2014 – Year of Reinvention

Happy 2014! 😀

Apologies in advance for writing a lacklustre blog post…Blog-writing is not a priority for me in my life right now but I see this re-prioritization as a good thing 🙂

I would again like to thank iRez for allowing me to guest-post on their blog.  I must admit though that this year, I am not sure I have much to say that is in keeping with iRez’s usual themes. I see this year’s blog post almost like a personal diary entry.  Maybe you will also find some useful links within this New Year’s message and connect with the same themes that continue to inspire me.

I do not have a sense yet of what 2014’s overall character is…  I hope it is not a remake of the Great War (WWI) though… An entire generation’s creativity and optimism was wasted on warfare…Sigh!

Anyway, I hope all of you avatars are ready to welcome this new year with optimism and possibly, reinvention 🙂 I mention “reinvention” because this was exactly the word on my mind throughout 2013…

I am going to talk a tiny bit about how my personal focus during 2013 became reinvention and why that keyword will have an equal significance for me in 2014…

I am not going to make any resolutions this year, because I am just going to continue the process of reinvention and re-learning instead of declaring fixed goals

Having said this, I still hope to finish my PhD by the end of 2014 while keeping my family and social life intact 🙂

My PhD took more out of me in 2013 than I had thought… It took most of 2013’s focus for me to complete my annotated bibliography, pass comprehensive exams and successfully defend my proposal. Fortunately, focusing on my PhD also allowed me to explore my childhood dream of learning AI…But, more on that later…

For now, I am going to reflect on my New Years resolutions from 2013

Ok so generally, I kept to most of my resolutions from last year:

1 – I resolved to cut down on my avatar performance gigs…

This resolution turned out to be very difficult to fulfill. The reason being is that I have many friends who have collaborated with me from previous groups and events in virtual worlds and video-games.  I found it difficult to turn people down when they wanted to collaborate with me.

Being soft-willed, socially accommodating and habitual by nature; I briefly agreed to participate with DC Spensley’s Mineopticon performance troupe in Minecraft. To be honest, Minecraft did not personally interest me that much but my son Nolan was extremely interested in the game-world. I am glad Nolan had an opportunity to be part of an avatar performance troupe before the age of 8 (his birthday was Xmas).  However, I am really not interested in performing anymore…My sole focus has been Artificial Intelligence…I wanted to reinvent myself as someone who could contribute to the AI field – regardless of whether any art-making, creative praxis or performance was involved. It was even more emotionally difficult dialing down my collaboration with Jacque Drinkall as Wirxli 2…I still feel bad and flaky for bailing out of that commitment…There is still lots of artistic potential with Wirxli 2 – especially with the Emotiv as a user- input device in Second Life. Unfortunately, my heart and mind are focused almost exclusively on AI now…

 2 – I resolved to stop relying on Post-Modernist puns in my art-practice…

Well, I do not know whether or not I even wish to continue explicitly having an “art practice” now. However, I think I managed to restrict my puns to mundane implementations such as: facebook shares, status updates, and jokes in person with friends…

With regards to making art-beings (see last year’s blog), I still aspire to design them to resemble themselves and no one else.

I am too lazy to look at my blog from last year to see what other resolutions I kept or ignored… I am also too lazy to figure out why wordpress likes to play with my font size and style when viewed on a laptop  😉

So, this takes me back to that reinvention word…In 2013, I realized that I was becoming much more interested in theoretical and speculative AI than making art…I now want to make a contribution to the AI field regardless if the art-world knows or cares…This really is part of my child-hood dream…I am reinventing myself to resemble how I imagined myself to be in the future from the perspective of my past-self (ca. 1979/1980).  The main personal barrier to learning AI for me was mathematics and its specialized symbolic notation. I was drawn to music composition and conceptual/new-media art precisely out of an insecurity of not having the right kind of mind to learn more scientific pursuits that involved rigorous mathematical logic.

I finally realized in 2013 that there is no real barrier to learning something alien to one’s previous experience and expectations if you REALLY want to learn it and are willing to work hard…  I also realized that it is never too late to learn. Once I came to this realization, I obtained more domain-knowledge and literacy-skills in 2013 than maybe in my entire lifetime up to then.  I learned to read AI equations – something I thought I would never be able to understand…This was personally my biggest breakthrough in 2013…I hope this new-found literacy will allow me to write (formulate) equations as well by the end of 2014.

The lesson I learned is that you can acquire any skill or knowledge-set  if you set your mind to it… the cliche is true.

The AI books I studied in order to learn equation-reading was on the topics of Artificial Superintelligence (AIXI) and Artificial Creativity/Curiosity.   I figured that if one is to learn AI, one must start with the formal definitions of “intelligence” and then learn about their fundamental  limits. From there, one can take some creative license. 😉 I have become obsessed with AIXI as well as the artificial modeling of consciousness. So much so, writing this blog is a complete distraction and I would rather spend my time now studying AI or visiting with friends 🙂

On that note, I am now going to bail from this blog, leave my apartment and enjoy 2014…

For the rest of the year, I am going to continue enjoying this playful process of re-training, reinvention, and reflection etc etc… 😉

Happy New Year! 😀



Author: Jeremy Owen Turner
Jeremy Owen Turner is currently a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University's School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) in Vancouver, Canada. Since 1996, Turner has developed an international portfolio as a performance artist, music composer, media-arts historian and art-critic within virtual worlds and video games. As Wirxli Flimflam, Turner co-founded the avatar performance art group, Second Front in 2006 and has also composed for the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse (2007-2008). Turner's academic history includes an MA about avatar-design in Second Life (2010) and an interdisciplinary BA that focused on both Art-History and Music Composition (1997). Turner's current PhD research speculates on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) discipline's relationship with aesthetics. This research explores developing visual and behavioral design heuristics for virtual agents (automated characters/NPCs) in virtual worlds and video games. These heuristics are derived from some key scholars in the field of Aesthetic Philosophy, including Immanuel Kant.

4 thoughts on “2014 – Year of Reinvention

  1. Thanks for stopping by JOT! I think the biggest distinction between “art” in our century and the previous one is that in the 20th century the people doing the most compelling “art” called themselves “artists” and in our century the people doing the most compelling “art” very often don’t take that label. So: your trajectory seems great. If you talk to more AI / CS peeps and less Art / AH types, whatever. But the direction seems “relevant” wherever it is that it takes you.

    For myself, after 4 years and 50 Virtual Performance Art works, I’ve ended that trail walk. My new path is Virtual Public Art, or if you like User Generated Public Art. Actually I was just thinking about AI this week. In my Future of Storytelling MOOC from Christina Maria Schollerer / University of Applied Sciences Potsdam / iversity, Mark Butler talked about AIs / NPCs that can pass the Turing Test, and that brought all sorts of ideas to my mind, including:

    What’s the difference between a Human with a Personal Digital Assistant… and an MMORPG where the NPC’s can pass the Turing Test and it’s the Humans that stand around and give Quests to the Bots?

    I think sometimes peeps go to grad school “just to get the piece of paper” or “just so they can teach” or “just to finish a project” or something. But if you’re really going for it, then everything’s on the table. I don’t think it’s that the faculty “wants” you to leave pointed in some totally different direction that the one you arrived with, but that the flow of a real investigation can’t be known a priori. I wouldn’t be surprised if your current investigation eventually loops around to some work we might “recognize” as “art,” but even more importantly, it doesn’t matter. If you’re asking questions that have an urgency in our moment, then I’d call that a successful career.

    It’s great to hear your annual “State of the Career” or “State of My Brain” message.

    See you in 2015!

    1. Thanks for hosting this blogging opportunity and taking the time to read and comment, Vane(s)ssa 🙂

      I agree with you about the 21st century paradigm for art-making…While procrastinating from writing that blog-post, I was reading about how the ’14s were really the beginning of a century…So, just as 1914 was the beginning of the 20th century where self-professed “artists” became a dime-a-dozen (certainly with Dada after a lot of the skilled artists had been killed off during the Great War); 2014 might indeed be the beginning of those-formerly-known-as-artists 😉

      Maybe you will eventually create and curate “virtual public stuff” or “virtual public events” rather than “virtual public art”? 😉

      Yes, my goal is to engage the AI/CS peeps and I know this will be an uphill challenge since that community can often be cold or even hostile to “artist” charlatans 😉 I welcome the challenge though and know that it will take hard work on my part to speak their language and make them feel like I am a worthwhile peer in their community and discipline.

      Oh wow, is that Mark Butler video on youtube? I think I need to research his talk about the shifting NPC/PC dynamic in story-telling 😀

      Yeah, we might all loop back to “art” – especially if more exotic disciplines lead to a creative dead-end 😉 I think there is still lots of pioneering ground to cover with AI though…I am not bored of it yet! 😉

      Thanks for reading and understanding my state of the career message…

      Talk soon,

      1. You know, I was at a BarCamp unconference once, and this guy asked me what I did and I told him I was an artist and he replied, “What’s an artist doing at a developer conference?”

        I was surprised by his surprise. It’s true that a lot of developer types used to show up to BarCamps back in the heyday, but I always perceived it with a wider scope.

        If you think about our culture, there are a lot of people tasked with “answers.” They go by many diverse job titles, like “Nurse,” or “Public Policy Analyst” or “Social Worker,” or “Politician,” or many others. But if you think about it, there are not so many people in our culture who are tasked with “questions.” Two job titles that come to my mind are “Artist” and “Scientist.” For sure Artists and Scientists often have different perspectives and approaches, still, I think their job is to question assumptions in ways that others often don’t.

        (I’ll resist going down the interesting tangential idea that “Engineers” often believe in God, whereas “Scientists” are often Atheists.)

        In many respects the job of “answers” is harder and has more responsibility and risk. The thing is, if you work really hard on “answers” without having asked enough “questions,” you can spend a lot of time and money, a lot of blood and sweat and tears, going down a road that ultimately wasn’t even such a helpful road.

        So again, I hear you that moving from “Art” to “AI” feels like a big change. And yes, a lot of AI is a lot of Engineering. But I also think that you’re moving from a “job” where you should be asking a lot of questions, to a “job” where you should be asking a lot of questions.

        I’ve never really studied AI per se, but I did audit a few Consciousness and Vision Science courses at a tech university. Some of the grad students there were quite friendly. But some, as you suggest, were probably too career-focused and over-achieving to distract themselves with what some artist was doing there. Interestingly though, I found the faculty to be quite welcoming. Obviously they’re driven, over-achievers too, but perhaps their position afforded them a wider purview. You’re not trying to be the “auditing artist” but the “real AI researcher,” so that is different, but in a sense I wouldn’t have any “shame” about that art background. You just come from another branch of that great family tree of question askers.

      2. In many ways I like “Virtual Public Stuff” or “VIrtual Public Events” BETTER than “Virtual Public Art.” And yet VPA does feel somehow right. Is it remediation? Or a helping peeps understand what you’re doing without having to introduce too many new terms? I do like “User Generated” or “Participatory” in there somewhere.

        Damn, “Public Stuff,” is pretty good. I really have to think about that. Maybe shedding “Art” is good at this point. Liberating. Empowering. I’m not Mark DiSuvero, I’m not Damien Hirst. I won’t be at Art Basel, I don’t want to be featured on Art.sy. Fuck art! Maybe it’s time for a Tony Shafrazi moment! PUBLIC STUFF!

        Mark Butler:
        The whole “Chapter 5” “Storytelling in Digital Games” in the “Future of Storytelling” MOOC is guest hosted by Mark Butler. IDK if the videos are on YouTube, but I think you can still “enroll” in the course and then just watch the Chapter 5 videos:

        The specific item I mentioned was from Chapter 5, Unit 6: “Talk: Dr. Mark Butler and Prof. Winfried Gerling.”

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