The Human Builds the Machine but Ought Not to Become It

In certain types of engineering practices, there’s this idea that the computer and mathematics itself are sort of  a-cultural. That they only exist in their own technical and formal world. Every computer system is built within a social and historical context of its time.

~Professor Fox Harrell

Last year, I delved into work and research of Professor Fox Harrell. He runs the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory (ICE) Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Click here for an introduction to the ICE lab.

The lab’s most recent work is the AIR Project, which stands for Advanced Identity Representation. This particular project looks at the ways in which end users can actively create a richer, dynamic identity within the virtual world. I’m oversimplifying here but I highly encourage you to visit the project site to read immerse yourself in the details. Although his work is based on computation and artificial intelligence (AI), the focus is on the human condition and our (virtual) interactions. This type of new media art helps shed light on the way we behave, perceive, and inevitably mesh and mold into identities we have created for ourselves. More to follow…

Currently reading: Toward a Theory of Critical Computing: The Case of Social Identity Representation in Digital Media Applications by Dr. Fox Harrell 

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos is a writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research areas and interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, networked culture, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She is currently the managing editor for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and Public Art Dialogue. She has lectured and spoken at the De Young museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” has been published to The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture in 2016. She serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism, board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center, and teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Digital Art and New Media department.

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