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Emergent objects at the human-computer interface (HCI): A case study of artists' cybernetic relationships and implications for crtitical consciousness

, Teachers College, Columbia University, United States

Teachers College, Columbia University . Awarded


What forms of expression will be possible tomorrow, how do they differ from those of the past, and how can we better prepare for them today? The investigation of emergent objects at the human-computer interface (HCI), where artistic and cybernetic questions meet, has great implications for critical consciousness, cultural evolution, and art education. The investigation of cybernetic art begins with a treatment of the art object as data. The art object is not a discrete one. The 20th century brought contemporary works through new vehicles of technology that transcended painting, drawing, and sculpture and expanded the visual arts to include photography, film, sound, performance, and digital art. By exchanging discrete information between nodes within a network, artists, technologists, and theorists are constructing new kinds of knowledge. Our modes of communication are changing, and the interstitial spaces are transforming rapidly as digital technologies affect the ways we construct knowledge and behave. The HCI is the site of both cultural evolution and individual expression. The value added to society by artists experimenting at this interface consists of the emergent objects produced, which spur critical reflection on experience and social interaction.

Art education has an opportunity to facilitate a critical dialogue around these emergent objects, expressing the shifting nature of human interaction and extrapolating meaning that refers to larger sociological frameworks and belief systems. The strategic assembly of this knowledge from a wide range of data sets is an educational challenge; art educators have the unique expertise to understand how to decode non-textual materials and construct meaning through unusual forms of expression. The computer is still a new tool for artistic investigation, and its results yet to be fully diagnosed. Computer Art and Digital Media programs are still in their infancy in art schools and universities. Their need for growth, in terms of curriculum development and implementation, should foster exploration of artistic practice with cybernetics in the studio. This study offers a glimpse at the effect of emergent objects on critical consciousness in eight qualitative case studies of artists integrating digital technology into their studio practice.


Mayo, S.L. Emergent objects at the human-computer interface (HCI): A case study of artists' cybernetic relationships and implications for crtitical consciousness. Ph.D. thesis, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved August 3, 2021 from .

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