The Invisible Hand – Blast Theory

I’ve had a great first day attending The Invisible Hand a two day workshop hosted by Blast Theory, the Brighton based art collective. I met all sorts of interesting people, and I’ll write in more detail about it later.

But right now I want to process my excitement about a short presentation from Lesley Fosh. A PhD student at Nottingham University, Lesley shared an experiment wherein she worked with eight pairs of visitors to a local art gallery. She enabled one half of each couple to “gift” a personalised tour to their friend/partner. The giver chose five items, and for each chose a piece of music, a vocal instruction to do something, and a personal message, which were combined into a personal “app” that the other then used to explore the museum. Though this was an experiment intentionally limited in scope (the tours were only to be shared with the other half of the pair) a number of us were excited by the potential. For me it’s a great way of confounding the Narrative Paradox. Each was a piece of interpretation, that because I was created for a known individual seemed magically imbued with an emotional quality that turned something quite prosaic into poetry.

I was immediately imagining tagging each segment in some way, and storing it in a database that could then serve up segments in combinations that the original authors never intended. The choice of five segments that the author originally put together would be unique to that gift, and never shared in its entirety with another visitor, but segments from a number of givers could be combined in ways that might give other visitors unique, procedurally personalised, interpretations of a museum gallery.

It’s late, and I’m ready for bed, so I probably am not making as much sense as I feel. But I’m very glad I went, and I’m looking forward to day two tomorrow.

7 thoughts on “The Invisible Hand – Blast Theory

  1. Yes just like our memory of places, it is not so much the objects in the story but the way the visitor feels they have agency and their preferences matter, and how they weave together the objects in a story they can tell other people (I think Roger Schank said something similar in his book Tell Me A Story, a book actually on AI).
    As Schank explains, “We need to tell someone else a story that describes our experiences because the process of creating the story also creates the memory structure that will contain the gist of the story for the rest of our lives. Talking is remembering.”

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