The TOTAL RECALL theme symposium made up of three sessions on Friday, September 6th and Sunday, September 8th leads this year’s Ars Electronica Festival conference program.
Fri 6. 9. 10:00 – 13:30
Following opening remarks by Ars Electronica artistic director Gerfried Stocker, the first session will begin with a look at and inside the site of human memory: our brain. Neuroscientist John Dylan Haynes will provide an introduction to the latest research on cognition and the brain. He’ll screen selected scenes from some classic science-fiction films—including “Total Recall,” of course—to portray the current state of research in neuroscience and future prospects in this field.
From Remembering to Forgetting
Mapping the network of nerves in the human brain will be the subject of a speech by neuroscientist Alfred Anwander of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. He’ll report on diffusion tensor imaging and connectome research, methods scientists are now using to better understand human memory.
In light of these insights into the latest research into the brain, the symposium will turn to the selective character of remembrance and the various forms of forgetting.
Aleida Assmann, a scholar in the fields of literary studies, will analyze the omnipresence of the past, which, thanks to new media and virtually unlimited data storage capabilities, can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
Arno Villringer, likewise a staff neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, will then discuss the loss of memory and go into dementia from neurological and clinical perspectives, and author/interpreter Helga Rohra, a woman suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, will give an account of daily life with this condition.
10:00 – 10:20 Intro GS
10:20 – 11:00 John-Dylan Haynes
11:00 – 11:30 Aleida Assmann
11:30 – 11:55 Alfred Anwander
11:55 – 12:25 Q+A und Pause
12:25 – 12:50 Arno Villringer
12:50 – 13:15 Helga Rohra
13:15 – 13:30 Q+A
Fri 6. 9. 10:00 – 13:30
Fri 6. 9. 14:30 – 18:00
The second session begins with a consideration of nature’s memory, DNA. Biochemist Barbara Hohn will discuss the genetic and epigenetic memory of animals and plants, and particularly elaborate on how they pass on what they remember—from leaf to leaf, for instance, or from parent to offspring.
Mathematician and zoologist Nick Goldman teams up with artist Charlotte Jarvis to consider the prospects of someday using DNA as the perfect data storage medium. And nobody’s better qualified than Goldman, who was a member of a research group that succeeded in converting an mp3 file into DNA and back again.
Another view of the future of memory focuses on the vision of someday being able to computer model human memory. The Synapse Project in the US and the Human Brain Project in Europe are at the forefront. Can a computer learn how a human being thinks? Dharmendra S. Modha, a cognitive computing specialist at IBM, is convinced of this. Via teleconference, he’ll report on his work on computer systems modeled on the human brain.
The many major challenges that have to be overcome in order to simulate the human brain are the grounds for a more skeptical view of this undertaking by Hans Ulrich Dodt, an expert in medicine, physics and bio-electronics at the Vienna University of Technology (AT).
To conclude the first day of the symposium, we’ll return to the neurosciences as well as to art. Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, head of the University of Leicester’s NeuroEngineering Lab, will talk about his research on so-called concept cells—often referred to as Jennifer Aniston neurons—and tell about how his research brought him to the works of the great Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges.
14:30 – 15:00 Barbara Hohn
15:00 – 15:25 Nick Goldman
15:25 – 15:50 Charlotte Jarvis
15:50 – 16:20 Q+A und Pause
16:20 – 16:40 Dharmendra Modha (Tele-Talk)
16:40 – 17:10 Hans-Ulrich Dodt
17:10 – 17:40 Rodrigo Quian Quiroga
17:40 – 18:00 Diskussion
Moderation: Michael Doser (AT/CH)
Fri 6. 9. 14:30 – 18:00
Sun 8. 9. 14:30 – 17:00
The third session will consider the cultural and technological history of memory recording devices. Claudia Schmölders, a scholar in the field of cultural studies, will present her impressive research on the presence or absence of female voices in historical sound archives. Media philosopher Frank Hartmann will take symposium participants back to the early history of Information Society—to the fantastic lifework of Paul Otlet and his ground-breaking prototype of a universal library that’s often called the first forerunner of the internet. Michael Buckland, professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, will recall another pioneer of modern information processing, Emanuel Goldberg. Catapulting us back into the present will be Hiroshi Ishiguro, the star of Japanese robotics research. He’s using robots and androids to preserve the memory of an extraordinary Japanese actor.
14:30 – 15:00 Claudia Schmölders
15:00 – 15:30 Frank Hartmann
15:30 – 15:45 Q+A
15:45 – 16:15 Michael Buckland
16:15 – 16:45 Hiroshi Ishiguro
16:45 – 17:00 Diskussion
Moderation: Xaver Forthuber (AT)
Sun 8. 9. 14:30 – 17:00
Alfred Anwander (DE) is a neuroscientist and connectome researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig who is making important contributions to research on anatomic linkages with an emphasis on language networks in the brain and learning to speak.
Aleida Assmann (DE) is a neuroscientist and connectome researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig who is making important contributions to research on anatomic linkages with an emphasis on language networks in the brain and learning to speak.
Michael K. Buckland (UK/US) is Emeritus Professor, University of California, Berkeley, School of Information. He has written extensively about library services, the organization of knowledge, and the history documentation.
Hans Ulrich Dodt (DE) is professor of solid body electronics at the Vienna University of Technology. He uses optical methods to visualize nerve cells and take 3-D flights through the transparent brain. In his interdisciplinary research field, bioelectronics, he applies approaches from astronomy to problems in neuroscience.
Nick Goldman (UK) works at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton (UK), researching algorithms to study genome evolution. He holds degrees in mathematics and zoology from the University of Cambridge.
Frank Hartmann (DE) is a media philosopher and professor at the Faculty of Art & Design, Bauhaus-University Weimar, Germany. He has published several book on media theory, media archaeology and visual communication.
John-Dylan Haynes (UK/DE) is a psychologist, neuroscientist and Professor of Theory and Analysis of Large-Scale Brain Signals at the Bernstein Center of Charité Berlin. Haynes and his team conduct research on the neuronal basis of consciousness, volition, intentions and free will. They have used MRI technology to show that decision-making is initiated by subconscious brain processes.
Barbara Hohn (AT/CH) is a biochemist at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel. Her fields of research include genetic expression and recombination as well as environmental influences on the stability of plant genomes.
Hiroshi Ishiguro (JP) has been a Professor in the Department of Systems Innovation at the Osaka University since 2009 and Group Leader of the Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute. His research interests include sensor networks, interactive robotics and android science.
Charlotte Jarvis (UK) is currently artist in residence at The Netherlands Proteomics Centre. Last year they collaborated on the project Blighted by Kenning in which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was encoded into DNA. This year Charlotte and the NPC are working on Ergo Sum, in which Charlotte will be creating a second self using body parts grown from her stem cells.
Dharmendra Modha (US) has done pioneering work in the field of artificial intelligence and memory simulation. He set up the Cognitive Computing division at IBM’s Almaden Research Center and heads the DARPA SyNAPSE project. He and his team are working on a computer system that emulates the essential functions and structures of biological brains.
Rodrigo Quian Quiroga (AR) Rodrigo Quian Quiroga is the director of the Centre for Systems Neuroscience and the head of the Bioengineering Research Group at the University of Leicester. His main research interest is on the study of the principles of visual perception and memory. He discovered what has been named “Concept cells” or “Jennifer Aniston neurons”—neurons in the human brain that play a key role in memory formation.
Helga Rohra (DE) is an interpreter and author. She has come out as someone suffering from dementia and is an activist on behalf of her fellow sufferers.
Claudia Schmölders (DE) is an interpreter and author. She has come out as someone suffering from dementia and is an activist on behalf of her fellow sufferers.
Arno Villringer (DE) is a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. Among his fields of research are neurophysiological processes in the brain activity of human beings as well as regeneration processes in the brain—for example, after a stroke.