Supported through the College of Computing, Engineering and Cybernetics Futures scheme, Professor Alex Zafiroglu is exploring multiple temporalities, time scales and temporal logics silenced yet inherent in the ‘here and now’ of our experiences with non-biological social agents and robotic systems we describe as performing in real-time.

The body of work, titled ‘Cybernetics of Rapport and Attentiveness’ (CORA) addresses how we can learn to recognise the temporal rhythms, scale and logics that always and already structure our ‘here and now’ as we attend to, and are attended by, computational systems.

The program will include case studies of processes for realising active listening and mutual attentiveness with non-biological social agents and robotic systems in dyad, small group, and public contexts. These studies inform an argument for an urgent shift to learn to perceive the present moment in multiple absent moments and time scales and to describe the moment in multiple tenses in addition to the present continuous – in English, “we are paying attention to one another”.

Such a shift will support addressing risks in misinterpreting, with potentially dire outcomes, our ability as designers, builders, managers, and partners to be respons-able with the computational systems that shape our daily lives.

CORA CASE STUDY: Arts and Agents#

The first case study in CORA is Arts and Agents, a partnership with the Creatives and Artists of the ‘Australasian Dance Collective’(ADC), focused on their new production ‘Lucie in the Sky’. Arts and Agents is a cybernetic exploration of how relationships between people and collaborative robots are conceptualised, designed and realised in an hour-long dance performance during which artists and drones are attuned to one another’s presence and actions in the onstage world, demonstrating a mutual attentiveness that animates their affect, or their outwards expressions of emotion with one another, and their expressions of  rapport, or their relationship of mutual understanding.

Arts and Agents current research outputs#

Keynote “Hard Yards and Malleable Motions”
Drawing on ethnographic examples from Arts and Agents, an ongoing research partnership between the ANU School of Cybernetics and the Australasian Dance Collective, I ask us to consider the work involved in designing and realising how we relate to and move with robotic systems. With successful collaboration, a world in which people and machines meaningful relate snaps into being – seemingly naturally, with grace, and easily understood by others present. For the Australasian Dance Collective’s Lucie in the Sky project, successful collaboration entails small quadcopters and dancers relating to and moving with one another intimately on stage, expressing individuality, relationships and emotional connection. Yet designing and enacting such people/cobot relationships requires a plurality of intelligences and skills, with success emerging through both hard yards and malleable motions. Using this example, I will consider more broadly how negotiation, feedback, and incremental experimentation result in the creation of worlds in which cobots and people become with one another.

To learn more about Cybernetics of Rapport and Attentiveness (CORA) Program, contact: Professor Alex Zafiroglu

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