|From 2001-2004, the Initiative sponsored working
groups in specific thematic areas. Some groups ran speaker series
or held conferences; some collaborated on a particular research project;
others read and discussed texts in an area of shared interest.
The working groups welcomed faculty, students and staff from the academic
community as well as participants from journalism and industry.
Working Groups included:
and Human Identity
group including anthropologists, psychologists, historians, neuroscientists, artists, and roboticists
whose research focused on relationships with robotic creatures that are "relational
artifacts," artificial creatures designed to form social relationships.
Among the questions addressed: How do relationships with robots
challenge contemporary notions of selfhood, identity, and community?
and Software ("Architecture")
Designers are increasingly
interacting with both collaborators and design artifacts through rich technological
interfaces. Simulation, visualization, and communication technologies are
transforming current ways of seeing and knowing. They affect how designers
work, communicate, and ultimately see themselves. The group explored how new
modes of design practice lead to a redefinition of professional activities
and relationships and shift responsibilities and skill sets.
A group of social
scientists working on ethnographies of psychopharmaceutical consumption and
histories of pharmaceutical advertising that asked questions about the relationship
between prescription drugs, consumption, culture, health, and personal and
This group examined the
identity effects of technologies such as synthetic vision, artificial intelligence,
and geolocational devices, with an emphasis on how they affect the perception
of real and virtual spaces. The focus was on how altered perceptions
may affect social interactions and notions of identity.
Technology and art are in
a new dynamic interchange. Discussion topics included: art as an expression
or exploration of the body and the self; art practice as a critique of the
contemporary technological self.
An interdisciplinary group
interested in how individual and group identities and experiences are shaped
in relation to the interplay of bodies and technologies. Interests included:
feminist and antiracist critiques of biology, medical implants, and visualization
Technologies and Self
The global spread of information
technologies has emerged in parallel with the rise of new discourse on "information
society." What new forms of power, control, governance and resistance
arise within the architecture of information societies?
Discussion topics included: social and historical contexts for the diverse
rhetorics of information societies; globalized markets and citizenship;
the state and cultures of computation and simulation; technology, development
and national/personal sovereignty; and the growth of global/local networks
and media technologies.
and Digital Culture
In Spring 2003, the Initiative
and the Boston Psychoanalytic Society sponsored four seminars on the theme
"Whither Psychoanalysis in Digital Culture? as well as a series of evocative
object presentations on this theme. The series addressed such themes
as: the impact of email on treatment; the psychology of virtual personae;
and new ways of thinking about developmental and characterological change
in information environments.