Feelings are always local (report)

“According to the current view of the world, the earth has evolved into a gigantic complex of economic, biological, cultural, media and transport networks. This makes relevant the question of how those networks manifest themselves at a local level in everyday life. The networks in question do not so much ‘influence’ daily life; rather daily life takes place solely within those networks.”


The symposium “Feelings are always local” during DEAF04 on the one hand investigated how networks organize themselves from the inside out, expand, link up, rearrange themselves and so on. On the other hand, with the help of ‘network thinking’ and concrete examples, it investigated how people live in networks, how possibilities are created, opportunities are taken, escape routes are chosen, and things sometimes go wrong.

Manual de Landa – Introduction


In his introduction to the subject of the symposium Manuel de Landa explained that the over all theme would be the question of open vs. closed systems. For example an interactive work of art can be seen as an open system. Can it? One of the most pressing problems is that it is hard to evaluate whether an open system is better then a closed system, or vice versa. What is it that we are talking about? A network is a sort of system, and a network can be open or closed. But this is not black and white, there are a lot of forms in between. There are community tight networks, and these are dense networks. There are some consequences of this density, everybody knows everything from everybody. A lot of information spreads mouth to mouth. The network has certain emerging properties, there is a lot of solidarity, you can get friendship out of it, and it has great social value. But to keep these emergent characteristics in tact, the network has to be closed. By the closure of this network it is also possible to keep the diversity alive. Off course, the question remains if an open network loses its diversity? Dense networks make it possible to store lots of information, but it is very difficult to take up new information in an open network. Open networks are easier to transmit new knowledge. Whether this (ethically) is a good or a bad case should be looked at case by case.

The different speakers on the conference all took a case and investigated what could be said about it in terms of open vs closed and good vs bad systems. It became clear that economies of scale are at work here and that we should pay great attention to the technological and economic aspects of the networks.

Karim Nader – Understanding memory, lessons from the brain.


Karim Nader was one of the first to show that the neural substrate of long-term memories is not a stable “engram” (as it is called), but that it is inherently dynamic and dependent on proteins that can be transformed when a memory is remembered. His research opens up an extensive field of therapeutic, philosophical and artistic possibilities yet to be explored.
Memories are very important for the way we (re)act. Some memories have to be restored (e.g. the problems with the memories of witnesses). Memories are not fixed, they are dynamic and there are certain connections that have to be made. Fear is linked to a certain memory, and this memory gets restored every time again. If you block certain proteins the fear memory will go away. So, it seems to be possible to erase memories if they are not restored.

Arjen Mulder – Body and Soul: Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s Biological Worldview.


Collective memories are the products of our society, we can find them for example in our museums. The museum too can be seen as a system, to be closed or to be opened up. Today we have entered a new level of networks: networks of cultural products. Starting from Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s biological worldview, Arjen Mulder tries to come to a theory of interactive art: The art of open sytems.

The worldview:
“Subsystems determine the functioning of a larger system just as much as the larger system determines how its subsystems function. Thus, when you get a stomach-ache, you should look for the cause, not only in your subsystems (such as the stomach wall releasing too much acid), but also in the systems of which you yourself are a subsystem (for example, your job).”

Arjen Mulder conceptualizes Art as a system and tries to look at this system through Ludwig Von Bertalanffy’s worldview. According to Mulder the art making process is always an open system. For instance when you are writing a book, then it is an open system, it is evolving. But when you finish it, it is closed. The artwork eventually becomes a closed system. Interactive art on the contrary tries to stay an open system. The work of art is always depending on the input of the audience. It is however a complex phenomenon because it are two systems (the work of art and the audience) that are coming together. Mulder goes even a step further by stating that when a system is placed within a network, the system as such stops being a system, it gets emerging properties. So with Interactive art the system Art and the system Audience are placed within a network of which the characteristics are very difficult to foresee. (to be elaborated in the future…K.R.)

Tijs Goldschmidt – Every Species is the embodiment of experience with the world.


As a member of a group of researchers from Leiden University, Tijs Goldschmidt investigated the evolution and ecology of a family of fish known as the cichlids in Lake Victoria in East Africa between 1981 and 1986. Halfway through, his research on what one could call a network of flexible fish and micro-niches took a dramatic turn. What had been a closed system opened up to an extremely predatory fish and the original ecosystem started changing radically. What was remarkable was that the disappearance of species was the other side of the emergence of species. How important was the phenomenon known as “wanton extinction”? The phenomenon by which species survive because they have characteristics that developed for totally different purposes but turn out to be unexpectedly crucial – the way some beetles survive nuclear radiation because of their thick carapaces. If you want to see something positive in the dying out of the cichilids, then see it as an unusual, large-scale experiment regarding the question of how you can change an immensely complex ecosystem with one tiny intervention. Irreversibly.

Seiko Mikami & Sota Ichikawa – “gravicells” Gravity and Resistance Project.



Seiko Mikami’s and Sota Ichikawa’s responsive audio-visual environment “gravicells” – Gravity and Resistance Project takes up the issue of gravity in relation to our bodies. Starting from the premise that gravity is not materialized without a counter force, i.e resistance, Mikami and Ichikawa have designed a dynamic mixed reality space where the rub between the powers of gravity and resistance can be experienced by the visitors. The deconstruction of these natural phenomena shifts the visitor’s habitual sense of gravity, and hence alters the perception of one’s body in space. In “gravicells” – Gravity and Resistance project gravity is used as a perceptive interface, and has to effect that it makes us conscious in an synaesthetic way of the natural forces surrounding us. As players we become autonomous cells in a larger system susceptible to the dynamics of gravity and resistance. By playing with two opposing forces we become aware of the potential and constraints the latter hold.


Christopher Kelty – Opening the brown box.


“Emotions are high in science these days, turbulent even. And yet all over people are talking about the most mundane aspect of science: its infrastructure. The fact that science requires an infrastructure – and that this infrastructure may have a crucial role to play in determining many aspects of how science functions – is often overlooked.” Christpoher Kelty stated that the best science: “would depend on the principles and practices of free software and open source […] Only by vigilantly maintaining an open scientific infrastructure, will science, as a distributed peer-reviewed activity, be able to reach even tentative consensus on the bio-electric fields of human brains – much less any other aspect of science expected to be used as the basis of any knowledge-oriented aspect of governance, progress of Enlightenment”.

Alexander Galloway & Eugene acker – In Defiance of Existance.


The presentation of Alexander Galloway tackled the question of networks fighting networks: “But what is an actually existing example of networks fighting networks? We often point to the agile, flexible American Special Forces fighting the elusive cells of Al-Qaeda, or email worms exploiting weaknesses in networked software, or the paper airplanes of the Zapatistas’ “air force” fighting a media war with the guerrilla marketing campaigns of the multinationals, or SARS exploiting global transportations networks. Networks of control have invaded temporary life to such a high degree – in the form of ubiquitous surveillance, biological informatization and other techniques – that their preponderance, their hegemony, cannot help but bring into existence intradiagrammatic conflict. The conflict then remains: what happens when the “powers that be” actually evolve into networked power, creating a sinister new symmetry? If we can imaginge for a second that this has already happened – to varying degrees in varying locations – does that mean that the Left has lost its strategic foothold?”

Loretta Napoleoni – The New Economy of Terror: How Terrorism is financed.


“Armed insurgent groups are often compared to criminal business organizations. Al-Qaeda, for example, has been described as a ‘terror multinational’. Since September 11, 2001, academics and investigators have frequently applied an organized crime model in studying the structure and functioning of Islamist Terror groups. Although widely accepted, this approach limits the study of political violence. From the analysis of the economics of terrorism, it emerges that armed groups have generally different motivations from criminal organizations. They also tend to interact with each other in a somehow “statelike” fashion. At least in the domain of economics, their modus operandi is closer to that of a state than to that of an organized crime group. Evidence for this assertion is that, over the last twenty years, armed organizations have been able to create durable economic linkages, which in turn became the foundation of a more comprehensive economic system: the New Economy of Terror. This peculiar economy – the monetary lifeline of modern terrorism – bridges the legal and illegal international economies.