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The Reading Room #41: Optimal Brain Damage

Tuesday 30th November, 2021
13:00-15:00 (GMT, UK)
Location: Online(Zoom)
Register HERE

Guest Reader: Johannes Bruder, Director of the Critical Media Lab & Head of Research, Institute of Experimental Design and Media Cultures, FHNW Academy of Art and Design

Reading: “The Algorithms of Mindfulness” by Johannes Bruder

In this hybrid event, Dr Johannes Bruder will give a short presentation followed by a more in-depth, collective discussion and reading group around the topics of his talk together with the provided essay “The Algorithms of Mindfulness“. We appreciate it if you come to the talk having read some of the essay beforehand; however, anyone is invited to attend whether they have read the essay or not. Those unable to stay for the full reading-discussion portion will be given the opportunity to step out gracefully after the first hour.

If you are unable to download the essay pdf via this link, please email the organizers directly and we will send you the pdf by email.

Optimal Brain Damage

“The assumption that connectivity is always a good thing is for me so naïve,” neuroscientist Karl Friston told his interlocutor in an interview on his approach to modeling the spread of the Covid-19 in the UK. “From the point of view of that delicate self-organization that enables these Markov blankets that constitute ourselves, or a society, or an ecosystem to survive, connectivity is the killer.” A remarkable, and politically momentous statement at a time when comprehensive connectivity seemed to be all there is, whether we think of global logistics, social media or more generally, the internet in times of “the cloud”. Yet, what critics were more concerned about was the use of theories and tools developed to study cognition in the brain for the purpose of analyzing the spread of Covid-19, moving almost seamlessly from populations of neurons to populations of humans. In my talk, I will show that such epistemological slippages have a history, and continue to influence how we think of human and non-human intelligence in times of AI.

About The Reading Room

The Reading Room is a nomadic event series dedicated to creating a community-oriented, public platform for encounters with contemporary ideas on art and society. At its core, The Reading Room series revolves around the reading of texts provided by invited guests – artists, scientists, scholars and curators – who join our diverse community in an open discussion while providing context and perspective.

The series stems from a belief that keeping a close connection between disciplinary boundaries in the arts and sciences, through historical and emerging theories on art and culture is invaluable to developing a grounded practice. Especially in the 21st century, where theory, practice and social engagement seem to merge ever more seamlessly.

The Reading Room is organized across different times and geographies by artist-researchers Sissel Marie Tonn, Jonathan Reus and Flora Reznik, and was originally supported through generous financial assistance from the artist initiative iii and Stroom Den Haag, both based in The Hague.

Sensation and Perception to Awareness

The Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme ‘From sensation and perception to awareness’ directed by Professor Jamie Ward and Professor Anil Seth, and funded by the Leverhulme Trust, brings together researchers and doctoral students from across neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, robotics, and the arts, with the goal of advancing our understanding of interactions between sensation, perception, as well as awareness in humans, animals, and machines.

Guest Reader

Dr. Johannes Bruder is a trained sociologist with an affinity to media studies. He studies the history and present of decision-making systems, and how these encode psychological categories, sociological models, artistic practices and speculative designs. His first book “Cognitive Code. Post-Anthropocentric Intelligence and the Infrastructural Brain” (MQUP, 2019) is based on fieldwork in neuroscience laboratories and provides deep insights into the bio-politics of computational neuroscience and machine learning. Johannes has a strong interest in experimenting with research methods, knowledge practices, alternative pedagogies and publication formats that unsettle disciplinary paradigms and render research in the humanities operational in real-world contexts. He’s currently the Head of the Critical Media Lab Basel and Head of Research at the Institute of Experimental Design and Media Cultures, FHNW Academy of Art and Design.