2019 February: Beginning Independent Research

Week 1

  • Made notes on Calvino (If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller)
  • Made notes on Drager (Lost Daughter Collective)
  • Got a British Library Reader’s Pass
  • At British Library: explored theoretical works on my reading list. My approach was to read the forewords of all the books I requested for collection at the library, to get a feel which of them may be relevant.
    • Character and Person – John Frow (2014) is a 5/5 in terms of relevance.
    • The Afterlife of Characters… – David Brewer (2005) is a 4/5 in terms of relevance.
    • Empathy and the Novel – Suzanne Keene (2007) is a 3/5. She is thinking about the empathy involved in reading and writing, and the belief that reading novels encourages altruistic behaviour. She talks about the possibility of recording mirror neurons (see Vittorio Gallese Being Like Me: Self-Other Identity, Mirror Neurons and Empathy (2005) for specific cases of study), which emerged at her time, and how this could help answer that question. She asks whether reading is ‘good’ for people, or is this romanticising it? Violent video games vs. violent literature?
    • My Mother was a Computer – Katherine Hayles (2005) is a 3/5. Relates to cybernetics, the transferral of human tasks to computers.

Particularly focused on John Frow’s Character and Person. Although Frow states that the fictional character has been comparatively undertheorised in relation to other focuses of study in narratology, I have been introduced to many references on the topic through him, where I struggled to find any before.

I read this sort of writing very slowly, my brain struggles to cope with allusions and references to things I don’t already know of, even when Frow retells them (e.g. retells a novel in order to offer a reading of it). I assume this is just a matter of practice.

I also find it overwhelming to approach history when there is so much of it. I guess that’s why every history is selective, and I will also have to be selective whilst still trying to gauge the background that’s been done on the similarity between characters and persons already.

Frow has numerous references which I use to make the same points (e.g. Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness and Bladerunner 2010). I worried whether the book I wanted to write has already been written! But I wondered why I should worry, even if this is the case. So much the better if someone’s figured it out. So I paid attention to how I could benefit from his work and extend the research. So far I think that the book will only go so far as to sketch out the overlap between characters and persons, but possibly not speculate on the implications on this for how we think of persons. And how we think of making artificial ones. And of course, add to that my formulation of all of this into art experiments. There is space for me to add something, probably. And he might be a good person to invite to one of my seminars.

Week 3

  • I got invited to perform Pseudo for the next Redact the Abstract in Silvertown, coming up directly after my performance at Camden Peopoles Theatre
  • I finished watching the first 2 seasons of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, and was inspired by the writing as well as the protagonist herself and her attitude on stage as a stand-up comedian. Her articulation and literacy of performance attracted me, that dexterity of telling. The ups and downs of her creative process reminded me that it doesn’t always go well but that that doesn’t indicate I should stop, or that I am a bad performer/artist. I have a renewed interest in developing my stage adaptation of my MA degree show. Perhaps I can get a little confidence from the next two performances of 10 minute Pseudo, and then propose longer pieces for other opportunities.
  • Dad once again blew my mind with the latest news in AI. This time I feel more compelled to get stuck into the technicality of GANs a bit. There is a real danger that ‘deepfaked’ videos and images can become super convincing; creating doctored videos and images of real people doing or saying things they never did or said. Also, entirely machine-imagined faces, cats and even pretty amazing computer-generated fictional writing has been published by research teams (the latter, according to my dad, actually did not publish their algorithm for moral reasons, and just showed the result). www.thispersondoesnotexist.com
  • I made a quick VS voiceover using some faces I screenshot from the above website
  • I am interested in what philosophical implications these advances in AI have on our conception of what a real person is, or what genuine creativity is. I heard people discussing AI-generated music and visual art produced recently by artists harnessing GANs (Front Row: The arts and artificial intelligence. Wed 21 Nov 2018 BBC 4, 28 minutes. Presented by Samira Ahmed, interviewing artists Anna Ridley and Mario Klingemann and musician Taryn Southern. Interviewing mathematician Marcus Du Sautoy and art critics). There seemed to be a disbelief, by both artists and academics, that machines are performing human-like creativity. Somebody said that the ability to make art is testament to the maker’s possession of consciousness and emotions – but I wonder if emotions are in fact needed to make art – clearly some of the results (in music, more recently in that fictional piece of writing) seem creative enough, yet by all accounts the machines are not conscious. I don’t believe that the ability to make art is a viable Turing test. Yet what is? How can you be sure if something has consciousness – how can you be sure a human has consciousness? Is it only that as individuals, we perceive ourselves as conscious; and that by seeing other agents that look like us (have eyes, and bodies that respond reasonably logically in relation to external stimuli), we assume that they too have what we have? Is this the only ground upon which our certainty about consciousness lies? Secondly, I often hear that people are interested in the question of whether, in the case where an artist works with an algorithm to make art, the art is rightly attributable to the artist and whether the artist deserves full or diminished credit; more interestingly, some in the programme raise the concern that algorithmic creativity is necessarily unoriginal, because it is trained on a database and can only ever rehash previous works of art. Yet, as the musician Taryn Southern says in response to this, echoing well-established art theory of the past few decades, it is not clear how human creativity works, and whether we ever do anything but rehash previous creations and influences; whether we indeed can ever be original, and what pure originality would mean.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s