Copyright remains with the author. The author granted permission for the file to be printed and for the text to be copied and pasted.
Diane Gromala
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.