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Podcast, “Collective Intelligence”: Featuring Agnieszka Kurant, Stefan Helmreich, Adam Haar Horowitz and Caroline Jones

Agnieszka Kurant's floating stone art called "Air Rights"
"Air Rights," 2014, Agnieszka Kurant. Electromagnets, wood, foam, powdered stone, pigments. Fabrication by Krzysztof Smaga. Photo: Jean Vong.

Four MIT artists and scholars discuss the idea of collective intelligence in relation to emerging technology, artistic inquiry, and social and cultural movements. CMS/W Professor Nick Monfort moderates.

CAST Visiting Artist Agnieszka Kurant joined Stefan Helmreich, professor of Anthropology; Caroline Jones, professor of History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art; and Adam Haar Horowitz, master’s student and research assistant in the Fluid Interfaces Group, to discuss the idea of collective intelligence in relation to emerging technology, artistic inquiry, and social and cultural movements.

Kurant reflects on outsourcing her artworks to human and non-human collective intelligence and the system of profit-sharing she has created, artworks as complex systems or collective tamagotchis emulating life, and the observable evolution of individual authorship, culture, nature, labor and society. Haar Horowitz touches on the collective in relationship to experience research in the neurosciences and experience production in the arts. Helmreich discusses metaphors of collective human action derived from physics, computer science, animal worlds, and fluid dynamics, and will reflect on the politics of these framings. Jones addresses the curious invocation of “intelligence” in discussions of aggregated agency, with specific reference to the so-named “mobile brain” or “immune brain” of the distributed system (mostly outside the cranium) that learns, remembers, and teaches, negotiating between tolerance and threat in relation to xeno-bacteria.

The panel was moderated by Nick Montfort, professor of Comparative Media Studies/Writing.

Rachel Thompson
Written by
Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Anthropology and Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Her honors thesis explored literature’s evolving role in the digital age through an ethnographic study of an online literary magazine. She also co-founded and directed the Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Reform, a network of eight volunteer groups that tutor in prisons across Massachusetts and work on advocacy initiatives relating to mass incarceration and education.

Before joining CMS, Rachel worked in Boston-area art museums — the Harvard Art Museums and the Peabody Essex Museum — with a focus on developing teaching curriculum for makerspaces as well as integrated digital media experiences for visitors.

At MIT, she worked as a Research Assistant in the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab under the direction of Lisa Parks.

Thesis: Incomplete Sentences: Exploitation and Empowerment in American Incarceration Media

Rachel Thompson Written by Rachel Thompson