ASC Events > NewMacyMeetings

#NewMacyMeetings

A revival of the original Macy Meetings, the trans-disciplinary conversations at the founding of Cybernetics in the 1940s and 1950s, redefined for the 21st century to include trans-global and trans-generational participation.

@NewMacyMeetings

Links

NewMacyMeetings Manifesto | Broad overview

Responding to the Pandemic of “Today’s AI” | Currrent initiative

#NewMacy-Related Links

Events

Next conversations are being planned.

Past events

Technology for Living: #NewMacy in the 21st century | Workshop at the RSD10

Emerging Topics for #NewMacy Meeting #3

Urgent Questions in response to “Today’s AI” – #NewMacy Meeting #2

Why Can’t Cybernetics Tame Pandemics? – NewMacy Meeting #1


Technology for Living: #NewMacy in the 21st century

November 3, 2021

Workshop at RSD10 (Relating Systems Thinking & Design Symposium)

Tirelle Barron, Michael Munton, Paul Pangaro, Eryk Salvaggio, Fred Steier, and Mark Sullivan

The #NewMacy initiative was conceived in 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaborators produced a scholarly rationale grounded in cybernetics that invoked the transdisciplinary history of the original mid-20th century Macy Meetings. As a result of a series of #NewMacy Conversations still ongoing, the initiative has narrowed the focus to the social impact of Today’s AI, the pernicious AI algorithms that are core to the large Internet platform companies and that thereby affect the daily lives of so much of the world’s population.

Specifically, the call-to-action for #NewMacy is to produce exemplars of alternatives to Today’s AI in the form of design patterns and prototypes that return interaction with digital algorithms back to the organic, analogue roots of our individual and social lives. By bringing forth replacements for the algorithms of Today’s AI we can foster digital interactions with more humane values and positive outcomes at the level of the individual and the social. Novelty and choice, transparency and conversation can become new core principles for our online lives.

Thus, in a modest but powerful way, #NewMacy affords a new vision for the future of sociotechnical systems where cybernetics becomes a bilingual glue, bringing together the humane qualities of analogue experience and modelling with the effectiveness and efficiencies of digital technology.

Related: Responding the the Pandemic of “Today’s AI”

#NewMacy Workshop

This interactive workshop engaged RSD10 participants as collaborators in the process of generating these #NewMacy outcomes. Participants will contribute to the ongoing definition, collection, creation, and critique of designs and implementations, for example by incorporating contemporary work from design, art, architecture, media, systems, and engineering as well as to expand the conversation to new communities.

Given the foundations described above (and in greater detail in the links provided) this interactive session advances the work of #NewMacy, consistent with the emergent and participatory nature of the initiative.

Between the time of this proposal (August 2021) and RSD10, two activities were held: [1] an interactive event hosted by the American Society for Cybernetics on September 19 as part of the related series (@NewMacyMeetings on Twitter), and [2] structured conversations in smaller, focused groups, each of which will develop a draft plan for a specific deliverable that presents an alternative to Today’s AI algorithms.

Hence the interactive workshop at RSD10 was designed to engage with participants in expanding the variety of #NewMacy in the form of vetting, critique, and improvement. For the attendees of RSD10, it offered ways of reframing the qualities of AI that we want in our daily lives, exposing a strategy for developing tangible alternatives in the form of design patterns, media art, and prototypes, and offering an entry point to engage in #NewMacy activities.

This interactive workshop viewed RSD10 participants as collaborators in the process of generating these #NewMacy outcomes. Participants contributed to the ongoing definition, collection, creation, and critique of designs and implementations, for example by incorporating contemporary work from design, art, architecture, media, systems, and engineering as well as to expand the conversation to new communities.

Exploring RSD10 themes

Playing with tensions

Cybernetics offers a systemic, transdisciplinary view of purpose in interactions replete with uncertainty; AI offers a transactional, computational view for producing results intended to remove uncertainty. #NewMacy proposes cybernetics as a frame for modelling interactions and as glue for joining the analogue and digital faces (which also constitute tension). The oppositions of cybernetics and AI are many, and the activity of articulating the differences and benefits for each, and embracing them to the extent needed to deploy them both effectively, is a foundational challenge to #NewMacy.

Embracing new complexity, collaboration and contexts in systemic design

AI systems today, for all their internal complexity, rely on models that (over-)simplify the nature of human emotions and decision making, reducing problems to those that an AI can compute. In contrast, cybernetics widens the frame to embrace complex systems with socio-technical contexts and to integrate design within and through that complexity. This requires designers to acknowledge the complexity of the world that they embed new systems within, encompassing collaboration and contextual awareness.

Breaks in scale

Pandemics are of massive scale; no less so the pandemics generated by Today’s AI. #NewMacy is specifically cast toward individuals forming expert groups that create exemplars to offer alternatives. The goal is not to trounce existing platform companies from top-down (for example, by attempting to gather forces toward government regulation) but rather by example to influence designers, teachers, students, entrepreneurs, and businesses to deploy alternatives that are in service of human values first, and revenue later. This is inherently a bottom-up effort working from the micro-level.

Sociotechnical

Clearly the issues with AI – its creation and its deployment – is a social issue as well as a technological one. By creating exemplars that offer technological alternatives that embody social values, the effort is squarely in the socio-technical realm.

Collaboration and transdisciplinary working

The #NewMacy is grounded in the history of transdisciplinary effort from cybernetics and the original Macy Meetings. Furthermore, we seek to design Conversations that are transglobal and transgenerational. The effort is fundamentally collaborative. See Design+Conversation.

Workshop format

120 minutes | maximum number of participants 50 | We are currently exploring collaborative platforms such as ohyay.co

Workshop Agenda: #NewMacy

The planned structure for the interaction session is:

  1. Capsulize the activities of #NewMacy to-date
  2. Icebreaker: Expose the issues that surfaced thus far about the terms ‘analogue’ and ‘digital’
  3. Capture new feedback and insights about possible pitfalls and value in using the terms, and how
  4. Break into small groups, each to explore a specific proposal for producing an alternative to the algorithms of Today’s AI
  5. Create a visual model for capturing insights
  6. Return to plenary to share each group’s model and insights with everyone.
  7. Gather any unaddressed questions and seek gaps in prior thinking
Cybernetics digital vs analogue concept

Why “Today’s AI” as a phrase? Not all AI is negative—yet so much of the artificial intelligence inside of today’s tech is manipulating what we see and distorting the world we share. Fueled by massive increases in “big data” and compute power, the machine-learning algorithms behind “Today’s AI” are tirelessly fomenting polarization, spreading social bias, pushing irrelevant products, co-opting our attention, addicting us to harmful activities, and surveilling our lives. A single, unregulated, global social-media platform, implicated in that litany of harm, has 2.8 billion active users. The Internet and its ubiquitous digital devices touch over 4.5 billion people. Surely “Today’s AI” is a pandemic of technology at global scale. – pangaro.com/designconversation

Follow up (2021-11-04)

A number of new tensions emerged, too, for example, between the individual and collective — when we look at an individual through a “digital” framework, then we can optimize their pleasure in ways that harm the collective. Even solutions viewed through this lens become more complex: if we allowed data ownership, or paid people for data, then what about the social and collective harms of filter bubbles and optimized media delivery?

– Related Cybernetic Forests post by Eryk-Salvaggio


Emerging Topics for #NewMacy Meeting #3

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Recording part 1 | part 2

This event will allow all attendees to explore some of the thought-provoking topics that emerged in #NewMacyMeeting #2. It will be a more extended meeting in two parts:

  • Part 1, small group discussions (1.5 hours)
  • Part 2, an all-attendees discussion (1.5 hours)

If you are interested in joining the Part 1, please help us select the topics to be discussed. These discussions will be run in parallel.

This following list comprises preliminary suggestions with related questions; in the group discussions, you will be encouraged to rewrite them in favor of greater clarity and intention. We thank all those who contributed their “Urgent Questions” for #NewMacyMeeting #2 from which many of these Suggestions are derived.


Which topics would you be most interested in discussing?

To express your interest, please voice your preferences here.


Urgent Questions in response to “Today’s AI” – #NewMacy Meeting #2

September 19, 2021

Contributions | Recording

Part of ASC Speakers Series: Cybernetics and humans’ knowing

Abstract 

What forms of human-machine interactivity would move us away from the ills of “Today’s AI”? 

How do we create organic frameworks for AI that are based in human and ecological values? 

There is no question that widespread AI software has negative effects. Manipulation of our attention and political sentiment, spread of bias, loss of privacy, and encouragement toward addictive behaviors are only a few widely acknowledged examples. With 2.8 billion people active on social media and 4 billion touched by digital devices, these manifestations of “Today’s AI” demand response.

— Our goal is to bring about the integration of today’s digital AI technologies with “analogic” frameworks — that is, humane, organic, open-ended, resonant, and socially-animated interactivity.

— Our plan is to create new design patterns and working prototypes that present vivid examples to designers, entrepreneurs, teachers, students, legislators—to promote inspiring alternatives to technologies to “Today’s AI.’

— Our hope is to transform the marketplace that dispenses harmful algorithms of “Today’s AI” and to make a better world of interactions with digital machines.To reach our goals we need a rich variety in the conversation and we invite you to participate:

I. Propose your “urgent questions” in response to these prompts:

  • In what areas should we pay attention to the negative impact of “Today’s AI”, and why? 
  • What counterexamples to those areas exist already, for example, alternative social networks, recommendation engines, and social-profiling algorithms? 
  • What new modes for interactivity can we define? For what circumstances and desirable outcomes?
  • Who else do we need in the conversation to design and prototype effective alternatives?

Submitted urgent questions before the deadline of Friday September 10th at 11pm. From all submissions, selections will be announced in advance and presented in real-time by their authors at #NewMacy Meeting #2 on September 19 (see next item).

II. Participate in #NewMacy Meeting #2 on Sunday September 19 at noon EDT by registering here at Eventbrite. Urgency of the need and scale of the challenge require that we convene a Network of #NewMacy Meetings. You are invited to attend whether or not you submit your own questions.

To succeed we must bring together voices across all disciplines, geographies, and generations. Please join us.

Participants Bios

Paul Pangaro is President of the American Society for Cybernetics and Professor of the Practice in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His bio is here and personal web site is pangaro.com/.

Larry Richards is Professor Emeritus of Management and Informatics at Indiana University East. Before retiring, he served as an administrator in three universities for 32 years. He now resides in Portland, Maine, USA. His interests include the arts, technology and society.

Eryk Salvaggio is an interdisciplinary researcher and artist examining gaps between datasets and the world they reflect. He holds a Masters in Media and Communication from the London School of Economics and a Masters in Applied Cybernetics from the Australian National University. His work can be found at cyberneticforests.com

Frederick Steier is Professor, School of Leadership Studies, Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California, where he leads the program in Media, Technology and Innovation, and Emeritus, Department of Communication, University of South Florida. A former President of the American Society for Cybernetics, he received his doctorate in 1983 in Social Systems Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Claudia Westermann is an artist and architect, and Senior Associate Professor in Architecture at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) in Suzhou, China. Her work and bio can be found at litra-design.com.

Links


Why Can’t Cybernetics Tame Pandemics? – NewMacy Meeting #1

Sunday, September 13 2020 | Recording

Part of ASC Speakers Series: Cybernetics and humans’ knowing

We live in the unprecedented era of multiple global pandemics. While the COVID-19 pandemic of biology has forced an immediate response, other pandemics have existed for some time: rapacious technology, uncontrolled climate change, inequitable healthcare systems, racist socio-economic structures, food and water insecurity… the list is long. In design circles such ‘wicked challenges’ are construed to encompass but also to require more than viewpoints of first-order complexity; they require articulation of worldview(s) in which purpose, human values, and humility are most prominent. This second-order rhetorical step emphasizes the need for the dynamics of conversation, sufficient for shared understanding and coordinated action in the face of wicked challenges. Cybernetics purports to offer both a first- and second-order praxis. Can it help here? To stimulate debate, the prompt for the panel is: Why can’t cybernetics tame the wicked pandemics of today? The purpose is not simply to identify what is outside of cybernetics but to point out the limitations of cybernetics as a praxis for today’s pandemics. This panel is the first event in the revival of the Macy Meetings for the global challenges of the 21st-century.

Moderator:

  • Paul Pangaro, Carnegie Mellon University

Panelists:

  • Larry Richards, Indiana University East
  • Ben Sweeting, University of Brighton
  • Patricia Ticineto Clough, City University of New York
  • Delfina Fantini van Ditmar, Tutor, Royal College of Art, London

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