Keynote Speakers' Abstracts

Adam Nash

“Actual Fantasy, Modulation Chains, and Swarms of Thought-Controlled Babel Drones: Digital Ontology in the Posthuman Era”

What is the posthuman? A very human concept, it is both the contraction and expansion of anthropocentrism. How did this happen, and what is its relationship with the concept of the anthropocene? The key is the *digital*. If, as Rosi Braidotti has it, bodies are reduced to their informational substrate, then this move can be understood via a conception of the digital as *chains of modulation*. Drawing heavily on the work of Gilbert Simondon, this concept allows an ontogenetic understanding of digital processes. Consequently, seemingly disparate fields like *artificial intelligence* and *evolution*, or *robotics* and *live performance*, or *virtual reality* and *love*, can be resolved and modulated into a new individuating entity, without abandoning the ongoing individuation of each field. When this modulation process is not allowed to happen, individuals are artificially reified and the only possible product is anxiety.

In this talk, I will draw on my practice as a digital virtual artist to explore the concept of the posthuman. From live performances in virtual space, through robots jamming with AI-driven virtual environments, to sentences that mindlessly re-enact the building of Babel over and over in response to the utterances of strangers in a multi-user game world, my artwork attempts to enact a speculative ontology of the digital. By using practice-based research to work with the theories of posthuman thinkers like Simondon, Braidotti, Donna Haraway, Anna Munster and Bernard Stiegler, I will show how all concepts of live performance, music, visuals, text, voice, dance and so on have merged into a post-convergent generic continuum. This can be used to facilitate a posthuman understanding of global digital networks in the anthropocene as a *metastable* environment in which individuating entities can participate in a *transindividual* rather than be subjectivised as digital slaves in a global anxiety factory.

Peter Eckersall

“Towards a Dramaturgy of Robots and Object Figures”

Robotic and virtual figures have become increasingly visible in live performance, functioning more as actors rather than simply as objects, props or décor. Dramaturgically they link new perspectives on technology, media, and politics with hybrid performance events that blur the traditional theatrical borders between live and mediated effects. What do these artworks do, and do they perform? In this paper I will consider these questions in reference to mixed media performance works by Hirata Oriza (Japan) and Kris Verdonck (Belgium). Hirata’s innovative use of robots in realist drama and Verdonck’s use of projections in performance installations are examples of a new media dramaturgy (NMD) that intentionally complicates the expressive qualities of human and non-human agents in live performance.

Fred Spier

“Wished futures and expected futures: a reflection on scenarios of the future of humanity from the point of view of big history”

All of us humans have ideas about how to try shaping the future to our own desires, while we may also be aware of the fact that the future may turn out to be different from what we desire. In our projections of the future it is important to be continuously aware of this distinction. Yet at the same time, all of our wishes and actions (or the lack of them) contribute to shaping the future, which depends on human action (or the lack of it) within the larger context of all of nature, including the cosmos. What is it that people may wish to achieve, what are the expected natural circumstances? What kind of dynamic would that produce? And what are the resulting expectations of the future? To what extent can we actually forecast trends, and details? Is there perhaps an underlying mechanism of the past that may also be applicable to the future? What can we learn from big history in all those respects?

Keith W. Hipel

“Technology and Policy Options for a Low-Emission Energy System in Canada”

A synopsis is presented on the key findings of the Council of Canadian Academies’ Expert Panel Report on energy use and climate change, which was released in late October of 2015. The evidence is clear: increased greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are causing pervasive changes to the Earth’s climate, and significant and rapid efforts will be needed to reduce these emissions in the coming decades. The Panel’s report is an up-to-date, accessible review of options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving Canada toward a low-emission future. It provides an overview of Canada’s energy system, an analysis of different energy sources and technologies, and an exploration of the public policies available to support a shift toward low-emission energy sources and technologies. Moreover, the investigation is guided by a systems thinking approach, recognizing the interconnectedness of society and the natural environment supporting it. Overall, the Panel acknowledged that the technologies needed for moving toward a low-emission energy system and the policies required for promoting the use of those technologies, already exist, are well-understood and are constantly improving. Optimal strategies and policies for advancing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will need to be adaptive by evolving as necessary in response to emission trends, new technological developments, and other social, economic, and political changes. They will also benefit from system level principles of resilience, sustainability, fairness, and integration across jurisdictions and disciplines. The report constitutes an indispensable resource for private sector decision-makers, different levels of government, and the public as they seek to better understand energy use and the options available to combat climate change.