About Gordon Pask
Andrew Gordon Speedie-Pask, M.A., Ph.D., D.Sc., Sc. D., lived many lives in the span of one. Over the course of his 68 years, he stayed up for 36-hour days, published 6 books and 270 papers, soldered machines into behaving like learning organisms, and developed a comprehensive theory of human cognition. If the worlds of psychology, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science knew his work better, they would never be the same: for then they could hold the human and the rational, subjective and objective, in the same frame.
When Pask built his machines and his theory, his philosophical view was at odds with artificial intelligence, which arose from the seeds of cybernetics but presumes that knowledge is a commodity to pluck from the environment and stick in a cubbyhole. Pask's learning environments, whether for entertainment or touch-typing or statistics, viewed the human as part of a resonance that looped from the human, through the environment or apparatus, back through the human and around again. For Pask, that is the interaction by which we understand each other when we speak or dance together. He specified how this works in detail in his many publications on Conversation Theory.
Conversation Theory has provided cybernetics its prescriptive power for modeling, learning, and agreement. Which the colloquy of mobiles explores in the form of an interactive installation
Cybernetic Serendipity was an exhibition curated by Jasia Reichardt and shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1968.
It was a gathering of international works that explored relationships between technology and creativity, art and engineering.
The aim of the exhibition was to express artists’ involvement with science and scientists’ involvement with the arts. The concept of "serendipity" was a theme taken up by many of the individual works, where artists, poets, roboticists, and composers displayed works ranging from computer graphics and computer music to robotic installations.
The exhibition was divided into three sections:
1. Computer-generated graphics, computer animated films, computer-composed and played music, and computer poems and texts.
2. Cybernetic devices as works of art, cybernetic environments, remote control robots and painting machines.
3. Machines demonstrating the uses of computers and an environment dealing with the history of cybernetics.
Much of the original exhibition was subsequently shown in the US at the Corcoran Annex (Corcoran Gallery of Art) in Washington, D.C., and then the newly opened The Exploratorium in San Francisco, where it became the basis of their inaugural exhibition.
Colloquy of Mobiles
Colloquy of Mobiles, designed by Gordon Pask, was originally installed in the ground-breaking exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1968. The installation comprises sculptural figures that move and interact through light and sound, with each other and with the public.
It explores the nature of machine-to-machine and person-to-machine conversations in an interactive, immersive environment. Surprising and revolutionary in its day, Colloquy of Mobiles has influenced generations of artists and critics concerned with the role of technology in everyday life. It has never before been reproduced and the project has garnered attention and support from communities in the arts, media, design, and education.
Colloquy of Mobiles creates a human environment that contains conversational machines, a condition that is now part of everyday life. Colloquy allows gallery audiences to participate in immersive, real-time interactions that are surprising and provocative.
The experience of moving among the mobiles of the installation and engaging them via sound, speech, body movements, and facial expressions, offers a rational as well as emotional sense of what it means to live among machines that converse. The Colloquy 2018 Project will change how we feel about going home to voice interfaces such as Siri and Alexa, and how we experience living among smart machines.
(Upper) Plan view of initial mobile layout. (Lower) Section view of mobile structures.