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Centre for Cultural Studies
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Archived Event

Sketches of Another Future: Cybernetics in Britain, 1940-2000

Andrew Pickering discusses themes related to his recent book, 'The Cybernetic Brain'.

Public Lecture

ABSTRACT
This talk aims to map out an important but little known branch of cybernetics as it developed in Britain from the 1940s to the present. Examples are drawn from the work of leading cyberneticians including Ross Ashby, Stafford Beer, Gordon Pask, Gregory Bateson and R D Laing in fields as diverse as brain science, psychiatry and antipsychiatry, adaptive robotics, biological computing drawing upon lively material such as ecosystems, management, the arts, entertainment and architecture, including connections to eastern spirituality and the 1960s counterculture. We can understand cybernetic projects and artefacts as ontological theatre—as staging and acting out for us a vision of the world radically different from that of modern science and western commonsense, and the talk seeks to explore the ontological politics of cybernetics, arguing that it aimed at an experimental openness to what the world has to offer us, rather than the grim modernist quest for domination and control—revealing rather than enframing, in Heidegger’s terms.

Andrew Pickering began life as a physicist, with his first degree from Oxford and a PhD in particle physics from University College London. He changed fields to science and technology studies, joining the Science Studies Unit at Edinburgh University in the late 1970s. He taught for many years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before returning to Britain as professor of sociology at the University of Exeter. Along the way he has been a Guggenheim Fellow and held fellowships at MIT, Princeton and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and at the Institutes for Advanced Study at Princeton, Durham and Konstanz. His books include Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics (1984), The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency and Science (1995) and, most recently, The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future (2010). His current project, 'Art, Agency and Environment,' grew out of earlier research on cybernetic art, and he is presently a Senior Fellow at the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie (IKKM), Bauhaus University, Weimar, Germany.


This event is hosted by the Digital Culture Unit, Centre for Cultural Studies, and the Centre for Innovation and Social Process, Goldsmiths, University of London.


Event Information

Location: Lecture Theatre, Ben Pimlott Building
Cost: free
Department: Centre For Cultural Studies
Time: 19 February 2013, 17:00 - 18:30


For Further Details

E-mail: m.fuller

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