Creativity and collaboration: Revisiting Cybernetic Serendipity

The two-day colloquium Creativity and Collaboration: Revisiting Cybernetic Serendipity, which explored how a combination of art, design, science, engineering and medical research can yield productive partnerships, was preceded by a one-day symposium where students from a wide range of disciplines presented their work.

Adam Haar Horowitz, a charismatic researcher at the cutting-edge MIT Media Lab, spoke about his work relating to hypnagogia, the liminal space between wakefulness and sleep. The topic was immediately captivating – and easy to relate to – given that this is a mental state that applies to all of us.

Haar Horowitz believes that technology has the ability to reveal parts of ourselves that otherwise remain invisible, and studies how to control and capture dreams during the moment of hypnagogia, asserting that such access leads not only to revelation but, ultimately, wellbeing. Haar Horowitz studied mindfulness meditation and mind-wandering during his earlier work at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and also spent time as an artist-scientist at the Marina Abramović Institute.

Jifei Ou, another member of the Media Lab at MIT, is a compelling designer whose subject matter is transformable materials. Starting with the premise that physical materials are generally thought to be static and permanent, Ou seeks to reformat such materials with digital characteristics, making them programmable, for instance, or able to change their shape. Bio-mimicry and bio-derived materials inform his research, and the natural world is just as informative to his thinking as digital technology. The new materials that result from these experiments could be used to serve a number of purposes, from the construction of responsive living environments to the enhancement of existing interactions with products.

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