Day 2, Stream 1


Life … but not as we know it


Janis Jefferies


Stacey Pitsillides: Goldsmiths, University of London
Anastasios Maragiannis: University of Greenwich
Mari Velonaki: National Institute for Experimental Arts, COFA, UNSW
Janis Jefferies: Goldsmiths Digital Studios, University of London, UK



This panel will explore the themes and discuss issues surrounding Sherry Turkle’s new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. This can be seen as the culmination of a trilogy of books concerned with human and computer interaction and its implications for identity and psychology (The Second Self, 1984 and Life On the Screen, 1995). Turkle argues that, having already filtered companionship and relations through machines, we are now facing our own ‘robotic moment’. Real life interactions with flesh and blood people are becoming onerous and too stressful and untidy. Instead, we prefer to organise them through digital interfaces and ultimately even replace them with technological alternatives. As a result, are we changing what it means to be human? Have we become over-reliant on technology to mediate human relations? Does social networking encourage us to become narcissistic and to regard others as merely problems to be managed, resources to be exploited?

The questions above will form the basis of discussion and critique within this panel and will be presented from a range of current perspectives on the way technology is challenging what it means to be human/ posthuman. The panel will consist of academics with expertise in the following areas: screen based / interface design, interaction design, robotics, text on screen, electronic textiles and technological based arts, digital: identity; heritage; death, and visual arts. These areas will form a fertile ground for debate and discussion on the main concepts of authenticity and the changing relationship between humans and technology discussed within Sherry Turkle’s works from the 80s to 2012.



Janis Jefferies is an artist, writer and curator.  She is Professor of Visual Arts and Associate Pro Warden for the Creative and Cultural Industries,  Goldsmiths, University of London. She is recognised by her peers as one of the leading practitioner /theorists of her generation, through solo exhibitions of work, conferences and professional seminars exhibitions, curatorial work, journal publications, catalogue essays for artists of international standing, edited books and several chapter contributions on textiles, technology, performance and practice based research for anthologies distributed by Manchester, Edinburgh and Duke University Presses, Telos Art Publishing, Berg/Bloomsbury Publishers,  Ashgate and Palgrave McMillan and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago,  USA. She was one of the founding editors of  Textile; The Journal of Cloth and Culture and is a member of the international advisory board for Craft, (Bloomsbury)  publishers. She is currently co curating the first Fibre Triennial in Hanzghou, China which opens in September 2013 and co editor of the first handbook of Textile Culture (with Diana Wood Conroy and Hazel Clarke) for Bloomsbury, due September 2014.


Stacey Pitsillides is a PhD candidate in Design. Her PhD topic considers creative responses to the digital archive framed through the question of what happens to our data after we die? (For more on this please see Her research interests include Digital Identity, Collaboration, Personal Archiving and Digital Heritage. She is also a Visiting Lecturer in the Design Futures Department at the University of Greenwich and a freelance writer/consultant for Stromatolite Design Research Lab, and has been the co-facilitator of three ‘unconference’ events discussing issues of death and digitality.


Anastasios Maragiannis is Academic Leader and Senior Lecturer in the Design Futures Department at the University of Greenwich. Informed by design theory, his practice-based research focuses on how computational technologies and screen design impact on the existing principles and forms of static typography. His current work explores how innovative processes of design evolve within multidisciplinary design processes, and he is interested in how emerging practices in design as a discipline affect the virtual environments of today. He has taught design theory and practice at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in many UK and international institutions, including in Athens, Atlanta, Paris, Seattle, Ningbo-China, Istanbul, Berlin and Arizona, and has participated in and chaired various global conferences. His professional experience also includes design and consulting for web applications, interactivity and communication design. His work has been shown in the London BFI and the V&A Museum.


Mari Velonaki has worked as a researcher and artist in the field of interactive media art since 1997, driven by her fascination with the complex area of human-machine interaction. Her research begins from a series of interactive installations that engage the spectator/participant with digital and robotic characters in interplays stimulated by sensory triggered interfaces. Her principal contribution to the field of HRI is the creation of experimental interfaces that allow for the development of haptic and immersive relationships between the participants and the robotic agents. She has created intellectually and emotionally engaging human-machine interfaces that incorporate movement, speech, touch, breath, electrostatic charge, artificial vision, light and text.

In 2003 Velonaki began to work with robotics, initiating and leading a major Australian Research Council Linkage art/science research project Fish-Bird: Autonomous Interactions in a Contemporary Arts Setting (2004-06) in collaboration with robotics scientists at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. Fish-Bird is recognised internationally as a significant artwork and as an exemplary model of fully-engaged interdisciplinary research.

Velonaki has actively advocated the need for a dedicated research space for Social Robotics in Australia. In 2006 she co-founded, with Associate Professor Rye, the Centre for Social Robotics, dedicated to cross-disciplinary research into human-robot interaction in environments that incorporate the general public. In 2007 she was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, and in 2009 she was awarded an ARC Discovery Grant Physicality, tactility, intimacy: interaction between humans and robots (2009-13) and a Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship. She is currently working on applying sensing technology to the humanoid robot Diamandini which is one of the outcomes of this project.

Velonaki is the director of the recently established Creative Robotics Lab at the National Institute of Experimental Arts, COFA, University of New South Wales. Her artworks have been exhibited worldwide, including:  National Art Museum, Beijing; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Korea; ZENDAI Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai; Aros Aarhus Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh; Millennium Museum – Beijing Biennale of Electronic Arts; Ars Electronica, Linz; Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art; Conde Duque Museum, Madrid; European Media Arts Festival, Osnabrück; Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand; Arco, Madrid; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Queensland Art Gallery/GOMA; Art Gallery of New South Wales; Ton-Build-Spektakel, Zurich.