Navigations — A Multi-perspective Approach

From Recombinant Poetics to Neosentience to Recombinant Informatics

Texts by Bill Seaman

I have spent the last 30 years exploring new forms of artistic expression and the creative use of computers. During this time I have also sought to write texts that would help to elucidate this body of work. Additionally, I have been interested in opening up new fields of technological research, in particular in relation to new expressive potentials of interactive and generative media. After finishing my Ph.D. I found that I had entered a new “research” phase of my work, where I was continuously reading in a transdisciplinary manner, drawing from many different fields to articulate my practice and thought. I decided to explore the writing of texts that examined my deepest interests at a particular given moment. Each paper was “of itself” and intentionally did not seek to conform to a specific research or artistic genre. One overarching continuity of my textual production seeks to unpack a network of relationships between the observer/participant and the generative work of art, within a time-based cybernetic loop. I see this as an interactive continuum between the digital and the sensual. In particular I have been interested in developing works to explore meta-meaning potentials— enabling the introspective observation of thought processes as brought about through specifically authored human/machinic systems. More recently, I have been exploring Recombinant Informatics, a multi-perspective approach to knowledge production.

As an artist/researcher I have sought to enfold differing combinations of the following operative foci in both theory and practice. This includes: developing new human/machinic approaches to creativity; manifesting new computational explorations of poetic image/sound/text interaction through open “navigational” structures; extending the expressive potentials of technology through new forms of code authorship; employing combinatorics and embodying database aesthetics in a series of generative poetic and now informatic works; articulating new linguistic approaches to knowledge production through the notion of fields of meaning; extending the paradigm of human/computer interface potentials; authoring systems that articulate different approaches to generative aesthetics; embodying multiple approaches to meaning-becoming (meaning production over time); exploring the body, bio-mimetics, and multi-modal sensing and their role in meaning production; as well as exploring the re-application of these ideas as an educational methodology and as a broad means to generate new knowledge.

There is no simple way to unpack the intra-operative nature of the above components as they function within my oeuvre. They can only be explored as a dynamic, non-linear heterarchy. Likewise, there is no definitive way to parse my papers into categories. They each take on one or more of the above foci as part of their enfolded content. Thus, they define a rich non-linear network. I can however give the larger concepts that many of these topic areas fall within. Here is a potential breakdown of the chapter headings with related texts.

• The Operative Nature And Expressive Potentials Of Digital Media (early texts)

W. Seaman. Notes and Observations on Artificial Games. Artificial Games Catalogue. Muchen Germany (1993)

W. Seaman. Hybrid Architectures/Media Information Environments in “Intelligent Environments–Spatial Aspect of the Information Revolution,” Peter Droege, Editor, Amsterdam, Netherlands (1997)

• Recombinant Poetics and the Database Aesthetic

W. Seaman. "Recombinant Poetics: Emergent Explorations of Digital Video in Virtual Space." Transluminations: New Screen Media Narratives. Ed. Zapp and Reiser. BFI Publishers, 2002.

W. Seaman. "The Illusive Nature of Context: The Negotiation of the Thoughtbody." The Aesthetics of Digital Poetry. Ed. Friedrich W. Block, Christiane Heibach and Karl Wentz. 2004.

W. Seaman. "Recombinant Poetics." New Media Poetry, an International Anthology. Ed. E. Kac. 2007 Recombinant Poetics - Media-Element Field Explorations

W. Seaman. "Recombinant Poetics and Related Database Aesthetics." Database Aesthetics. Ed. Vesna, V.. University of Minnesota Press, 2007 Recombinant Poetics and Database Aesthetics — Historical Overview [very similar to the Vesna Book but longer and inclusive of more works]

W. Seaman. "Recombinant Poetics — Media-Element Field Explorations." First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan,. MIT Press, 2003

W. Seaman. "OULIPO|vs|Recombinant Poetics." Art & Electronic Media. Ed. Ed Shanken. Phaidon Press, 2009.

New Approaches to Computation

W. Seaman. "Nonsense Logic." Reframing Consciousness. Ed. Ascott. R.. Intellect Press, 1999.

W. Seaman. "Emergent Constructions: Re-embodied Intelligence within Recombinant Poetic Networks," Digital Creativity 9. 3, pp 153–160 (1998) .

W. Seaman. "Exchange Fields: Embodied Positioning as Interface Strategy." Convergence Magazine 7.2, special Issue on Intelligent Environments (2001) .

W. Seaman. "The Hybrid Invention Generator — Assorted Relations." Technoetic Arts 1:2 . Intellect Press,

W. Seaman. Motioning Toward the Emergent Definition of E-phany Physics. Consciousness Reframed 3 (2000)

W. Seaman. "The Engine of Engines - Toward A Computational Ecology." Integral Biomathics: Tracing the Road to Reality - Proceedings of ACIB’11 Conference in Stirling, Scotland, August 29-31, 2011 and iBioMath’2011 Workshop at ECAL’11, Paris.. Ed. Edited by P. L. Simeonov, L. S. Smith, A. C. Ehresmann (Eds.).. (Winter, 2011). July 13, 2012.

W. Seaman. "(Re)Thinking — The Body, Generative Tools and Computational Articulation." Technoetic Arts, (2010)

W. Seaman. "Computational Creativity | A Multi-perspective Approach." (November 1, 2013) [Keynote from Re-New Conference]

William Seaman , (2014) "A multi-perspective approach to knowledge production", Kybernetes, Vol. 43 Iss: 9/10, pp.1412 - 1424

The Body, The Computer and Multi-Modal Meaning Production

W. Seaman, Ingrid Verbauwhede, M. Hansen- The Poly-sensing Environment and Object-Based Emergent Intention Matrix: Toward an integrated Physical / Augmented Reality Space

Bill Seaman, Fabian Winkler, Shenglin Yang and Ingrid Verbauwhede, Poly-sensing Environment for Poetic/Informational IT System

W. Seaman and Andrea Gaugusch. "(RE)Sensing the Observer — Offering an Open Order Cybernetics.." Technoetic Arts 2.1 (2004)

W. Seaman. "Pattern Flows | Hybrid Accretive Processes Informing Identity Construction." Convergence Magazine 7.2, special Issue on Intelligent Environments (2005)

W. Seaman. "Unpacking Simultaneity for Differing Observer Perspectives and Qualities of Environment." Simultaneity. Ed. S. Vrobel, O.E. Rossler, T., Marks-Tarlow. World Scientific, 2008

• Neosentience

W. Seaman. "Endophysics and the Thoughtbody Environment, an Outline for a Neo-computational Paradigm." on line publication (2004)

W. Seaman. Presented “Pattern Flows: The Thoughtbody Environment — Toward a Model for an Electrochemical Computer”, Cyberart Bilbao, Spain (2004) and Pattern Flows: Notes toward a Model for an Electrochemical Computer — The Thoughtbody Environment, Itau Cultural Center Website (2006) and self-published

Seaman and O.E. Rössler. "Toward the Creation of an Intelligent Situated Computer and Related Robotic System: An Intra-functional Network of Living Analogies." Emoçào Art.ficial 3.0, Itau Cultural Center Publication. 2006.

W. Seaman. "Neosentience and the Abstraction of Abstraction." Systems Connecting Matter, Life, Culture and Technology 1 .1 (2013)

W. Seaman. "Recombinant Poetics: The Thoughtbody Environment." a Minima Magazine, 13, New Media Actual Art (2005) ISSN 1697-7777

W. Seaman. “Neosentient Architecture Generator – n_Arch.gen” Conference Paper · October 2015, DOI: 10.1109/CW.2015.55 Conference: 2015 International Conference on Cyberworlds (CW)

W. Seaman. "Generative Works: From Recombinant Poetics to Recombinant Informatics” Invited Talk – Cyberworlds Conference 2015

• Educational Methodologies and Knowledge Production

W. Seaman. “Notions of the Hybrid : A Particular Hybrid Educational Methodology / RISD Digital Media”, International Symposium on Electronic Art, Helsinki (2004)

W. Seaman. "A Generative Emergent Approach to Graduate Education" Educating Artists for the Future, Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology, and Culture. Ed. M. Alexenberg. 2008.

W. Seaman. "Combinatoric Micro-strategies for Emergent Transdisciplinary Education." Rethinking the Contemporary Art School (NSCAD). NSCAD, 2009.

O. Perriquet and W. Seaman. "Art <-> Science Relationalities." International Symposium on Electronic Art Proceedings (forthcoming) (2011)

Glossary of Terms

abductive logic

“[abductive logic] makes its observations without reference to any previously propounded question, but, on the contrary, itself starts a question, or problematically propounded hypothesis, to explain a surprising observation.”

non-two value logic

“There are three-valued systems that operate with true, false and possible/indeterminate. There are systems that use more than three values. And there is a large branch of logic (modal logic) that deals not with simple propositional assertions, but with concepts like possible, impossible, contingent, necessary and absurd.”


Our generative methodology explores combinatorics. A system can be designed to combine and recombine media materials in differing ways and in different combinations as an ongoing generative process. This generation of differing “configurations” might be brought about within differing kinds of environments including virtual environments, augmented reality environments, interactive video environments, interactive text environments, interactive sound environments, and/or some form of mixed digital space, enabling the generation of configurations of many different kids of media elements and processes.

computational processes

Computational processes are computer-based processes that are enabled via specifically authored computer code.

fields of meaning

One way of coming to understand combinatoric systems that bring different media elements into juxtaposition and/or superimposition is to explore the metaphor of fields of meaning as borrowed from physics. This new approach to meaning production bears relation to notions of gestalt. That is, a 3-D object might have one meaning, and an image another, and the sonic background that the work is being created in forms another dynamic relation that feeds into the reception of the work. Each media element brings a different meaning force to the equation. Each participant brings the field of his/her own historical relations to different patterns of media experience, and there is an ongoing relational “meaning-summing” that takes into account the different meaning vectors that each media element brings to evocation in a given work.

focus on process instead of final result

Generative works focus on process-oriented activities, requiring attention to the potentials of interface, programming, media variables, and mode of output to enable specific kinds of variable processes to bring about new fields of media configurations.

interface design: input + functionality = output

A tight structural coupling exists between the behavior of the participant who is generating particular input into the system (through one form or another of interface device), the functionality of the system, and the output of that system. I have used a formula in the past consisting of the following: input + functionality = output. Each variable is comprised of two different levels: a conceptual one and a physical one. It is difficult to say where one boundary or another occurs once the system is made operational and human interaction takes place. It is better to think of this as a holistic system, functioning in a continuum, where an ongoing process of change is being explored.

Thus, a central characteristic of generative works is change over time. New media spaces (like virtual worlds) are generated in an ongoing manner as a result of the micro-processes that are set in motion. This promotes a shift in terms of traditional art historical concerns away from the static work of art to one that explores what I call active meaning-becoming. In a generative interactive work, the meaning-becoming is potentially a more overtly participatory process and is heightened as an operative consequence of interaction.

interauthorship: layers of authorship potential

I coined the term interauthorship to point at the potentials of some forms of generative work. The artist/programmer “authors” a particular environment that merges interface, software, hardware, input, functionality, and output within a system that produces limitless unique outcomes. The user of the system adds an individual layer of his/her own “authorship,” exploring the operative potentiality of the system. A unique emergent outcome arises through their particular interaction.


New media, especially after the advent of GPS (Global Positioning Systems), can be tied to determining exact locations; thus one can tie digital information to geographical specificity (like the maps in cars). LPS (Local Positioning Systems) enable very precise digital/physical relationality to be explored at the scale of an individual room.

meta-meaning potentials

In certain of my works, I have been interested in how a generative work can enable one to observe meaning as it arises and changes via participant interaction with the system. Since one can operate on these generative works, bringing in different media elements and processes over time and distributed in space, one can also mindfully witness meaning production as it takes place.


Meta-tags are key-word designators that enable the computer to sort particular media elements.

media object

Any form of media file (or data), be it text, video, image, animation, output of a scientific imaging system, sound, or other digital form.

micro-strategies / micro-processes

A micro-strategy is a focused algorithmic process that is being employed to facilitate a chosen goal-directed activity. The computer is an open system, and code can be authored to enable work on many different kinds of tasks. The potential is to design systems that bring multiple micro-strategies together in authored media environments to facilitate tasks that have many different inter-operative components, thus facilitating many different kinds of computational functionalities through focused interaction.

operative Space — Media and More

Ada Lovelace [England 1815-1852], the first computer programmer, wrote in the 19th century about the “operative” potentials related to differing media that the computer might bring about, in her Notes to The Analytical Engine. Generative systems can enable the operative manipulation of all forms of digital media in the service of emergent production.


A generative system enables a “probability” of certain kinds of outcome based on differing combinations of micro-strategies that are employed. These potentials are based on the programmer’s selection of algorithms (or micro-processes) that become operative in a media environment, and the choices of the participant who is interacting with the code-authored constrains intrinsic to that environment. Each combinatorial strategy or set of strategies may have a different outcome. Instead of talking about a fixed outcome, one talks about an outcome potential derived through interactivity with the system.

recombinant poetics

Works that explore Recombinant Poetics enable the examination of operative media-elements within specific, construction-oriented virtual environments. Inter-authorship is achieved through use of such systems. Recombinant Poetics is concerned with the combination and recombination of media-elements in the service of generating emergent meaning through interactivity. Context, de-contextualisation and re-contextualisation are explored in a dynamic authored environment by a vuser (viewer/user)3 operating within the constraints of the authored system. Such environments are characterised by Rhizomatic4 space, and differ from the earlier combinatorial exploration of interactive video, as generated via interactive laserdisc (although one can address earlier interactive video through the conceptual lens of Recombinant Poetics).5 In terms of video functioning as a media-element, a series of potentials are opened up within virtual space. The ramifications of these potentials are relevant to questions of both form and content. It must also be noted that many different artists can be seen to be exploring Recombinant Poetic processes at this time.

recombinant informatics

A creative approach to insight production facilitated by creating systems that enable dynamic juxtaposition of differing ideas.

relationality and neighbouring

In Semiotics of Visual Language, Saint-Martin speaks about the relevance of neighbouring, which is central to the production of meaning in a virtual environment. Neighbouring brings about media relationality between differing media elements:

The relationship of neighboring is the most important topological notion by which the function of continuity is constructed in any spatial field, whether physical or perceptual. Its importance to physical sciences was underlined by Bachelard when he stated that any force in the continuity of the field “presents itself as determined by the condition of neighboring. The term, vague in everyday language, acquires all of the desirable conciseness in mathematical expressions.”

Thus, Bachelard also points toward neighbouring as being central to an enlarged understanding of topological space. Relational media presents the potential to explore specific “intelligent” juxtapositions that the system can facilitate, potentially leading to new insights.