The trancing brain

New research suggests that art, music, and dance, which we perceive as unique to human beings are a natural adaptation wrought on the human brain by evolution that provides a sub-conscious way for the old brain, the paleoencephalon to coordinate the conflicting signals from the new brain, the neocortex. Art may well be as hard-wired an impulse as the drive to eat and drink and our sex drives, according to research published in the International Journal of Arts and Technology.

Judson Wright of “Pump Origin” in New York, USA, an experienced creative in using behavioural art and computer programming to study cognition, points out that the prefrontal cortex of our brains evolved in our ancestors through some adaptational pressure unknown. Given that many of our essential bodily functions and drives operate at an entirely sub-conscious level, the existence of a part of the brain that we feel is conscious and in control would seem, taken in isolation, to be detriment to our evolutionary fitness if it were somehow to be able to override such drives.

Art in its broadest sense and the trance states that its creation and experience can sometimes evoke suggest to Wright that the seemingly spontaneous urge to make and enjoy art is an evolutionary adaptation for Homo sapiens. The behaviour of all other living things seems to be “instinctive” and commonly a survival and reproductive response to external stimuli and pressures. See a predator, run away. See something tasty, eat it. Find a mate, make babies. But, it seems, no other organisms sees materials and thinks to fashion them into great artistic artefacts purely for the pleasure. Even the bower bird with its elaborate courtship platform, its bower, is creating its installation instinctively just as a peacock fans its tail.

Mammals and birds and probably others do have a neocortex or acomparable neuroanatomy with a different name but these are not developed to the extent that they are in humans. Wright’s hypothesis is that the connection between the old brain and the new brain is mediated by the artistic impulse and that it is manifest in a hypnotic, trance, state between the sub-conscious and the conscious. In this medium between the brain’s two parallel managerial styles we as living beings can mediate our activities and behaviour and enjoy the experiences of our senses and our movements in ways that other animals do not.

Wright, J. (2017) ‘Trancing: applying evolution’s cognitive adaptation via web art/music’, Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp.43–57.

The research has also led to a book: Behavioral Art: Introducing Ontogeny into Computation

Research Picks – May 2017

Low memory protocol for IoT devices

Researchers in Slovenia have taken a close look at the problem of “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices that have only a limited amount of computer memory but need to be able to communicate sufficient information nevertheless. Their work has resulted in a novel communication protocol for such devices with a low memory footprint. The new protocol, dubbed extensible mark-up connectivity (XMC), is designed for the transmission of messages between an embedded device and a remote system and works in conjunction with their new language extensible mark-up device descriptor (XMDD) to allow for flexibility and independence. Importantly, it can be implemented with a low-cost upgrade to equipment and offer a multitude of advantages, including speed and the aforementioned flexibility.

Vinkovic, S. and Ojsteršek, M. (2017) ‘The internet of things communication protocol for devices with low memory footprint‘, Int. J. Ad Hoc and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp.271-281.
New music business

Technology has outpaced the music industry in how consumers collect and listen to music, old and new. Ever since the first mp3 was downloaded via a file sharing system and played on the earliest mp3 players, the industry has been running scared and is only just catching up with the way in which consumers want to hear music. Researchers in Indonesia point out that lots of models have emerged as technology has evolved. On-demand music subscriptions, advertising driven streaming and much more. These are not necessarily operated by the traditional companies within the music industry and have in some instances emerged in parallel with the technology and in the internet tools rather than music publishing and marketing of physical discs carrying music, such as vinyl records and CDs. The team has looked at the way in which “actors” that deliver music are networked, whether from the traditional side of the industry or the tech-oriented areas.

Dellyana, D., Simatupang, T.M. and Dhewanto, W. (2017) ‘Business model types associated with network structure changes in the music industry‘, Int. J. Business Innovation and Research, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp.112-129.
Network on a chip

A new tool for high-level exploration of 3D network on a chip (NoC) devices has been developed by a team in China. NoC devices can outperform current mainstream communications “bus” architectures but the conventional two-dimensional format has limitations compared to the emerging three-dimensional approach. The new tool will facilitate the design of the 3D devices in the field of NoCs and help avoid some of the putative bottlenecks, such as wiring, that will stymie efforts as these systems evolve. The team says their tool can explore more options than current tools as well as evaluating fabrication costs, network throughput, and power consumption, so that more effective and efficient devices emerge from the design process.

Wu, J., Xie D. and Tang, L. (2017) ‘A high-level exploration tool for three-dimensional network-on-chip‘, Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp.164-178.
Privacy settings

The easy accessibility of information on online social networks (OSN) has boosted the significance of ‘privacy settings’ as a frontline of defence against information misuse. Of course, there is no privacy setting to protect one against the owners of any such service other than the company’s moral stance on hosting and accessing the data and information you share with it voluntarily. A model is reported by US researchers that sits at the intersection of protection motivation theory (PMT), social exchange theory (SET), and privacy risk research. The model allows the team to examine behaviour through both the use of privacy settings (adaptive/desirable behaviour) and the non-use of privacy settings (measuring maladaptive coping response). “The results of this study suggest, that to reduce users perceived privacy risk (and thus assuage users’ hesitation of using the site), trust is very important,” the team reports. “Thus, online social networking [providers] should act in good faith to avoid backlash from their users and they should not make changes that will negatively affect their users.”

Stern, T. and Kumar, N. (2017) ‘Examining privacy settings on online social networks: a protection motivation perspective‘, Int. J. Electronic Business, Vol. 13, Nos. 2/3, pp.244-272

A better life outback

Desert lands cover about a quarter of the Earth’s land mass and are home to some half a billion people and yet they are commonly portrayed as extreme places with marginalized communities. The people who live there are perceived as living in hardship and isolation and surviving largely due to subsidies from the “mainstream” economy. New research published in the International Journal of Sustainable Development suggests that for some desert regions, particularly Australia’s “outback”, there is huge potential given appropriate infrastructure and investment for desert regions to become places of great prosperity and wellbeing.

Digby Race of the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation, in Alice Springs and The Australian National University, in Canberra and colleagues from other universities, report that there is great potential for 200,000 people who live in Australia’s vast desert area which covers about 3.6 million square kilometers. However, the team asserts, “The multi-dimensional nature of the debate about the future of Australia’s desert region often leaves policy makers with little overarching synthesis to guide public policy.”

The desert region of Australia includes the traditional homelands of many Aboriginal peoples, the team points out, and over the last century or so has developed a mixed economy based on pastoral operations, government education and health services, gas and mining operations, and tourism. However, the Aboriginal peoples commonly remain marginalized by mainstream society. The researchers have now drawn together research on climate change, energy, housing and transport to provide an analysis that spans disciplines of how Australia’s desert region could become a highly livable and prosperous area for existing and new residents. It is, of course, hoped that such development would be in concert with the preferred lifestyles of the Aboriginal peoples.

“While there will always be uncertainty about future conditions and challenges, investing in strategies that are culturally appropriate, have little regret (low risk) and provide multiple benefits appears the best pathway,” the team suggests. “That is, investing in the connectivity and mobility of remote communities, creating a coordinated transport system, transitioning to renewable energy, and building super energy efficient housing can all be elements of re-designing the livability of desert Australia.”

Race, D., Dockery, A.M., Havas, L., Joyce, C., Mathew, S. and Spandonide, B. (2017) ‘Re-imagining the future for desert Australia: designing an integrated pathway for enhancing liveability’, Int. J. Sustainable Development, Vol. 20, Nos. 1/2, pp.146–165.