patterns and structures

Workshop 4: Bruno Strasser ‘Collecting Experiments: The Art of Natural History and the Pursuit of Objectivity’

Bruno Strasser (Department of History, Yale University, USA) opened his presentation by stating that in it, he will provide a brief glimpse into a book that he is working on now regarding changing meanings and practises of experimentation in the context of natural history practises (museum) and experimental practises (laboratory). Strasser’s talk was combined of four parts: historiography, Boyden’ serological systematics, a museum in a laboratory and conclusions.

Workshop 4: John Pickstone, ‘Deconstructions and new Constructions in Science and in Art: Experiments in Historiography’

John Pickstone (Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine Manchester) started his talk by stating that it is a pleasure to be at this interdisciplinary workshop and thanking for the invitation. He admitted that he is about to present an ambitious paper, extending the work on ways of knowing and ways of working in science and technology. He proceeded in stating his interest in multiplicity of works of science and elementary forms. Pickstone likened his presentation to an exercise in analysis, looking at the components and historicity of them.

Workshop 4: Gail Davies, ‘Moving mice: Managing emergence in experimental systems‘

Gail Davies (Department of Geography, UCL) opened her presentation stating that her paper is about deviants, mutants, virgins and rogues. Davies emphasised, however, that these are not her terms, but are used by her respondents to talk about the animals in their care. She explained that these are people managing the range of genetically altered mice used in contemporary biomedical research. Further, Davies argued that the terms take us back to the monstrous bodily overspills of early taxonomy. However, she pointed out that the context here is twenty-first century biology. Therefore, Davies proposed that these terms emerge as animal caretakers and scientists seek to understand the challenge that spontaneous mutations in laboratory mice present to their use as experimental objects.  Unexpected happenings in the mouse house either herald a useful new strain of research animal, or they are culled. Gail Davies stated that she is interested in where and when these different outcomes occur – the difference difference makes as it were.  Being a geographer, she read this through the spatiality of these experimental forms, using site as the basis from which to explore whether these moments of biological emergence are able to articulate new potential, or remain excessive to the demands of control in experimental systems.   

Workshop 2: Richard Haley, ‘Experimenting with Extreme Cold’

Richard Haley (Physics, Lancaster University) started by thanking the organizers for a chance to talk to a totally different community, emphasizing the experimentality and importance of this interdisciplinary workshop. Furthermore, he invited the participants of the workshop to visit and explore his lab. Haley opened his presentation by explaining that the pursuit of extreme cold is a never-ending quest towards the “infinity” of the absolute zero of temperature at a very chilly -273.15 degrees Centigrade. He argued that the historical development of low temperature physics is a long story of cooling things down to see how they behave, with the hope that new physical discoveries will be made, and recognised. When the experimenters get lucky, Haley pointed out, these new discovered behaviours can be further exploited to create new technologies and tools to cool lower, and the cycle continues.

Workshop 2: Nicholas Gebhardt, After the event: listening to Miles Davis’s “My Funny Valentine”

Nicholas Gebhardt (Lancaster University) opened his presentation by explaining that in it, he intends to provide a few thoughts on jazz improvisation and what it offers us in terms of thinking about the nature of artistic events. Gebhardt argued that perhaps more than any other aspect of music today, improvisation has particular significance for how we explain or account for changes in musical experience, across all the forms of contemporary music: not just jazz, but also within classical, electronic, experimental, modernist, pop, rock, and non-western music as well. He claimed that the reason for this is that as a way of thinking about musical forms, improvisation poses fundamental questions about the process of deciding what to play — that is, what counts for us as music in any given social situation — and how to organise or shape musical events.

Workshop 2: Henning Schmidgen, The Interval as Event: Helmholtz's Physiological Time Experiments

Henning Schmidgen (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin) opened his paper with a brief introduction of his position and field of expertise. Schmidgen, as a Berlin-based historian of science with a background in psychiatry and Deleuzian philosophy, voiced a special interest in the history of the experimental life sciences of the 19th and early 20th century. He explained how he is currently finalizing a larger project concerning the history of short time measurements in physiological and psychological laboratories, roughly between 1850 and 1930. Schmidgen described how the corresponding time experiments are well-known under the name of ‘reaction time measurements,’ and they have a routine existence in contemporary neurophysiology, brain research, psychology, and more broadly the cognitive sciences. He followed in arguing that the emergence and evolution of physiological and psychological short time measurements is intrinsically connected with the advent of social and cultural modernity.

Workshop 2: Day 1 - Discussion

Discussion following the presentations of the first day of the workshop focused around six main themes: a dialectical tension with structure, non-idiomatic, use of the term experiment, unpredictability, image-breaking and image-making in terms of the end of art, and similarity and difference between genres.

Workshop 2: Antti Saario, Free Improvised Music: Recording Perspective

Antti Saario (LICA, Lancaster University) opened his presentation by emphasising the importance of looking at particular challenges set forth by recording free improvised music. He described this in terms of a quest for a more tactile sonic experience: “the turning point from mechanical explosion to electrical implosion” (Marshall McLuhan, 1964). Saario followed by posing critical questions: Why do we want to record this magical event of improvisation? Why do we want a fixed perspective and what would it be?

Workshop 1- Brian Wynne, ‘Experiment, memory and social learning’

Brian Wynne’s (CESAGen, Lancaster University) presentation, after the global perspective on experimentality illustrated by previous papers, was focused on the local approach in the context of sheep farmers' history of post-1986 radioactive fall out. Wynne opened his paper by referring to Rheinberger’s concept of experimental persistence, presenting the experimental practises of science as unsystematic, accidental, arbitrary and blind. He presented the system of production as that which does not immediately facilitate learning but obstructs it, mainly through the failure of memory in scientific bodies and groups.

Workshop 1 - Marion McClintock, ‘The Post-war UK University’

Marion McClintock (Honorary Archivist and former Academic Registrar, Lancaster University) opened her presentation with a comparison of the social reality in Lancaster after the Second World War and now. She explained how, 20 years after the death of Lord Ashton in 1930, the Lancaster community was still dominated by the rivalry of two major family companies, in contrast to 2009 when main Lancaster employers are two universities and a hospital.

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