Tacit Engagement in the Digital Age

26 June 2019, 09:00 - 28 June 2019, 17:00

Seminar Room SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT and Faculty of Music on 28 June, 11 West Road

Online registation has now closed. 

is a three day conference in two venues (with two different registrations): 

  1. 26 and 27 June: Conference Room SG1, CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge.
  2. 28 June: Recital Room, Faculty of Music, 11 West Road, Cambridge.


Why Thinking about Tacit is key in a Digital Age  by Satinder Gill


Satinder Gill (Centre for Music and Science)
Tacit Engagement:Beyond Interaction, 2015, Springer.

Day 1: Tacit Engagement in the Digital Age (Photo E Lamb)


A joint conference by the 'Re-' Interdisciplinary Network (CRASSH) and the AI & Society Journal

A concept that has been at the fore of discussions around the sociology of scientific knowledge, the limits of AI, and most recently the design of ‘collective intelligence’, is ‘tacit knowledge’. First coming to prominence in the 1960’s, with Polanyi’s The Tacit Dimension (1966), it is a concept that continues to be addressed by scholars and practitioners from a wide range of disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspectives, and applied fields of practice. This conference explores the place of the tacit in the 21st Century, where our lives are increasingly augmented by AI algorithms.

Engagement with and through social media networks and mobile apps are re-shaping the notion of community and family, and affecting wellbeing, as well as the cultures of the workplace and institutions. The exponential rise of big data flows in networked communications causes vast gaps in translation, confusion about what is true and false, and mistrust of ‘experts’. In the shadows of machine thinking we are unable to engage with difference.

This challenges us to come up with technological futures rooted in us as persons, not as numbers, parts, sensory mechanisms, genes, and individual bodies.

  • What alternative models might allow humans to better engage with technology?
  • How can we reconsider the relation between a person and a collective intelligence?
  • How can we reconceive the self as interaction in a digital age?

Ideas of performance and reperformance help us reposition seemingly singular subjects and objects as collective phenomena, and help reconnect art and science after their separation in the 19th Century; but the arts in general can play a key role in questioning and reframing our understandings by directing attention to the tacit assumptions, norms, and expectations embedded in all cultural processes.  

There is a supposed neutrality around technology, evidenced in the idea that human ‘intelligence’ can, in the absence of ‘person’, be artificially re-presented, re-constructed and re-produced through computation (AI). The conference explores in what ways the interplay of the arts and sciences is reconceiving augmentation, and questions what an ‘intelligence’ that is ‘artificial’ might be.

CRASSH and the Faculty of Music are delighted to facilitate the Hungarian division of the Polanyi Society in promoting Polanyian perspectives in a special workshop, which will be offered as a parallel event to the main conference on the afternoon of 28th June. On this third day at the Faculty of Music we will discuss the intersections of art, science, technology, and society, and there will be a special workshop by the Polanyi Society presenting papers covering a range of his work.

A joint conference by the 'Re-' Interdisciplinary Network at CRASSH and the AI & Society Journal.

For administrative assistant: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk

Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange or book accommodation for participants but these are some useful websites:

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage



Day 1 - Wednesday 26 June 2019 (Venue: CRASSH)




Welcome and Introduction

Satinder Gill (Music, AI&Society, Re-Network, University of Cambridge)



Chair: Ghislaine Boddington (Body>Data>Space, Women Shift Digital, University of Greenwich, London)

Geoff Mulgan (CEO, National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts)

'How Can Collective Intelligence Orchestrate Tacit Knowledge of Different Kinds?'


Tea/Coffee Break


Social Media: From Embodied to Iterative Publics

Chair: Bill Thompson (BBC R&R)

Tony D Sampson (University of East London)

'The Subjectless Shared Experiences of Lookalike Audiences'

Simone Shu-Yeng Chung, Mary Ann Ng (National University of Singapore)

'Engagements Across a Multiplicity of Millennial Identities'

Francesco Garibaldo (Claudio Sabattini Foundation), Emilio Rebecchi (Bologna University)

'If I Cannot Move Heaven, I Will Raise Hell'

Jane Turner (Turning Worlds Dance Company, London)

'Phase Transitions: Self Organising Systems in Performative Dance'

Clare Foster (Founder, Re-Network, University of Cambridge)

'Behavioural Science on Digital Public Space'


Lunch Break


Self as Interaction  

Chair: Satinder Gill (Centre for Music and Science, University of Cambridge)

David Good (Psychology, University of Cambridge)

'The Life Between us: Variations in the Medium of Exchange and Their Impact on the Formation of Self'

Hatice Gunnes (Computer Science, University of Cambridge)

'Affect and Personality in Humans and Robots'

Ian Cross (Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge)

'Music and the Human Communicative Toolkit'


Tea/Coffee Break


Self as Interaction in the Digital Age

Chair: Ian Cross (Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge)

Kriszta Sajber (Philosophy, Misericordia University USA)

'The Expressivity of Virtual Selves'

Rebekah Wilson (Independent Researcher, Interactive Media Design, Amsterdam)

'Strengthening the Networked Music Performance Experience with Machine-Learning'

Walter Gulick (Philosophy, Montana State University, Billings, USA)

'Personal Meanings Versus Robotic Behaviours'

Jin Hyun Kim (Music, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany)

'Our Self and World Enhanced by Music’s Mediating Relations'


Refresh break


Performance Talk/ Interactive Event

Ghislaine Boddington (Body>Data>Space, Women Shift Digital, University of Greenwich, London)

'Internet of Bodies: Exploring the Future Human and Collective Engagement Scenarios'

18.00 - 18.45

Reception (Sponsored by AI & Society Journal)

Day 2 - Thursday 27 June (Venue: CRASSH)

9.00 - 10.30

Intelligences: Models

Chair: Victoria Vesna (Art|Sci UCLA, USA)

Dietrich Brandt (RWTH Aachen, Germany)

'Enlightenment: The Past, the Present, and Our Futures'

Kathleen Richardson (De Montford University, Leicester )

'Property Relations: From Companion Robots and AI to Sex Robots'

Stephen Cave (Centre for the Future of Intelligence/CFI, University of Cambridge)

'Intelligence as Ideology: Its History and Future'


Tea/Coffee Break


Intelligences: Indivisibles

Chair: Carl Rasmussen (Engineering, Machine Learning, University of Cambridge)

Jan Soffner (Zeppelin Universität)

'The Premises of the Singularity Hypothesis'

Simon Taylor (University of New South Wales, Australia)

'Dementia as a Collective Informant'

Melvin Chen, Chew Lock Yue (Nanyan Technological University, Singapore)

'Intelligence and the Elements of Causal Reasoning'

Edward Burnell (MIT, USA)

'Hybrid Intelligence: Forming Boundary Objects Between Practitioners' Knowledges and the Mathematics of Computation'

12.15 - 12.20

Refresh break

12.20 - 12.45

Interactive Event/Workshop

Maida Withers (Concoran School of Art and Design, USA)


12.45 - 13.45

Lunch Break

13.45 - 15.15

The Performance of Algorithms

Chair: Louise Amoore (Ethics and Algorithms, Durham University)

Mihály Hèder (Philosophy, Budapest, Hungary)

'Towards the Epistemic Transparency of Algorithms'

Charles W Lowney (Hollins University, USA)

'How the Body Solves Problems: Martial Arts, Tacit Knowing and AI'

Vit Stritecky, Petr Spelda, Filip Vostal (Charles University Prague, Czech Republic)

'Temporality and Machine Learning'

Sonia de Jager (Music&Society, Erasmus University, Netherlands)

'Building Boundless, Reasonable Machines'

15.15 - 15.30

Tea/Coffee Break

15.30 - 16.50

Social Milieus

Chair: David Good (University of Cambridge)

Louise Amoore (Durham University)

'Algorithms and the Unattributable'

Caroline Nevejan (Amsterdam University)

'Urban Trust'                          

16.50 - 17.00

Refresh Break

17.00 - 18.30

Social Milieus

Chair: David Smith (University of South Wales)

Andreas Schellewald (Edinburgh University)

'The Poetics of Platforms: On Audio-Visual and Algorithmic Containment'

Alessio Chierico (Kunstuniversitat Linz, Austria)

'The Vacuous Identity in the Digital Realm'

Marielle Pelissero (Performing Arts, Paris-Nanterre University, France)

'Digital Media, Social Networks, and LIve Performance. Aesthetic Sociality and/as New Art Practice'

Cat Watts (University of Cambridge)

'Griefers and Gatekeepers: Re-Evaluating Realtime Gaming in the 21st Century'

19.00 -

Conference Dinner (for Speakers )

Day 3 - Friday 28 June (Venue: Recital Room, Faculty of Music)

8.30 - 9.00


9.00 - 10.20

Art as Science

Chair: Marleen Wynants (Scruitiniser)

Victoria Vesna (Art|Sci UCLA, USA)

'We Are Alien Stardust, We Are Viral Genes: Macro Micro Interactions'

Vibeke Sorensen (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

'Art, Technology, and the Internet of Living Things (IoLT)'

10.20 - 10.35

Tea/Coffee Break

10.35 - 11.30

Interactive Event(s)/Workshop(s)

Kwan Q Li (Oxford University)


Rachel Stroud and Margaret Faultlesss (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Music, Cambridge University)

'Performing the Orchestra'

11.30 - 13.00

Tacit Engagement in Practice

Chair:  Caroline Nevejan (University of South Wales)

Tania Fraga (University of Brasilia, Brazil)

'Epicurus' Garden: Poetic and Aesthetic Considerations of an Installation and Performances with Brain-Computer Interface'

Jonathan Impett (Music, Orpheus Institute, Belgium)

'Music, Thought and Intuitive Technology'

Marleen Wynants (Scrutiniser)


Marcelo Velasco et al. (Fundacion Arte + Ciencia, Chile)

'Machine Leaning and Social  Good - a Chilean Experience'

Pam Burnard, Pallawi Sinha et al. ( Education, University of Cambridge)

'Re(Con)Figuring Arts and Mathematics Using Diffraction as a New Materialist Methodology for Understanding Enactments of Interdisciplinarity'

13.00 - 14.30

Lunch, Poster Presentations, Installations

13.30 - 17.00

Parallel Workshop - Polanyi Society (Lecture Rm 1)


Harry Collins (Cardiff University, Wales)

'Intelligence Is Social. That's Why Deep Learning Is so Good, but It's Still Not There'


Chair: Richard Staley (History and Philosophy of Science, Unversity of Cambridge)

15.20 - 15.35

Tea break

15.35 - 17.05

Representing the Social

Chair: Clare Foster (Univeristy of Cambridge)

Veronique Chance (Fine Art and Print Making, Anglia Ruskin University)

'Record, Relay, Represent: Experiencing Running as Mediated Performance'

Massimo Negrotti (Sociology, Urbino, Italy)

'The Reality of the Artificial. From a Dream to a Paradox'

David Harris Smith (McMaster University, Canada)

'Cultural Robotics'

Bill Thompson (BBC R&D)

'Towards Online Engagement: Rethinking the Network to Support Human Connections'


Closing Panel Discussion and Q&A

17.45 - 18.30

Reception (Sponsored by AI & Society Journal)


• Keynote Abstracts (Part 1) – please see below
All Abstracts (Part 2)
All Abstracts (Part 3)

Keynote Abstracts (Part 1)

Day 1

Geoff Mulgan, CEO, Nesta (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), UK

How Can Collective Intelligence Orchestrate Tacit Knowledge of Different Kinds?

An earlier generation of work on collective intelligence focused primarily on aggregation of individual insights and inputs for citizen science, web projects such as Wikipedia and crowd-sourcing ideas.  The key insights of more recent work on CI is that the combination of functional elements of intelligence (models, observation, creativity, memory, judgement etc) increases useful intelligence, especially when these feed into cycles of action and learning.

This highlights the need in everyday intelligence for ways of combining formal and informal, codified and tacit, whether in the hospital, classroom or political decision-making.   This requires tacit information and knowledge to become less tacit so that they can be shared, interrogated and combined.  I will suggest some of the practical and theoretical dimensions of this:

  • A general thesis about the growth of roles involving mutual supervision of machines and expert humans, formal data and tacit judgement, which will have the effect of making human judgement more formal and self-aware
  •  A thesis about tacit knowledge in innovation, prompted by current work with the UNDP (mapping and supporting positive deviants, grassroots innovations etc)
  • A thesis about skill and how people can represent experience and competence in ways very different to the formal definitions of CVs and qualifications; or the thin descriptions and feedback of Linkedin; how this may help with the discovery of latent potential,  (this links to the current Nesta programme of work on Open Jobs)
  • A thesis about democracy, and how knowledge can be connected to experiences and feelings (with vTaiwan as a live example)

There is a long history of tension between standardised metrics and representations on the one hand, and on the other the diversity of lived experience, especially the poor and powerless.  Formal knowledge is associated with external power. These examples may suggest new accommodations between formal and tacit, new ways to get below the surface of data, and to reconcile the internal and external.

Day 2

Louise Amoore, Professor Geography, Leverhulme Fellow on Ethics of Algorithms, University of Durham

Algorithms and the Unattributable

The techniques deployed in deep neural net algorithms to condense the features of a scene to an output of meaning – “a man is throwing a Frisbee in a park”, “a woman is standing at the border fence with a crowd in the background” – give an account of the ethico-politics of algorithms for our times. The output of the algorithms reduces the intractable difficulties and duress of living, the undecidability of what could be happening in a scene, into a single human-readable and actionable meaning. We have ethical and political relationships with other beings in the world because the meaning of those relations, their mediation through every scene of life, cannot be condensed. It is precisely irreducible. And so, at the very moment that the algorithm outputs a single meaning from an irreducible scene, there is also at this border limit a “clause of nonclosure”, as Derrida describes the opening of context. How does one begin to locate the points of nonclosure within the algorithm’s programme of meaning-making? In contrast to the widespread search for ethical limits of the actions of algorithms, I propose a cloud ethics that is concerned with the formation of relations to oneself and to others. Are there counter-methods of attention available to us that could resist the frameworks of attention of machine learning? Amid the technologies of the attribute, what remains of that which is unattributable in the scene?

Caroline Nevejan, Professor Urban Design, University of Amsterdam, Chief Science Officer, City of Amsterdam

Urban Trust

In this contribution, I will explore the future of urban trust in the age of ubiquitous digitization and accelerated artificial intelligence. Vital processes that make the city function like energy, traffic, water management are dependent on digital technologies. Health, education, judicial and governmental processes are also increasingly dependent on these systems. 

Human beings engage because people recognize spatiotemporal trajectories of other beings while these digital systems mostly escape human perception (Kuhn). In cities, where people live in smaller communities and are daily witness to strangers, trade-offs for establishing trust are rapidly changing (Nevejan 2018). Confusion between trust and trustworthiness and between different kinds of causality fundamentally challenges the capacity to be and bear witness in cities of the future.

Day 3

Victoria Vesna, Professor Design, Media, Arts, Director of Art|Sci Lab and California Nanosystems Lab, UCLA

We Are Alien Stardust, We Are Viral Genes: Macro Micro Interactions

Every creature contains hydrogen atoms and every material element is manufactured in stars through their fusion. We are created from stardust by nuclear fusion, like our myriad siblings – animals, plants, insects, plankton, bacteria and viruses, and we all function together in vibratory fields – bottom up just as nature and nanotechnology works. In these times of climate disruption due to narrow industrial reductionist vision of the past century, our sight and sound is being amplified through communication networks and powerful microscopies and it may be a survival mechanism. Nature is revealing connections from mycelium under our feet to the ecologies at the bottom of the oceans to the planetary networks that shower us with tons of cosmic rays and micrometeorites falling on earth every day. With tools such as CRISPR to manipulate and co-create or destroy and build other beings, we have a narrow window of opportunity to expand our collective consciousness and move through macro micro spaces as a dynamic network of waves spinning through space. With a sense of urgency, I put forward that immersive art science collaborative projects can accelerate this process to raise awareness and rescue the ailing microbiome. In this talk I will show a few examples of work that places the audience at the center as performers in immersive interactive experiences that amplify the invisible and inaudible realms.


Vibeke Sorensen, Professor and Chair School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Art, Technology, and The Internet of Living Things (IoLT)

If computers were developed to augment the Brain, the implication is that the human brain has become part of a system with greatly enhanced data processing and expanded memory. Today, with physical computing and biological sensors as interfaces, ‘augmentation’ extends beyond the brain to include the entire individual, body and mind, and beyond the individual to the social group, and beyond that to the natural and built environment, thus encompassing a hybrid physical-digital ‘eco-system’ on a global scale. It is an increasingly sentient environment that is vast and complex, one we are engaging through sensors and databases, including Big Data, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Are we headed towards a future of the Internet of Living Things (IoLT)? With all living things, there are important ethical issues to be considered as well as concerns for freedom of thought and movement, and intangible qualities such as emotion, empathy and respect. In design and art, aesthetic concerns fundamentally involve ethics and emotion, as design must respect and enhance quality of life for all living things. When interacting with the human body, the body’s sensitivities must be respected. Any technological system should be ergonomic, and include non-encumbering devices connected in ways that not only extend the body to new capabilities but do so in a transparent and ‘intuitive’ or tacit way. Creative experiments in art, design and technology have pioneered many new techniques, especially physical-digital methodologies that blur boundaries between the body, mind, and both the natural and man-made worlds. Recognizing that bio-diversity and cultural diversity are intricately connected, we are discovering that by working with traditional ethnic and material cultural practices, digital systems can become better aligned with nature, and reflective and inclusive of world cultures. When the IoT becomes the IoLT, the question of ethics that is at the centre of aesthetics and the arts will move to the forefront of our experience of the world and ourselves. This talk will review several case studies that integrate global traditional and contemporary cultures,nature and digital technology, and in this way enhance our awareness of ‘implicit’ or ‘tacit’ knowledge and interaction.


Harry Collins, Distinguished Research Professor School of Social Sciences, University of Cardiff

Intelligence Is Social. That's Why Deep Learning Is so Good, but It's Still Not There

The hard thing about human intelligence is ‘collective tacit knowledge’. These are the things we know in virtue of being members of our society. Natural language is an iconic example: what counts as good English, say, depends on what the community takes to be good English and it is continually changing. Individuals are parasites drawing on social knowledge. To pass a demanding Turing Test by mimicking human fluency in language, machines must be embedded in the flux of the social. But we don't even fully understand how humans become socialized. Deep learning is accomplishing remarkable feats because it is more embedded in the social than any previous approach to AI – eg it can strip the changing patterns of language use from the internet without human intervention. But its limitations are, of course, those of a child brought up solely through exposure to the internet. Natural language stands in for many other aspects of human intelligence.