Opening music: “E pur si muove” (Part I of “3.141”) Fixed media viola: Dominik Schlienger
Opening of the Public Examination by Custos Prof. Dr. Jan Schacher
- “Eπlogue” (Part III of “3.141”) Fixed media violoncello: Saara Viika; cor anglais: Saku Mattila
- Lectio on agency in technology
Statement of the thesis
Closing music/performance: “ANThill” Fixed media electronics: Dominik Schlienger-Tuomi
Conclusion of the public examination
- Custos: Prof. Dr. Jan Schacher, Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki
- Opponents: Prof. Sally Jane Norman, Victoria University of Wellington, Prof. Dr. Lily Díaz-Kommonen, Professor of New Media Aalto University, Espoo Finland and Prof. Dr. Rama Gottfried, Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology, Zürich University of the Arts
- Member of the Faculty: Dr. Alejandro Olarte, Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki
Summary of Lectio
“Developing ALPS — Notes on Agency in Technology” collects the outcomes of my applied doctorate in music (scientific strand). The thesis is a report and a reflection on the development of tracking technology for use in interactive sonic arts. It is structured into the projects background, methods and outcomes, a collection of articles marking milestones within the project, and a reflection on agency in technologies – digital ones in particular. Taking my own (music-)technological practice as a starting point, I scrutinise the notion of agency in human-machine interactions and relations, both in the post-humanist conception and with respect to the Gaia principle.
The project started with an idea for an installation, wherein the position of a participant controls a musical parameter or a parameter of sound. When the participant changes position, some element(s) in the audio environment change(s), too. After encountering Interdisciplinary Improvisation, an experimental artistic practice was inaugurated in which my initial idea and its application was just one example of spatial interaction in music, the subject of the practice. The research Workshop on Music, Space & Interaction (MS&I) consequently came to be, resulting in the Acoustic Localisation Positioning System (ALPS) and associated Max patches.
In the MS&I workshop, questions arose about agency in artificial intelligence. In response to these concerns, I hypothesise in the closing chapters that the code-structures which constitute language, music, and computational machines are related. Consequently, machines can be conceptualised as extensions of human cognition. The last chapter is motivated by the question of the impact of technical objects on our surroundings. Bruno Latour’s description of the technical mode of existence is based on Simondon’s “Mode of Existence of the Technical Object”. Yet, the two descriptions differ. An aspect of Simondon’s account, the directionality of everything technical towards materials, becomes lost in Latour’s account. I call this appropriation the “technical’s modus operandi”. This reading differs from the way Latour uses the term in his reading of James Lovelock’s Gaia theory. Whereas Latour posits that necessary order derives from territory, I emphasise that the negotiation between all actants are precedent to order. Through this negotiation, our actions are appropriate whenever we interact consciously-technically with the world.
The re-conceptualisation of machines as extensions of human cognition has profound consequences: We can no longer justifiably lament the disenfranchisement from technologies as we are essentially constituting them. The complaint about inertia in view of the climate crisis is inconsequential, as it is our relentless technical activity, not inertia which defines us and accelerates us towards the abyss. Rather, engaging in contingent, participatory improvisational practices in technology development, sustainable technology is possible, in negotiated socio-material arrangements.