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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  March 2014

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING March 2014

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Subject:

Can non-human entities perform?

From:

Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 16 Mar 2014 01:10:14 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (26 lines)

Dear Victoria,

Reading your interesting post, I thought it might be interesting to venture a brief note on the question, "Can non-human entities perform?"

If we look at this in philosophical terms, there are two ways to consider it. One is to ask what kinds of entities can think or intend. The other is to ask what kinds of entities possess agency, the capacity to decide or purposefully pursue self-willed goals. My take on it is that many kinds of non-human entities do these.

Mary Catherine Bateson (1972: 104-120) relates an interesting story of a horse learning. Many who live with intelligent dogs have the sense that dogs can think, reason, and draw logical inferences of a kind that we would call "theorising" were human beings to draw these inferences and articulate them in written or spoken narrative. This is certainly the case for many non-human primates. In the same way, I'd argue that horses, dogs, and other non-human thinking entities can perform purposely in response to others or to the environment, and do so outside the bounds of instinctual activity.

My experience of living with four dogs over a lifetime is that they have all been thoughtful, though I don't believe that dogs think as we think, and they don't usually think about the same things  except at dinner time, when all animals, human and non-human focus on food. It is difficult to say how much or how often dogs think about themselves, though I observe that dogs seem to have a sense of self and some measure of self-awareness. All of my canine friends were playful, though they differed in their interest in representing thinking or play in a way that was specifically communicative or performative.

Whether non-human entities can perform in the same way that humans perform or for the same reasons is another matter. They cannot state their views on this issue.

It is my view that thought and affect are elements of performance. For this reason, my take on the issue is machines or inanimate artefacts cannot perform, though we can program them to engage in activities that we may construe as performance.

Best regards,

Ken

Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | University Distinguished Professor | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia | University email [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]> | Private email [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]> | Mobile +61 404 830 462 | Academia Page http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman

Guest Professor | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| Adjunct Professor | School of Creative Arts | James Cook University | Townsville, Australia

References

Bateson, Mary Catherine. 1972. Our Own Metaphor. A Personal Account of a Conference on the Effects of Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation. New York: Knopf.

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