Digital Tabernacle Photo Stream

During their Digital Tabernacle performance at Emerge 2014: The Carnival of the Future, ministers Marcel O’Gorman and Ron Broglio donned Autographer lifelogging cameras hacked to look like crosses. The cameras automatically snapped still photos throughout the event, demonstrating that although the tabernacle preaches digital abstinence, it is not immune to the sin of irony.

An Autographer lifelogging camera hacked to look like a cross
The cross-cam

Check out the photo stream at the Digital Tabernacle’s Flickr account (ah, there’s the chilly breath of irony again).

To learn more about the Digital Tabernacle, read an article about the performance at Slate’s Future Tense channel.


Lance Gharavi: An Aerialist, Two Clowns, and a Robot Walk Into a Carnival

What do engineering and theatre have in common? They share a focus on performance – the performance of materials, technologies, processes and systems, argues Lance Gharavi, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre, in a Future Tense article for Slate magazine.

Gharavi collaborated with Jake Pinholster, director of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and Srikanth Saripalli, a roboticist in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, to create “You n.0,” a performance for ASU’s Emerge 2014: The Carnival of the Future.

“You n.0,” in Gharavi’s words, is a “series of performed metaphors that address the past, present and future of human/robot relations.” It features Baxter, a cutting-edge industrial robot created by Rethink Robotics, interacting with a cast of aerialists and clowns, and a behind-the-scenes team of technical wizards.

To design the performance, the team started with the question “What can this robot do?” According to Gharavi, “This is almost never an easy question to answer for new technologies, in part because, though capabilities are not unlimited, neither are they certain. One doesn’t so much discover capabilities as produce them. Or rather, one does both. This often involves transforming the technology itself, as well as the processes and means by which you engage the technology. And this is significantly what research in engineering means. It is largely the same in performance.”

To learn more about “You n.0,” including how to control a robot with an iPad and the surprising difficulty of teaching Baxter to pop and lock, read the full article at Future Tense.

Marcel O’Gorman: Confessing Digital Sins

Do you sleep with your smartphone under your pillow? Play Candy Crush during class? Fail to return text messages from your family and friends? If you have digital sins to confess, the Ministers of the Digital Tabernacle will give you penance by locking away your device and forcing you to live without it for a few minutes.

The Digital Tabernacle was one of the featured performances at Arizona State University’s Emerge 2014: The Carnival of the Future, which took place in Downtown Phoenix on March 7. Ron Broglio, an associate professor in ASU’s Department of English, and Marcel O’Gorman, an associate professor of English language and literature at the University of Waterloo, used the performance as a way to shed light on our digital addictions and offer “a space for contemplation in a world of online distraction, neuromarketing and psychotechnology.”

“The project asks us to create new rituals that will save us from the tarnation of digital (de)vices,” writes O’Gorman, in a Future Tense article for Slate.

To learn more about the performance and view a full photo stream of the event taken on Broglio and O’Gorman’s lifelogging cameras, read the full article at Slate’s Future Tense channel.

David Rothenberg: How To Make Music With Drones

What’s the best way to make music with drones? According to David Rothenberg, an experimental musician, professor of philosophy and music, and visiting artist for Arizona State University’s Emerge 2014: The Carnival of the Future, let them give voice to their own secrets and struggles.

“I couldn’t get away from the idea of remote-controlled killing machines dispatched to war zones to eliminate enemies we are too frightened to confront in person,” writes Rothenberg, in a Future Tense article for Slate. “I know, these killings are supposed to be effective and precise, but there is something genuinely creepy about the process. So I decided that in my piece the drones would be talking—confessing to their crimes. Of course, I know they are only following orders.”

In the article, Rothenberg discusses the process of creating his “Drone Confidential” piece for Emerge, focusing primarily on the debate among members of the project team about whether to have humans or computer programs control the drones’ flight paths during the performance. Rothenberg created the piece in collaboration with Srikanth Saripalli, a roboticist at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Did human pilots win the day, or is Arizona’s best drone pilot a computer? And what does it mean to make art with robots? To find out more, read the full article at Future Tense.

Ed Finn: The Outsourced Self

We are increasingly outsourcing our identities to computers and algorithms, argues Ed Finn, Director of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and Assistant Professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English. What we traditionally think of as our real physical self coexists with numerous digital “shadow selves” that help store our memories, evaluate our financial reliability and tell advertisers what products we might want to buy, or which TV shows we’ll want to stream next.

“Our digital breadcrumbs now tell stories about us that are deeply secret, moving, surprising – and often things we don’t even know about ourselves,” writes Finn in a Future Tense article for Slate. This outsourcing of selfhood to digital repositories can be disastrous in cases of hacking and identity theft, but the horror stories are only part of the picture. Instead, Finn likens our current relationship with our data to adolescence: “our data is sprouting up in all sorts of weird and awkward places, pumping out signals about us we can barely understand, much less control.”

Read the full article at Future Tense to learn more about lifelogging, using data to construct our own narratives, and the need for all of us to upgrade our algorithmic literacy. Finn’s article is part of a series exploring this year’s Emerge theme, “The Future of Me.”


Image courtesy of infocux technologies, used under a Creative Commons license.

Bruce Sterling: Using Art to Cross Borders

Bruce Sterling WeldingLife gets intensely personal at national borders, writes Bruce Sterling, science fiction author, design critic and our very own Visionary in Residence at ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

In a Future Tense article for Slate, Sterling muses about borders, open-source hardware, cultural dislocation and his interactive installation piece for Emerge, “My Future Frontier/Mi Futura Frontera.”

“Borders are dynamic and morally contradictory,” argues Sterling. “They process the individual, but they’re not built for his participation. You can live near a border, and prosper from tourism and arbitrage, but dwelling within the borderline is metaphysically impossible. A border crossing is a cultural clash.”

“My Future Frontier/Mi Futura Frontera” was designed at the Torino Fablab in Turin, Italy, and is built using Intel’s new Galileo circuit board. Sterling describes it as “a whirling tower of cultural images, surrounded by a jittery pair of marionettes. These polite border-crossing migrants do their best to obey the gestures of the viewer of the artwork. Like most of us in the passport office and the customs waiting queue, they’re doing the best to go through the motions. But they’re puppets of a system that isn’t built for their benefit, and reactions can get out of hand.”

Read the full article at Future Tense to learn more about the U.S.-Mexico border, Arduino and the global tech-hacker scene, and Bruce’s next stop after Emerge. Sterling’s article is part of a series exploring this year’s Emerge theme, “The Future of Me.”

Brad Allenby: The End of the Self?

Human selfhood isn’t about essence, argues ASU’s Brad Allenby, Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics and one of the co-directors of Emerge. It’s about information. We are an information-processing species; our personal identities are deeply rooted in what we know and how we know it.

“A self is constructed of information,” writes Allenby in a Future Tense article for Slate. “Consciousness is about managing information, and free will, if it is to mean anything, requires us to have and process information about ourselves, our environment, and the (probable) results of our actions. This makes one point crystal clear: Anything that profoundly changes information will profoundly change us.” Read the full article at Future Tense to learn more about our rapidly transforming selves.

Allenby’s article is part of a series exploring this year’s theme, “The Future of Me.” Learn more and RSVP at

What Should We Do?

Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics WordmarkWhat does Emerge have to do with ethics? The question came up today, because the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics is one of our major partners.

The answer can’t be emphasized more frequently.

The whole point of Emerge is to dramatically address this core issue:  We’re at a turning point in history – we can do almost anything. What should we do?

That is the core question of ethics:  What should we do?

That’s why all the 14 major performances and events in our March 7th Carnival of the Future address daring questions like “You Thought Colonoscopies Were Personal? You Don’t Understand.  Here Comes Real Personalized Medicine.” And, “You, Me, and Death.” And “When the Robots Give Voice to Our Songs.”

Be thinking about this when you dust off your circus hat and visit our tent. Because we want to know what you think: what should we do?

Quadcopter Pilots Needed for Emerge on March 7!

Emerge needs 5 volunteers to learn how to remotely fly quadcopters for our event on Friday, March 7th, as part of a performance combining aerial drones, experimental music and projection mapping. The only qualification: you need to be good at video games. Volunteers will train on a simulator in Tempe, AZ for 15-30 hours. The need is urgent. Please spread the word! If you are interested in participating, please email Tain Barzso at

Image courtesy of Ars Electronica, used under a Creative Commons license.

Dancers, Industrial Robots and Aerial Rigs

Do you have any idea how complicated it is to figure out how to rig an aerial trapeze inside a circus tent? On a rubble-strewn vacant lot in downtown Phoenix? Because that’s what our Emerge dancers want? These are the performers who are teaching our industrial robot, Baxter, how to dance. They are not to be confused with the set of performers who are creating a symphonic duet with our four choreographed, flying, talking, singing quadracopter robots? And oh, by the way, how do you make sure the drones don’t hit the trapeze rig? Mark your calendar: March 7th is the third annual “Emerge: Artists + Scientists Redesign the Future” event. Our theme this year is “The Future of Me.” Y’all come!


Image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson, used under a Creative Commons license. Thanks Steve!

Kraig Farkash: Emerge is … a reengineered petri dish whose occupancy willingly entered its confines by fearlessly climbing to its upmost edge and jumping in headfirst

by Kraig Farkash

After experiencing firsthand the 72 hour Emerge 2013 festival I am still hard pressed to express exactly what just happened. I liken Emerge to a reengineered petri dish whose occupancy willingly entered its confines by fearlessly climbing to its upmost edge and jumping in headfirst. I sincerely doubt that even the curators of Emerge know precisely what this cohesive containment of unbridled creativity will produce. I am equally positive that this temporal unknown is by design.

Welcome to the Future of Truth

Dawn has risen over the desert flatlands and industrial hardscapes of the Valley of the Sun and Emerge 2013 is about to begin. We have gathered some of the world’s leading thinkers, creators and makers to explore the future of truth.

Aristotle wrote about truth in terms of logic, calling what is, is, and what is not, not. That system defined the world for centuries. It finally came into question somewhere in the modern Bermuda Triangle of James Joyce, Kurt Gödel and Marcel Duchamp. But Aristotle also wrote about poetics and poiesis, which is a way of making the world. He didn’t mean material creation, assembling the atoms into structures, but rather the way we unite matter and time into a universe that means something. Poetics is a creative process for writing the world, and writing yourself into the world. We understand the universe through stories.

Over the course of the next three days we’re going to hear some tall tales, some profound truths and some boldfaced lies. Emerge is not about combatting particular visions of the truth, but rather starting new conversations. Can’t wait to see you there.

Is It Time To Take Cyborg Rights Seriously? A Q&A With Neil Harbisson.


Neil Harbisson can “hear” the orange (the color, that is)
Photo by Dan Wilton

This article arises from Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University. On Feb. 28-March 2, Future Tense will be taking part in Emerge, an annual conference on ASU’s Tempe campus about what the future holds for humans. This year’s theme: the future of truth. Visit the Emerge website to learn more and to get your ticket.

At Emerge, Neil Harbisson will be discussing our cyborg future with Future Tense blogger Will Oremus and Frankenstein’s Cat author Emily Anthes. Harbisson was born without the ability to see color, but a device he calls his “eyeborg” allows him to now “hear” color. (He described this in a TED talk in 2012.)  In an email interview below, which has been lightly edited, he talks about his life as a cyborg.

First, tell me a little about your “eyeborg.” What does it do for you?
Color is basically hue, saturation, and light. Right now, I can see light in shades of gray, but I can’t see its saturation or hue. The eyeborg detects the light’s hue, and converts it into a sound frequency that I can hear as a note. It also translates the saturation of the color into volume. So if it’s a vivid red, I will hear it more loudly.

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Cyborg Roaches, Glow-in-the-Dark Fish, and Other Biotechnology Beasts

By  | Posted Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, at 10:34 AM

Cyborg Beetle 4-MM

A remote-controlled flying flower beetle.Photo courtesy Michel Maharbiz.

This article arises from Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University. On Feb. 28-March 2, Future Tense will be taking part in Emerge, an annual conference on ASU’s Tempe campus about what the future holds for humans. This year’s theme: the future of truth. Visit the Emerge website to learn more and to get your ticket.

I have seen the future of animals and it is glowing. Literally.

Three years ago, I set out to explore the world of animal biotechnology, to see just how scientists were using advances in genetics, electronics, and materials science to totally re-engineer and re-invent animal bodies.

I discovered that researchers were genetically engineering cats—and monkeys and mice—that glowed electric green under a black light. They were cloning pets, livestock, and endangered species. And they were using neural implants to create remote-controlled, cyborg critters.

Mr. Green Genes 2-ACRES

Mr. Green Genes under a black light.Photo courtesy Audubon Nature Institute.

That wasn’t entirely shocking; biotechnology moves fast, and scientists are capable of dreaming up, and then achieving, remarkable things. What did take me by surprise, however, was how many of these sci-fi, futuristic critters have already made their way out of the laboratory and into our farms, fields, and families.

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