Cultural Probes and Art Machines

Socio-art machine #1a

Socio-art machine #1b

“An art machine is a system
whose parts when put in motion
act upon each other in such a way
as to cause you to see things differently”

– David Antin, 2005, John Cage uncaged is still cagey, p.35

“The work of the social scientist, then, is to produce cultural probes that can help people to rework the world by suggesting new unorientations rather than correctives . . .

. . . cultural probes need to be understood as spaces, frames constructed to produce uncertain outcomes which still have grip, frames which both interrupt and restart the process of association and, in the process, conjure up invitations to act differently.”

– Nigel Thrift, 2011, Environment and Planning D: 29, p. 19

While I have long been an active musician, my physical and mental discomfort at being called an ‘artist’ at an academic conference prompted me to reflect more deeply upon the separations between my academic and artistic practices. Calling these reflections a ‘project’ is predominantly aspirational at the moment – a nudge to search for continuing ways to explore the art-social science boundaries in my life and work.

As someone whose life has been touched significantly by participation in the arts, I value the different methods, priorities and assumptions that artists bring to their practice-as-research. Though social scientists have increasingly incorporated fragments of art into their practices – for instance with visual methods and participatory design – such interventions are often infrequent. Moreover, while people have borrowed artistic technologies, less work has been done to creatively re-appropriate the research assumptions that are used alongside them. Inspired by the quotes above, I therefore seek to find ongoing ways to create not just publications but also prompts and invitations to act and think differently.

Socio-art machine #2

Peer-reviewed Conference Paper:

Hui, A. (2012). ‘Art machines, cultural probes and academic practices’, International Conference on Research Creativity: Praxis, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong (21-23 November). Video of the presentation is available here.

Socio-art machine #3