In this paper I point to aspects of Heinz von Foerster’s work that might be considered, normally, under the heading of art, a heading rarely used to describe this work. Starting by referring to a paper ‘Heinz von Foerster: the Form and the Content’ (Glanville, 1996b) – that I wrote for Foerster’s 85th birthday festschrift (Glanville, 1996a), I introduce several art type concerns that can be found in Foerster’s work, then move on to consider the culture in which Foerster grew up. Using, as a metaphor, the argument that Janik and Toulmin (1973) make in the case of Ludwig Wittgenstein, in their study of Wittgenstein’s Vienna, I proposal that there is a similar study to be carried out in Foerster’s case, if we are to better understand Foerster’s legacy.
In this article we advocate the methodological feedback loop in the study of the dynamical self at the crossroads of performance philosophy, (artistic) performance, and the philosophy of science. We point to the importance of the dynamics of methodology transfer between arts and sciences and the “interactive continuum” proposed by Newman & Benz in 1998. In the first part of this paper we give a comparative review of the research context relevant for our field of study, and we explain our research hubs in approaching the concept of “performance”. We suggest the possibility to define our filed of research in three equally legitimate ways: as philosophy-of-performance, philosophy-as-performance and performance-as-philosophy. In our recent work we are primarily interested in artistic performances that incorporate elements of artistic practice in the methodology of research output (Frayling 1993), as well as in the potentials of performative aspects of scientific praxis and methodology. However, the conceptual background relevant for this paper is in the field of process philosophy and its relation to science (Birkhard’s “interactivist model” 2009; Campbell’s “process-based model for an interactive ontology” 2009). We attribute particular importance to the notion of “autopoietic feedback” (Maturana and Varela 1974; Luhmann 1990). The second part addresses the issue of transcending identity in the representations of the self and the other; the relationship between Theory-Theory (TT) and Simulation Theory (ST), as well as some recent attempts at combining different theories of mind (e.g. Barlassina 2013). We also deal with the notion of “embodied praxis” (Gallagher and Meltzoff 1996); we mention some neuroscientific insights into the similar phenomena, and – commenting on the importance of the dialogue between neuroscientists and philosophers (Changeux and Ricour) – we give an example of an enactive approach to understanding acting (Zarrilli 2007). In the third part of this article, we critique the notion of “interpassivity” (Žižek 1997; Pfaller 2000). In the concluding part we mention the importance of exploring the concept of “expanded self” (Gallagher 2000; Jeannerod 2003; Kim and Johnson 2013). Being aware of the impossibility to reach final conclusions in the scientific approach to the dynamics of the self, instead of a formal conclusion, we offer a quote from Yeats’ poem “Balloons of Mind”.
The present paper is intended to broaden the debate on constructivism and film theory. It is divided into two sections: first, I outline the main features of Radical Constructivism as proposed by Ernst von Glasersfeld, and I argue that objections to such a radical approach arise from a (common) misunderstanding of the Radical Constructivist position; and second, I discuss David Bordwell’s theory of narration in the cinema from such a position. I argue that as Bordwell assumes that the spectator’s constructive activity is compatible with a realist epistemology the relationship between syuzhet and fabula he describes is flawed as he cannot account for the communication of narrative information from screen to spectator. I describe the nature of communication in the cinema and propose an alternative, hierarchical relationship between the syuzhet and the fabula.
The article focuses on music and art projects of the British cybernetician Gordon Pask from the 1950ies to the end of the 1970ies. These projects are seen as embedded in Pask’s general scientific work. Project Musicoulour is described as a learning machine which produces light effects according to the variety of the performance of a piano player. Thus theatres and dancing halls became cybernetic laboratories. Another example of Pask’s activities in the field of art was Fun Palace, which was described as a system for encouraging the creative behaviour that is necessary in an automated society. Participation of the audience was a key element of project Fun Palace and a projected central part of it, the Cybernetic Theatre. Finally the Colloquy of Mobiles, Gordon Pask’s most famous installation which has been prepared for the exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity, is discussed.
Context: The thoroughly second-order cybernetic underpinnings of naturalist theatre have gone almost entirely unremarked in the literature of both theatre studies and cybernetics itself. As a result, rich opportunities for the two fields to draw mutual benefit and break new ground through both theoretical and empirical investigations of these underpinnings have, thus far, gone untapped. Problem: The field of cybernetics continues to remain academically marginalized for, among other things, its alleged lack of experimental rigor. At the same time, the field of theatre studies finds itself at an impasse between post-structuralist semioticians and embodied cognitivists regarding key onto-epistemological issues. A program of research framing and utilizing naturalist theatre as a second-order cybernetic/cybersemiotic laboratory holds much promise in addressing both matters and lending credence to Ross Ashby’s assertion that “the discovery that two fields are related leads to each branch helping in the development of the other.” Method: After establishing the nature of the onto-epistemological deadlock within theatre studies, this article examines the application of cybernetic heuristics within naturalistic theatre, leading to a second-order cybernetic analysis of its processes of production and reception and the outline of an experimental program for exploring these processes further. Results: Foundations for a model of naturalist theatre as a cybersemiotic laboratory grounded in a novel operationalization of Gordon Pask’s conversation theory. Implications: The proposed laboratory could result in the generation of quantitative and qualitative research pertaining to several dimensions of second-order cybernetics; particularly cybersemiotics, which, as a result, may end up better positioned to help dissolve onto-epistemological deadlocks between constructivists and realists of all stripes across the academy and beyond. Constructivist content: I argue that an analysis of naturalistic theatre’s processes of meaning-making filtered through the constructivist ontological agnosticism of second-order cybernetics offers a productive middle way forward for those on both sides of the social constructivist/embodied cognitive realist divide, within and beyond theatre studies. The article draws upon the works of Gregory Bateson, Søren Brier, Ranulph Glanville, Heinz von Foerster, and Niklas Luhmann.
Context: Despite the best efforts of postmodern, social constructivist scholars to discredit the notion that “realistic” works of theatre and film could contain genuine onto-epistemic goods, many lay observers (i.e., audiences) continue to describe individual performances and productions as more or less “truthful” than one another. Recently, some performance scholars have pushed back against the postmodern position and turned to contemporary cognitive science to undergird their insistence that the embodied nature of reception and perception does, in fact, allow audiences of such works to access “truths” within them. The literature of cybernetics (first- or second-order) has been almost entirely absent from the debate. Problem: While the hardcore scepticism of social constructivism may be unsatisfactory in fully accounting for the enduring power and appeal of dramatic art, a retreat to epistemic certainty in the name of cognitive science would be equally unwise. This article proposes the notion of “eigenbehavior” as a conceptual bridge that might facilitate the synthesis of the most useful insights from both perspectives and open up new avenues of study and research. Method: The article uses synthetic argumentation to propose a theory of eigenform within the context of theatrical performance. Results: Emerging from this argumentation is a conception of eigenform that is novel in its emphasis on the distinction between its bio-structured and socio-structured features. Implications: The insights in this article will be of value to scholars and practitioners of the dramatic arts and can be productively extended into cognate domains across the humanities. Constructivist content: The article draws on the works of constructivists such as von Glasersfeld, von Foerster, Maturana, Varela, and Luhmann and is grounded in such constructivist perspectives as cybersemiotics, theory of autopoiesis, and systems theory. Key Words: Social systems, semiotics, language, acting, culture, ethics.