Abandon Normal Devices


The AND festival of new cinema and digital culture kicks off next week and I'll be running the critical debates during the festival. Below is an overview of them, including biographies of our speakers. Lots of top notch contributors here, so try to get over to Liverpool for one of them. They are all free and open to everyone, but there is limited seating...

AND?

Dates: 24- 27 September, FACT Liverpool

Time: 12.00-1.30pm

Location: Chameleon (found at the rear entrance of FACT in Art House Square)

Featuring: CONTRACT: Charlie Beckett, James Wallman INFECT: Anders Sandberg, Dan Glaser; COMPETE: Natasha Vita-More, David James; DESIRE: Trudy Barber, Nina Wakeford

The AND? salons interrogate ideas about social justice, human rights and equality in a period of widespread, collective moral transgression. Our neglect of ethical considerations is intimately tied to subtle normalizing processes within social systems, which distract us from critical engagement. How are these devices imposed upon us and what systems of thought must we adopt to abandon them?

Using ethics as a broad foundation of thought, AND assesses the invisible social contracts we live by to open up questions integral to our time, from matters of biopolitics to our transition into a controlled and contested society, where our bodies, minds and communities are constantly under formal and informal devices of control. Split into four themes, Compete, Desire, Contract and Infect one fundamental question drives this inquiry: are we complicit in accepting normalization or do we seek to challenge?

Debates are Chaired by Professor Andy Miah, University of the West of Scotland &  FACT Fellow

CONTRACT | Thursday 24 September

Social contracts exist in various guises, though perhaps our most celebrated is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which aspires to guarantee fundamental freedoms. It emerged during a period of globalizing humanitarian movements, where promoting justice, peace processes and cooperation were apparent. Yet, in the last two decades, there has been a widespread state-wide erosion of citizenship by media monitoring, matched only by our own complicity in digital self-surveillance. What are the consequences of these transformations for how we think about liberal democracy and the future of an increasingly digital Britain? Are we really global now?

Discussants: Charlie Beckett, James Wallman

INFECT | Friday 25 September

Traditionally seen as an impairment to normal functioning, AND reads disease as an overarching state of disruption to social order. Our desire to transcend our biology is inextricable from the complex ways in which our own resilience can be suddenly brought into question, as manifested by the ‘swine flu’ pandemic, itself a new(s) virus. These moments draw society back into a state of primitive vulnerabilities. They question whether society can be ‘fixed’ or whether utopian projects are all merely processes of normality maintenance. Are we persistently drawn back into a maligned condition of existence?

Discussants: Anders Sandberg, Daniel Glaser

COMPETE | Saturday 26 September

‘Faster, Higher Stronger’; Today, we compete with ourselves, through self-augmentation and manipulation. Our biological apparatus is in flux, vulnerable, yet being re-imagined through technology. Looking specifically at what it means to be able bodied or disabled we consider how society will look in an era of genetically modified athletes and surgically sculpted children.

Discussants: Natasha Vita-More, David James

DESIRE | Sunday 27 September

How will sex and sexuality look in 2020? In the 1990s, in an era when HIV and AIDS reached public attention, digital sex was described as the solution, as it promised to free us from the biological burden of disease and infection. But what is the state of our cybersexuality today? What will we desire and will sex be further sanitized in the future? Have digital liaisons become our primary mechanism through which to learn or mis-learn about sex?

Discussants: Trudy Barber, Nina Wakeford.

Biographies

Dr Trudy Barber created an immersive VR Sex environment in 1992 as part of her BA Fine Art studies at Central Saint Martins College of Art. She went on to gain her PhD at the University of Kent with her thesis on Computer Fetishism and Sexual Futurology. She is currently Senior Lecturer in Media at the School of Creative Arts, Film and Media, University of Portsmouth. Current research interests include: human-computer-interaction; new media development and content; consumer generated content; online social networking; sexuality and sexual subcultures; science fiction, cyberpunk and the future; immersive and non-immersive virtuality (such as Second Life and gaming), the convergence and customisation of communication technologies and issues surrounding theory and creative digital practice. Further information see:

http://www.port.ac.uk/research/ceisr/members/title,69965,en.html

Charlie Beckett is the founding Director of Polis, the journalism think-tank at the Media and Communications Department at the London School of Economics. He is author of "SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World" (Wiley-Blackwell 2008). He was a film-maker and programme editor at the BBC on programmes like Panorama, On The Record and News 24 and spent 8 years at ITN's Channel 4 News before joining the LSE in 2006. He broadcasts and writes regularly on media and politics in the UK and International media and blogs at www.charliebeckett.org and can be followed as CharlieBeckett on Twitter. He specialises in Media Change issues and the way that journalism is transformed by digital technologies and Web 2.0 communications into a more networked and participatory practice. Beckett's work at Polis has also dealt with media matters as diverse as Media and Development, Political Reporting, Celebrity journalism and Financial Media. The Polis website is www.polismedia.org

Dr Daniel Glaser is Head of Special Projects in public engagement at the Wellcome Trust. His team directs activities with young people inside and outside school, considers education policy, engages with the broadcast media and examines interactions between scientists and non-scientists of all sorts. His scientific background involves the use of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to examine how experience, prejudice and expectation alter the way we see the world. He comes from an unusual academic background having studied maths and then English literature at Cambridge, doing a masters in cognitive science at Sussex University, and graduate work in neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. In 2002 he was appointed ‘Scientist in Residence’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. This was the first appointment of its kind at an arts institution. In 2005 he was in the first cohort to receive a Cultural Leadership Award from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). As well as presenting a television series for the BBC on how science really works, he has made numerous appearances on national and local radio and has featured in articles in daily newspapers. He co-chairs the Café Scientifique at the Photographers’ Gallery which is the London branch of a national series providing a new way for scientists to interact with a general public

Dr David James is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University. He leads the University’s MSc in sports engineering and maintains a wide range of research interests. David is a leading science communicator and was recently awarded a prestigious Fellowship in Public Engagement from the Royal Academy of Engineering. David has a mechanical engineering background with a PhD from the University of Sheffield that focused on modelling the complex bounce of a cricket ball. He has been privileged to work in a world leading research centre for nine years and has published extensively in a range of sports engineering areas.  David’s team use fundamental research and the latest ‘cutting edge’ technologies to provide athletes with information and equipment to enhance their performance. Recent projects have included the development of elements of British Cycling’s highly successful Olympic track bike, and the creation of a complete mathematical model to explore the impact of technology on the game of tennis. David’s current research is focusing on the historical impact of technology in track and field events and the ethical considerations of an increasingly scientific sporting arena.

Professor Andy Miah, BA, MPhil, PhD, FRSA, is Chair in Ethics and Emerging Technologies in the Faculty of Business & Creative Industries at the University of the West of Scotland, Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, USA and Fellow at FACT, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, UK. He is author of ‘Genetically Modified Athletes’ (2004 Routledge) and co-author with Dr Emma Rich of ‘The Medicalization of Cyberspace’ (2008, Routledge) and Editor of ‘Human Futures: Art in an Age of Uncertainty’ (2008, Liverpool University Press and FACT).  For correspondence: email@andymiah.net

Dr Anders Sandberg is a researcher, science debater, futurist, transhumanist, and author. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Stockholm University in computational neuroscience, and is currently a James Martin Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. Sandberg's research centres on societal and ethical issues surrounding human enhancement and new technology, as well as on assessing the capabilities and underlying science of future technologies. His recent contributions include work on cognitive enhancement [1] (methods, impacts, and policy analysis); a technical roadmap on whole brain emulation[2]; on neuroethics; and on global catastrophic risks, particularly on the question of how to take into account the subjective uncertainty in risk estimates of low-likelihood, high-consequence risk. He is well-known as a commentator and participant in the public debate about human enhancement internationally, as well as for his academic publications in neuroscience, ethics, and future studies. He is co-founder of and writer for the think tank Eudoxa. Between 1996 and 2000 he was Chairman of the Swedish Transhumanist Association. He was also the scientific producer for the neuroscience exhibition "Se Hjärnan!" ("Behold the Brain!"), organized by Swedish Travelling Exhibitions, the Swedish Research Council and the Knowledge Foundation, that was touring Sweden 2005–2006. In 2007 he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University, working on the EU-funded ENHANCE project on the ethics of human enhancement.

Dr Nina Wakeford is a Reader in Sociology and an ESRC Research Fellow 2007-2010 at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her previous research projects include studies of internet cafes, women's discussions lists and the use of ethnography by new technology designers. Amongst her publications are papers on virtual methodologies, queer identities, digital communities and public internet access provision. Along with colleagues at INCITE she is interested in the ways in which collaborations can be forged between ethnographers and those from other disciplines, such as engineering and computer science. She is particularly concerned with the ways in which critical social and cultural theory can play a part in the design process, including the challenges which feminist and queer theories pose to collaborative projects between designers and sociologists, as well as technology studies.

Natasha Vita-More, media artist and theorist, is currently a Ph.D. Candidate, Planetary Collegium, University of Plymouth. Her research concerns transformative human enhancement and radical life extension, focusing on converging nanotechnology, robotics, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive and neuro sciences within electronic-based design and biological art practices. Natasha's future human design “Primo Posthuman” has been featured in Wired, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Net Business, LA Weekly, and Village Voice. She has appeared numerous televised documentaries on the future, and exhibited at National Centre for Contemporary Arts Brooks Memorial Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art, Women In Video, Telluride Film Festival, and Moscow's "Evolution Haute Couture: Art and Science in the Post-Biological Age". Natasha is a proponent of ethical means for human enhancement. She is published in Artifact, Technoetic Arts, D'ARS, Nanotechnology Perceptions, Annual Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology, Death and Anti-Death. She has a bi-monthly column in Nanotechnology Now, and Guest Editor of The Global Spiral. Formerly president of Extropy Institute, Natasha is Visiting Scholar at Twenty-First Century Medicine, Advisor for LifeBoat Foundation, Fellow of Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and has been a consultant to IBM on the future of human performance.

James Wallman was formerly Senior Trends Analyst at The Future Laboratory, where he consulted for companies such as Absolut, BMW and Coors, and appeared on radio alongside Dylan Jones discussing the future of men. With an MA in classics from Oxford University and an MA in journalism from the London College of Communication (LCC), he now writes the futurology column for tech magazine T3, making entertaining sense of complex topics such as the future of money, augmented reality and synthetic biology. Recent movements he’s analysed and described include the shift to bionic humans, the new prohibition era and the technosexual revolution – for T3, The Future Laboratory and GQ. He gathers the insights he comes across at CollectedIntelligence.net.