(Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen)
10 April 2019 11:00 – 11.30
Interactivity and Performative Play in the Neurohumanities: Introducing a Critical NeuroArt
Dr. David R. Gruber is an Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen. His research bridges Rhetoric of Science, Media Studies, and Science and Technology Studies. He has published in HyperRhiz: New Media Cultures, Ctheory, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Written Communication, Journal of Science Communication, among other journals. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Language and Science.
Critical Neuroscience is a new subfield proposing scholarship that “responds to the social and cultural challenges posed both to the field of science and to society in general by recent advances in the behavioral and brain sciences” (Choudhury, Nagel and Slaby, 2009, p. 62). Inclusive in the effort is the consideration of how power relations and discourses of consumerism and Capitalism are reified or reconfigured by the neurosciences. Thus, a Critical Neuroscience examines scientific processes of development and sociocultural investments, looking often at “a gap between promises and expectations [of neuroscience] on the one hand and knowledge and applications on the other” (Schlem, 2014). To contribute to Critical Neuroscience and encourage examination of popular neuroscience—so often charged with propogating “mindless” views (Racine et al., 2005), “seductive appeals” (Weisberg et al., 2008) and “uncritical” applications (Racine et al., 2005)—I explore the idea of a Critical NeuroArt as a creative intervention into the social roles, positioning, and comprehension of neuroscience. Because art interrogates social, cultural, and material relationships and fosters audience engagement, it has potential to contribute to the efforts of a Critical Neuroscience. To demonstrate what I imagine as Critical NeuroArt, I present two interactive new media projects that I have built over the past four years. The first, “Gesture / Language / Mirror,” was developed by programmer and artist Daniel Howe and myself; we stage the work so that audiences can start to question the mode of functioning of “mirror neurons” by watching algorithms that match gestures across various video inputs. The second, “The Neuro News Generator” is an iterative online artwork made with the Processing programming language; it randomly generates fake neuroscience news headlines by inputting different keywords every few seconds. Each project is described, shown, and juxtaposed to other “Art-Neuroscience” projects in order to delineate what makes them a Critical NeuroArt beyond merely the artist’s own intention to spur new questions in audiences about the ways that neuroscience embeds in everyday life. Ultimately, I argue that Critical NeuroArt projects have the potential for positive interdisciplinary outcomes and can serve to foster useful conversations with neuroscientists about how their research is interpreted and used in the humanities.