- August 20: “Digital Methods and the Evidence for Psychedelic Medicine: A Historical and Epistemological Review” at EASST+4S 2020
My paper examines the “evidential cultures” of psychedelic drug research. The concept of “evidential cultures” explains how social differences between groups of scientists affect what counts as “knowledge” within and beyond their respective investigations. Evidential cultures are established by political, cultural, and economic values, among other factors. My paper chronicles the historical relationship between social precepts, individual beliefs, and the values which determine contemporary psychedelic studies. Drawing from data collected at The Betsy Gordon Psychoactive Substances Research Collection, my paper begins with the field’s earliest years and continues to its current revival. My historiography reveals that the advent of digital methods was a catalyst for new psychedelic evidential cultures. I write that, while the spread of digital technology has impacted all fields of scientific inquiry, it presents unique challenges to psychedelic studies. By most accounts, the effects of psychedelic ingestion are particular to each individual and atypical of ordinary experience. Multiple scholars have noted that digital epistemic virtues — including positivism, quantifiability, and standardizability — are in contrast to the therapeutic mechanisms of psychedelic experience, which are notably subjective. The difficulties of digitizing the subjective dimension of psychedelic treatment have led groups of scholars to critique the rote applications of digital methods, while others have embraced a digital-first strategy which deemphasizes more interpretative, mixed-methods approaches. Indicating that the digital turn has fragmented criteria for scientific significance in psychedelic research, I suggest that this field crystallizes current debates about evidence and replicability.
- September 20: “Can Computation Produce Novelty?: the Case of Live-Coding Music” at ReclaimFutures2020
The form of the digital datum is discrete, fungible, and familiar, and digital mediation presupposes commensurability between various ontic, epistemic, and aesthetic phenomena. My paper asks whether digital media may nevertheless yield new, unrecognizable or sui generis forms. I take philosopher M. Beatrice Fazi’s reading of Gilles Deleuze’s aesthetics as my primary hermeneutic lens. Deleuze claims that aesthetic novelty, or that which has no formal precedent, issues from numerically continuous fluxes. Thus it cannot originate in digital media, which are discrete. Fazi intervenes by distinguishing the form of the digital datum from the process of computation. She indicates that the latter partakes of infinite and indeterminate sources and is continuous across time. As such, computational processes retain the capacity to yield the Deleuzean new.
Offering Deleuzean novelty as a theorization of “the new,” I argue that the cultural phenomenon of live-coded music exemplifies the computational production of novelty. Live-coding musicians improvise by writing source code which instantaneously plays out loud. I examine live-coding programs and artists’ reflections to propose that the new emerges at the interface of software and musician for the duration of live-coding performances. I also draw from Henri Bergson’s work on creative processes, which emphasizes improvisation and immediacy, to attest to the salience of live-coded music as a study in digital novelty.