Wed 14 Jan 2009, 13.00 - 17.30
£20.00/£12.00 concs.(includes admission to the evening performance event)
Arnolfini Theatre, Bristol

Speakers: Dylan Evans, Seth Giddings, Natalie Jeremijenko, Helen Kennedy, Claire Pajaczkowska, Victoria de Rijke, and Paul Hoggett (Chair).
In the evening there will be a Lo-Tech Songs + Servo Drive performance by Paul Granjon.

The symposium takes its cue from Winnicott to explore some of the themes of the exhibition - play, affective machines and object relations.

In 'The Use of An Object and Relating Through Identifications', D.W. Winnicott (1969) is concerned with the shift from a narcissistic attitude towards objects as extensions or projections of the self, to a more advanced mode of object-relating in which the object is recognised as separate and distinct from the self. The concern is with how the subject comes to place the object outside their sense of omnipotent control.
The subject says to the object: "I destroyed you." "I love you." "You have value for me because of your survival of my destruction of you." "While I am loving you I am all the time destroying you..." (see
For more on the issues raised by the exhibition, see Tom Trevor's Robot-Me.

Audio documentation of the symposium: Paul Hoggett (hoggett.mp3); Victoria de Rijke / Claire Pajaczkowska (derijkepajaczkowska.mp3); Seth Giddings / Helen Kennedy (giddingskennedy.mp3); Dylan Evans (evans.mp3); Natalie Jeremijenko (jeremijenko.mp3); Discussion (discussion.mp3).

Discussion between Victoria de Rijke and Claire Pajaczkowska: / /; they first refer to the Hello Toy! movie.
Contributor and presentation information:

Paul Hoggett, Chair
Paul Hoggett is Professor of Politics and Director of the Centre for Psycho-Social Studies. His first degree was in Social Psychology at the University of Sussex after which he worked in London's community sector before joining the Department for Advanced Urban Studies, University of Bristol, where he specialised in researching the interface between the local state and civil society. Throughout the 1980's he worked with radical Labour local authorities interested in decentralising and democratising local government. In the 1990's his research focused on a critique of the New Public Management and the ‘modernisation project'. He has longstanding interest in the role of emotion and unconscious forces in political behaviour and his current ESRC project focuses on the ‘emotion work' required of regeneration workers as they negotiate the ethical dilemmas of their jobs. Major research contracts in the past have included the Home Office, Joseph Rowntree and the European Foundation. He is the UK editor of the journal Organisational & Social Dynamics and Chair of the Trustees of the Bridge Foundation, a Bristol charity. His publications include: Partisans in an Uncertain World (London: Free Association Books, 1992), The Politics of Decentralisation (with D.Burns & R.Hambleton), (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994), Contested Communities (Bristol: Policy Press, 1997), Emotional Life and the Politics of Welfare (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000).

Session 1

Victoria de Rijke and Claire Pajaczkowska, Entertaining Illusions

Victoria and Claire will broach the paradoxical zone of play, as an activity that is simultaneously relaxed and also passionately destructive and amorous. With Winnicott's thoughts on transitional spaces and Milner's thoughts on the role of illusion, they will traverse some of the activities that our language calls 'entertaining illusions'.

Claire Pajaczkowska is Senior Research Tutor at the Royal College of Art. She has published on psychoanalysis and the image and most recently, with Ivan Ward, Shame and Sexuality: Psychoanalysis and Visual Culture (Routledge, 2008).

Victoria de Rijke is Reader in Arts & Education at Middlesex University. She has published widely on play and language such as (with Rebecca Sinker) 'DARE TO DADA: an argument for visual and verbal avant-garde poetry in the Nursery', International Journal for Education Through Art (2006) and, with Dr. Quack, produced a study of the Duck for Reaktion Books (2008).

Related reading list:
Marion Milner, On Not Being Able to Paint
Marion Milner, The Suppressed Madness of Sane Men (Routledge)
D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality
D.W. Winnicott, Home is Where we Start From (Penguin Books)
Stan Rudinytsky, Transitional Objects and Potential Spaces
Johan H. Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (Beacon Press, 1992)
Brian Sutton-Smith, The Ambiguity of Play (Harvard University Press, 2001)

Session 2

Seth Giddings and Helen Kennedy, Gameworlds: objects in play

Drawing on theories of play, and their recent research on videogame cultures, Seth and Helen will explore the nature of the relationships between children, media technology and play objects in virtual and actual gameworlds.

Seth Giddings and Helen W. Kennedy teach Media and Cultural Studies in the Department of Culture, Media & Drama at the University of the West of England. They are founder members of, and Helen is the chair of, the Play Research Group and both conduct research into culture, technology and play.

Related reading:
Roger Caillois, Play & Games, (University of Illinois Press 2001 (1958))
Jon Dovey and Helen W. Kennedy, Game Cultures: computer games as new media (Maidenhead & New York: Open University Press 2006)
Seth Giddings, 'I'm the one who makes the Lego Racers go: studying virtual and actual play', in Shanly Dixon & Sandra Weber (eds) Growing Up Online: young people and digital technologies (Palgrave / Macmillan 2007)
Seth Giddings and Helen W. Kennedy, 'Little Jesuses and fuck-off robots: on cybernetics, aesthetics and not being very good at Lego Star Wars', in Melanie Swalwell and Jason Wilson (eds) Beyond Gameplay: videogames in context (McFarland & Co. 2007)
Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: a study of the play-element in culture (Beacon Press 1992 (1938))
Martin Lister, Jon Dovey, Seth Giddings, Iain Grant, and Kieran Kelly, New Media: a critical introduction (London: Routledge, 2nd ed. 2008)
D. W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality (London: Routledge 2006 (1971))

Session 3

Natalie Jeremijenko and Dylan Evans, Wanting the impossible: the dilemma at the heart of human-robot relationships

In a recent book entitled Love and Sex with Robots, the British scholar David Levy has argued that relationships with robot companions might be more satisfying than relationships with humans, a claim which Dylan Evans calls "the greater satisfaction thesis" (GST). The main reason Levy provides in support of GST is that people will be able to specify the features of robot companions precisely in accordance with their wishes (which Evans calls the total specification argument or TSA). I think that TSA is wrong. In particular, the argument breaks down when we consider that we want our partners to freely choose us.

Dylan Evans is the author of several popular science books, including Emotion: The Science of Sentiment (Oxford University Press, 2001) and Placebo: The Belief Effect (Harper Collins, 2003). After receiving his PhD in Philosophy from the London School of Economics, he did postdoctoral research in philosophy at King's College London and in robotics at the University of Bath before moving the University of the West of England (UWE) where he was Senior Lecturer in Intelligent Autonomous Systems. He left UWE in July 2006 to conduct an innovative project in sustainable living in the Scottish Hightlands called the Utopia Experiment. In January 2008 he returned to academia, taking up the post of Senior Research Scientist at the Department of Computer Science, University College Cork, Ireland. He writes regularly for The Guardian and has made frequent appearances on radio and television, and given numerous talks at festivals of science and literature. In 2001 he was voted one of the twenty best young writers in Britain by the Independent on Sunday, and was once described by The Guardian as 'Alain de Botton in a lab coat'. He has also done occasional performances as a DJ at literary events such as the Hay Festival of Literature and the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Related Reading:
Levy, D. (2007) Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, London: HarperCollins.

Natalie Jeremijenko, will talk about some of her projects that appear in Supertoys that involve animals and machines in ethical play.

Natalie Jeremijenko, artist and engineer, is an Associate Professor at NYU in the Visual Art Dept., and has affiliated faculty appointments in Computer Science and Environmental Studies.

Evening event

Paul Granjon, Lo-Tech Songs + Servo Drive performance
£6.00/£3.00 concessions (Free for symposium ticket holders)

Several machines will be presented and activated during the performance, including Mofo the humanoid robot and the new scary Biting Machine. Paul Granjon will sing songs with his electric zitare to accompany the demo.

Paul Granjon is a visual artist working with electronics, robotics, video and programming. He applies a playful, hands-on approach to the production of machines for videos, installations and performances, often presenting the work in a humorous fashion, combined with an underlying darker vision. He questions and comments on the effects of exposure to an exponentially growing and more capable technological environment.

For other events during Supertoys, follow this link.