Representing Complexity: Intersections of Art and Science
February 28-March 1, 2013

Many of the most pressing social and ecological issues, from climate change to turbulence in financial markets, grassroots protests to antibiotic resistance, are essentially case studies in complexity. So too are many of the most exciting technological innovations and fields of theoretical inquiry, from CGI animation to Wikipedia, systems theory to “object oriented ontology,” network analysis to emergence. This symposium brings together scholars from a wide array of fields—computer science, biology, business, philosophy, literary studies, film, and media studies—to ask how the challenges of representing complex phenomena affect our understanding of them.

Symposium Events
Art Exhibition and Reception to be held in the Michelle Smith Collaboratory for Visual Culture in 4213 Art/Sociology.  All other events will be held in 2115 Tawes.

Thursday February 28th
Ø  From the Micro to the Macro: Patterns, Networks, Scale (1 PM)

Ø  Modeling and Materiality: From Simulation to Swarms (2:30 PM)

Ø  Art Exhibition:  Visualizing Complexity (4 PM)

Ø  Dinner Reception with Artist Statements (5 PM)

Friday March 1
Ø  Vibrancy: Thinking, Feeling, Assembling, Acting (10 AM)

Ø  Temporality and Time: Evolution, Emergence, History (11:30 AM)

Ø  Form: Aesthetic, Social, Biological (2:30 PM)

Ø  Concluding Roundtable:  Representing Complexity (4 PM)

Ø  Closing Reception (5:30 PM)

Symposium Participants
D. Graham Burnett (Princeton University, History)
Mark B. N. Hansen (Duke University, Literature)
Caroline Levine (University of Wisconsin-Madison, English)
Mark Pizzato (University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Theater; Complex Systems Institute)
Susan Squier (Penn State, English; Science, Technology, and Society)
Joe Valente (University of Buffalo, English)
Brooke Belisle (University of California-Berkeley, Rhetoric, Film, and New Media)
Krista Caballero (University of Maryland, Digital Cultures and Creativity)
Dana Carluccio (University of Maryland, Honors Humanities)
William Cohen (University of Maryland, English)
Lindley Darden (University of Maryland, Philosophy)
Oliver Gaycken (University of Maryland, English; Film Studies)
Michael Israel (University of Maryland, English; Neuro- and Cognitive Science; Linguistics)
Melanie Kill (University of Maryland, English; Digital Studies)
Katie King (University of Maryland, Women’s Studies)
Kari Kraus (University of Maryland, Information Studies; English)
Gerrard Passanante (University of Maryland, English)
Joelle Presson (University of Maryland, Chemical and Life Sciences)
William Rand (University of Maryland, Business; Center for Complexity in Business)
Tara Rodgers (University of Maryland, Women’s Studies; Digital Cultures and Creativity)
Joshua Shannon (University of Maryland, Art History)
Ben Shneiderman (University of Maryland, Computer Science; Information Studies)
Jesse Oak Taylor (University of Maryland, English)
Christina Walter (University of Maryland, English)

Panel Topics & Interests:

1.     From the Micro- to the Macro- : Patterns, Networks, and Scale. How does the study of complexity, especially in relation to patterns and networked connections provide critical apparatus for addressing questions of scale, which the fine-grained analysis and particularity often privileged in the humanities often parse down to essential distinctions (or, more often, a lack thereof)?

2.     Climates of Knowledge: Archives, Databases, “the cloud”. “Climate” refers to the aggregation of weather patterns over time, and also to the pervading cultural conditions and opinions of a given historical moment. What are the commonalities among the study of these ostensibly unrelated subjects, especially given the extent to which they both rely on the synthesis and processing of vast stores of information? 

3.     Matter and Materiality: Modeling, Simulation, Swarms. Complexity, almost by definition, eludes direct experience. Instead, we can process it only through models, from games to novels, time-lapse images to computer simulations. How do the challenges of modeling themselves contribute to our understanding of complexity?

4.     Temporality and Time: Evolution, Emergence, History. Simple, discrete actions or events repeated over time giving rise to highly ordered complex forms. That definition is equally applicable to biological evolution, the principle of emergence in complex adaptive systems, and to human history. Does this provide a way of integrating these often-divergent fields?

5.      Form: Aesthetic, Social, Biological. One thing that links all the above panels together is the question of form, whether of organisms, social systems, literary texts, computer models, or films. This panel will foreground that question, perhaps especially in terms of how aesthetic form and the methodological practices associated with it (close reading, etc.) relate to understanding of form in other contexts.

Organizers: Oliver Gaycken (English); Jesse Oak Taylor (English); Christina Walter (English)
Zita C. Nunes (Director, Center for Literary and Comparative Studies)

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