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Category: academic

OODA loops

Building on my earlier posts on paradigm shifts and framing, I continue my interest in the process of shifting perception between models of reality. Paradigm shifts are fundamentally always shifts in the way we perceive reality. Perception itself is the dynamic outcome of the interactions between frames and schema.

When this model of perception is inserted in a complex and chaotically changing environment we end up with a cyclical process involving the reception and processing of external stimuli, followed by action or its absence and a repeated reception of stimuli closing a feedback loop. This process maps very well to Jogn Boyd’s OODA loop concept, where OODA stands for observe-orient-decide-act. The key stage of the OODA loop is orientation, because it is in the orientation stage that external stimuli, and frames, interface with the internal percpetion frame and the schema that form it. In this lecture I discuss the OODA loop concept as a cyclical decision making and feedback process, and focus on the orientation stage as the key aspect of that process.

On framing and schema

We live in interesting times. Times of transition, involving the collapse of an old order and the shift to a new paradigm. Such transitions are often mistaken for technological changes or revolutionary shifts in material conditions. Actually they are neither. Paradigm shifts are fundamentally always shifts of perception, that is, shifts in the way we perceive reality and therefore in the way we act in the world.

Therefore, to understand a paradigm shift we need to understand how perceptions of reality can be modulated and altered at scale. In other words, we need to understand the mechanics of perception. In this lecture I discuss the concepts of schema and frames as the building blocks of the mechanics of perception. I examine the way framing can be used to alter perceptions and discuss the case of Edward Bernays’ Torches of Freedom campaign.

Paradigm Shifts

You better start believing in paradigm shifts Miss Turner, because you’re in one.

Here’s a lecture I recorded recently, discussing the concept of paradigms and the process of paradigm shifts. I discuss paradigm shifts based on Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, though my focus is on a more general understanding of the process, involving awareness of change and the key mechanics of the phase transition from one paradigm to another. I also use Jordan Hall’s excellent short essay On Thinking and Simulated Thinking to illustrate how paradigm shifts necessitate a phase transition in thinking about and orienting ourselves in a given reality.

I think the year 2020 so far bears the marks of a massive socio-political-economic phase transition to a new paradigm, and that the mid 2020s will be unrecognizable to someone from 1996 or 2006.

There is a story that when Zhou Enlai, the late premier of China under Mao, visited France for the first time in the 1950s he was asked what he thinks of the French Revolution. His answer was ‘It’s too early to say.’

Good artists copy, great artists steal

Episode 6 of Naive and Dangerous, the podcast series I record together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we return to emergent media with a focus on mashups. On top of that, we have our first special guest – the mashup researcher and artist Jamie Pye-Respondek. We had a lot of fun recording this episode, and we cover a lot of musical ground, while also straying into remix culture and the copyright insanity. Have a listen.

How to trust a sweater?

These are the slides for my paper How to trust a sweater: object provenance in smart clothing, to be presented at the 2019 Association of Internet Researchers Conference in Brisbane. In the paper I examine the dynamics of the entanglement of smart clothing and data, focusing specifically on the emergence of provenance as a key concept in the identity of smart clothing. I explore provenance in conjunction with emergent developments at the nexus of advanced materials and the fashion industry, as a way to inject ethical and sustainable practices throughout the production process of a given garment. I end with the notion of a prodigal object, acting as a relentlessly sociable gateway to local contexts.

The best memes are never funny

This is Episode 4 of Naive and Dangerous, the podcast series about emergent media I am recording together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we discuss memes and the phenomenon of meme warfare. We start with a historical overview, beginning with ancient Sumer and the gods Enki and Asherah symbolizing the ur-memes of chaos and order, and then move onto the Egyptian god Kek and the emergent phenomenon of Kekism. We then move on to a definition of memes as frames influencing our perception of reality, and the emergent phenomenon of swarm-driven meme warfare as a dynamic contest over perception. Have a listen.

On digital artefacts

I recently recorded 3 short YouTube lectures on developing digital artefacts. Previously, I’ve outlined how I use the concept of digital artefacts in my piece on teaching digital media in a systemic way. In brief, the digital artefact assessment framework I developed gives students the opportunity to work on projects with real-world implications and relevance, that is, projects with nonlinear outcomes aimed at real stakeholders, users, and audiences. The only criteria for a digital artefact are that 1] artefacts should be developed in public on the open internet, therefore leveraging non-linearity, collective intelligence and fast feedback loops, and 2] artefacts should have a clearly defined social utility for stakeholders and audiences outside the subject and program. Below is my lecture outlining the key aspects of the digital artefact development process.

Fail Early, Fail Often [#fefo] is a developmental strategy originating in the open source community, and first formalized by Eric Raymond in The Cathedral and the Bazaar.  In the context of teaching and learning, FEFO asks creators to push towards the limits of their idea, experiment at those limits and inevitably fail, and then to immediately iterate through this very process again, and again. At the individual level the result of FEFO in practice is rapid error discovery and elimination, while at the systemic level it leads to a culture of rapid prototyping, experimentation, and ideation. Below is my lecture outlining the use of the #fefo philosophy in developing digital artefacts.

Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny [#fist] is a developmental strategy developed by Lt. Col. Dan Ward, Chief of Acquisition Innovation at USAF. It provides a rule-of-thumb framework for evaluating the potential and scope of projects, allowing creators to chart ideation trajectories within parameters geared for simplicity. In my subjects FIST projects have to be: 1] time-bound [fast], even if part of an ongoing process; 2] reusing existing easily accessible techniques [inexpensive], as opposed to relying on complex new developments; 3] constantly aiming away from fragility [simple], and towards structural simplicity; 4] small-scale with the potential to grow [tiny], as opposed to large-scale with the potential to crumble. Below is my lecture outlining the use of the #fefo methodology in developing digital artefacts.

Comparative hierophany at three object scales – book chapter

This is the print version of an essay of mine to appear in an upcoming book I am co-writing with a few colleagues, titled 100 Atmospheres: Studies in Scale and Wonder. The book is coming out in July 2019 from Open Humanities Press, and it will be available in 4 different versions: as a standard paperback through Amazon, as free download through the Open Humanities Press site, through Scalar as an interactive space, and through Big Fag Press as a limited edition hardcover. Exciting!

Cyborgs: “Does it bother you that I’m not completely human?”

This is Episode 2 of Naive and Dangerous, the podcast series about emergent media I am recording together with my colleague Dr Chris Moore. In this episode we discuss the notion of the cyborg and the tension between being a cyborg and being a human. We start by unpacking the various meanings injected in the concept of a cyborg, using recent movies such as Alita Battle Angel and Ghost in the Shell as a starting point. As is our habit, we engage in extensive speculative analysis of the cyborg trope, from contemporary cinema, to cyberpunk, early science fiction imaginaries of robots, the assembly line, and ancient mythology. In the process we develop a definition of cyborg/humans and manage to have a lot of fun. Have a listen.