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Centre for Music and Science


Tacit Engagement in the Digital Age, 26-28 June 2019

A joint conference by the 'Re-' Interdisciplinary Network (CRASSH) and the AI & Society Journal

Registration for 26th and 27th June is now closed.

Deadline for registration for 28th June is 21st June 2019

A concept that has been at the fore of discussions around the sociology of scientific knowledge, the limits of AI, and most recently the design of 'collective intelligence', is 'tacit knowledge'. First coming to prominence in the 1960's, with Polanyi's The Tacit Dimension (1966), it is a concept that continues to be addressed by scholars and practitioners from a wide range of disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspectives, and applied fields of practice. This conference explores the place of the tacit in the 21st Century, where our lives are increasingly augmented by AI algorithms.

Engagement with and through social media networks and mobile apps are re-shaping the notion of community and family, and affecting wellbeing, as well as the cultures of the workplace and institutions. The exponential rise of big data flows in networked communications causes vast gaps in translation, confusion about what is true and false, and mistrust of ‘experts’. In the shadows of machine thinking we are unable to engage with difference.

This challenges us to come up with technological futures rooted in us as persons, not as numbers, parts, sensory mechanisms, genes, and individual bodies.

  • What alternative models might allow humans to better engage with technology?
  • How can we reconsider the relation between a person and a collective intelligence?
  • How can we reconceive the self as interaction in a digital age?

Ideas of performance and re-performance help us reposition seemingly singular subjects and objects as collective phenomena, and help reconnect art and science after their separation in the 19th Century; but the arts in general can play a key role in questioning and reframing our understandings by directing attention to the tacit assumptions, norms, and expectations embedded in all cultural processes. 

There is a supposed neutrality around technology, evidenced in the idea that human ‘intelligence’ can, in the absence of ‘person’, be artificially re-presented, re-constructed and re-produced through computation (AI). The conference explores in what ways the interplay of the arts and sciences is re-conceiving augmentation and automation, and questions what an ‘intelligence’ that is ‘artificial’ might be.

This three day conference is jointly hosted by CRASSH and the Music Faculty with the first two days (26th and 27th June) to be held at CRASSH (Alison Building SG1). 

The third day will be held in the Music Faculty (Recital Room). Registration deadline is Friday 21st June. Cost for attendees and presenters is £25 and includes lunch, coffee, and refreshments.  To register please click HERE

Accommodation is not provided, but please check the following websites for some useful suggestions: meet-cambridge, Visit Cambridge, Cambridge rooms, University of Cambridge accomodations webpage.

Conference Programme on 28 June


08:30-09:00   Registration

09:00-10:20   Keynotes    Art as Science

Chair: Marleen Wynants (Scrutiniser, Belgium)

Victoria Vesna (Art|Sci UCLA, USA) - We are alien stardust, we are viral genes: macro micro interactions

Vibeke Sorensen (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) - Art, technology, and the Internet of Living Things (IoLT)

10:20-10:35   TEA BREAK

10:35-11:20   Interactive Event(s)/workshop(s) 

Kwan Q Li (Oxford University) - Weedlist

Satinder Gill and Margaret Faultlesss  (Cambridge University, Music, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) - In Conversation: performing the orchestra

11.20-13:00   Roundtable    Tacit Engagement in Practice

Chair: Caroline Nevejan (University of Amsterdam)

Tania Fraga (University of Brasilia, Brazil) - Epicurus' garden: poetic and aesthetic considerations of an installation and performances with brain-computer interface

Jonathan Impett (Orpheus Institute, Belgium, Music) - Music, thought and intuitive technology

Marleen Wynants (Scrutiniser) - SWAMPLAB

Marcelo Velasco et al. (Fundacion Arte + Ciencia, Chile) - Machine leaning and social good - a Chilean experience

Pam Burnard, Pallawi Sinha et al. (University of Cambridge, Education) - Re(con)figuring arts and mathematics using diffraction as a new materialist methodology for understanding enactments of interdisciplinarity

13:00-13:05   REFRESH

13:05-13:20   James Gimzewski FRS (UCLA Chemistry)

                      Why Science needs Art


13:40-17:00   Parallel Workshop - Polanyi Society (Lecture Rm 1) (Details below)

14:30-15:20   Keynote     Harry Collins

Intelligence is social. That's why deep learning is so good, but it's still not there

Chair: Richard Staley (University of Cambridge, History and Philosophy of Science)

15:20-15:35  TEA BREAK

15:35-17:05   Roundtable    Representing the Social

Chair: Clare Foster

Veronique Chance (Anglia Ruskin University, Fine art and print making) - Record, relay, represent: experiencing running as mediated performance

Massimo Negrotti (Urbino, Italy, sociology) - The reality of the artificial. From a dream to a paradox

David Harris Smith (McMaster University, Canada) - Cultural Robotics

Bill Thompson (BBC R&D) - Towards online engagement: rethinking the network to support human connections

17:05-17:45   Closing Panel Discussion and Q & A

17:45-18:30   RECEPTION (Sponsored by AI & Society Journal)


Parallel Session 13:45-17:00

Polanyi Society Workshop

13:45-14:15  Chris Goodman and Gyuri Lajos

An engine automating tacit awareness rather than mimicking reason. 

14:15-14:45  Andy Steiger

The imitation game: Polanyi versus Turing and why it matters to human dignity

14:45-15:15   Zsolt Zeigler

Dwelling in cyborgs

14:15-15:30   Tea Break

15:30-16:00   Esther Lightcap Meek (Geneva College, USA)

The unmediated, indissoluble, unformalizable primacy of the person in the digital age

16:00-16:30   Phil Mullins (Missouri Western State University, USA)

A Polanyian reflection on AI

16:30-17:00   Concluding Discussion







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