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Friday, May 29 • 2:45pm - 4:00pm
Heavenly Bodies: Two Transmedia Demonstrations

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A panel of two demonstrations:

The Moon -- Limning the Earth and the Heavens
William Alba

I will describe three interrelated projects accompanying the Astrobotic robot mission to the Moon in the coming year: Earth Tapestry points back at our planet from a lunar vantage; Sagan Planet Walk looks out towards the stars; and Epoch Marker dates the lander’s arrival at the orbit bounding terrestrial and celestial. Each Landmark Labs project preserves information across vast scales of distance and time. Collectively they highlight connections among Earth, Moon, stars, and human.

Earth Tapestry appears on the Moon as a marker plaque, with maps and legends highlighting the most significant features of the most colorful, largest, and only constant object in the lunar sky: our own planet. Locations are determined through a process of deliberative democratic curation on the Internet. This crowdsourced information will be presented in public displays and preserved in redundant terrestrial deep archives, as well as on the surface of the Moon. Global in content, massively participatory, and enduring for millions of years, Earth Tapestry is the first project to involve humanity in conversation with itself about how to represent ourselves when we communicate with distant intelligences.

Sagan Planet Walk: Moon extends the Sagan Planet Walk, a 5-billion-to-1 scale model that currently ranges from the Solar System in Ithaca, New York to Alpha Centauri in Hilo, Hawaii. The new wayfarer station on the Moon will represent an exoplanet approximately 200 light years away, thereby enlarging what is already the world's largest exhibition to the farthest limit where humans have set foot. Corresponding displays on Earth will exalt the process of astronomical discovery and invite the public to marvel in the immensity of the universe.

Epoch Marker is made to inform future intelligences when it was made. The ultimate cornerstone, this collection of texts, images, and artifacts provides chronological information appropriate for different time scales, from decades to eons. Calendars based on human events; maps of the Earth, Moon, and Solar System; and material objects will enable future visitors with human-like intelligence to backdate when all of the objects associated with Epoch Marker landed on the Moon.

This presentation will include a demonstration of the Earth Tapestry voting website and images of the Metasphere Chamber that contains these projects. Key themes may include the politics of communication with extraterrestrial intelligence (CETI), the importance of the humanities and arts in CETI messages, challenges with designing a crowdsourcing platform to aggregate individual preferences, technical and linguistic issues with archiving information for non-humans, and the role of the alien in defining humanity and the humanities.

The Body-Sonic: An Aural Secretion of Space
Jay Kirby and Eddie Lohmeyer

In this digital performance, we will engage the emergent field of sound studies through notions of gesturality and affect. We use sensors that measure electrical activity in muscles with an Arduino to feed data to a Processing script to synthesize sound. Through this, we will demonstrate the way in which gestural (or even autonomic, involuntary) activity can be perceived through intensities of muscular-sonic virtualities. We will also use accompanying sound loops to create a complex assemblage of bodies, technologies, actions, and events that occupy a plane of composition. This work should help expand understandings of cognition and its relationship to digital media via a monist ontology.

Following from Jonathan Sterne’s introduction to sound studies in the Sound Studies Reader, we hope to push against what Sterne calls the “audiovisual litany”—a set of cultural assumptions that differentiate audio and visual, often in dualist terms. This dualism can be traced back to embodied performances beginning in the 1960s. Kim and Seifert describe two “types” of performances. The first “extends” the human body through virtual instruments. The authors note that this work is seen as extension of the body that is itself an “extension of mental substance," in this way following Cartesian conceptions of the mind and body. The second type of performance involves “immaterialization” of the body where the body can become the subject of artistic expressions.

We wish to move beyond the subject/object split and present this performance as a way to conceive of a monist ontology in which the body-sonic affects and is affected by other bodies—in the Spinozian sense of affect—situated in the space that is created through sonification. To borrow from Jose Gil and his Deleuzian treatment of the dancing, choreographed body in motion that creates its own space, our performative assemblage of the body-sonic “secretes” auditory space through gesture when the intensive affects of the body extensively flow outward. This intensive-extensive space created by the gestures of the sonic-body indicates a body as becoming, one that conjures space through its electrical-vibrational energy.

Further, we believe our performance will make more intelligible the idea of Deleuze’s “cogito for a dissolved self” and non-subjective thought. Deleuze, in admonishing the Cartesian, fully-formed cogito, notes that even in the Cartesian cogito, the “‘I think’ includes in its essence a receptivity of intuition in relation to which I is already an other… for a brief moment we enter into that schizophrenia in principle which characterises the highest power of thought, and opens Being directly on to difference, despite all the mediations, all the reconciliations, of the concept." We can see this in our project in the way the assemblage can slide between control and lack of control, demonstrating the schizophrenic nature of this dissolved subject. For a body may consciously use muscles to interact with the sound. But the sound and muscles will interact even without the body’s conscious action. This shows that the idea of “self” is a dissolving construct.

avatar for William Alba

William Alba

Assistant Dean for Diversity, MCS, Carnegie Mellon University
As the Associate Dean for Diversity in the Mellon College of Science, I am the first professor at Carnegie Mellon University whose title includes "diversity." During the first year in this role I focused on supporting undergraduates, building partnerships with local K-12 schools... Read More →

Friday May 29, 2015 2:45pm - 4:00pm EDT
Auditorium Kellog Center

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