January 2009

From the Exquisite Corpse to the Exquisite and Emergent Corpse

Exquisite Corpse (from the French cadavre exquis)

“A game of folded paper in which a sentence or a drawing is composed by several players, each unaware of the preceding collaboration or collaborations. The now classic example, which gives the game its name, is one of the first sentences which was produced in this way “the exquisite/corpse/will drink/the new/wine.” (André Breton, Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme) [1]

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Voter Model

January 19, 2009

The Voter Model: An Introduction

The voter model is a mathematical model which describes the formation of opinions, attitudes or cultural attributes through social contact. It models how randomly chosen agents come into contact with neighbours and how they adopt or reject those neighbours’ attitudes or cultural characteristics such as political opinions or musical tastes.

In 1964, geneticists Kimura and Weiss [1] introduced the stepping stone model. This was developed by other geneticists over twenty years. It was subsequently discovered and named the voter model by probability theorists Clifford and Sudbury [2] in 1973 and Holley and Liggett [3] in 1975. Since then, it has been adapted and extended for a wide variety of contact process applications.

The voter model can be used to simulate and consider a broad range of emergent phenomena, including human social interaction. The model generates structured output from a given random input. The output can be visualised in agent-based form using cellular automata, coloured cells representing agents which may change shape or colour over time as they come into contact with neighbouring cells. Probabilistic rules are assigned to the behaviour of agents, their movements and how and with whom they interact over time. Since the physical status, colour or shape, of each cellular automaton indicates the agent’s current set of attitudes or characteristics, we can analyse how contact with a neighbour or neighbours affects them over time. For example, they may or may not imitate the majority around them.

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This project has been developed by Kevin McCourt, artist and Bartolo Luque, theoretical physicist.

This practical experiment will focus on social interaction, with more than a hundred creators collaborating in the making of two collective works: One a story, the other a picture. Each person will participate, using their own computer (client), by designing a small part of the collective work which will be housed in a central computer (server).

The projects will address how we are influenced by others as we form and communicate across networks.

They will allow us to also explore relationships between scientific (Physics) techniques for understanding collective human behaviour and philosophical and psychological concepts related to individual experience, sensation and perception which form part of such social phenomena.

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