Paper delivered at ISSTC 2011, the inaugural convocation of the Irish Sound, Science and Technology Association, Limerick, Ireland. 10-11 August 2011.
Feedback describes a circuit (electronic, social, biological or otherwise) in which the output or result influences the input or cause. Since Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics instantiated the study of regulatory systems, such circuits have been pursued in many contexts, not least of all the musical. Louis Barron, directly inspired by Wiener in 1948, built audio feedback circuits that literally burnt themselves up as they played. By 1972 David Tudor was utilising acoustic feedback between transducers in Untitled.
More recently, performers such as Toshimaru Nakamura have pioneered the use of the "no source mixing desk", a simple sound mixer with outputs wired to inputs so that the self-noise of the circuits provides the only sonic material. In a similar manner, the author has developed the No Input Software Environment (NISE) in order to test our faith in the digital realm as a site of perfect representation and replication.
The paper traces an arc of research into nonlinear dynamic systems, from von Foerster's second order cybernetics to Deleuze and Guattari's machinic phylum, Manuel De Landa's double articulation and Maturana & Varela's autopoiesis. NISE foregrounds these concepts and questions our place in the resulting ecosystem.
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