“Memory Association Machine:
Study of Cognitive Processes #1″ 2007

PDCON07 Paper (Version of Record)
PDCON07 Paper (Local Copy)

“Memory Association Machine”, working title “Self-Other Organizing Structure #1”, is the first prototype in a series of site-specific responsive installations. Rather than depending on the artist to define how these works relate to their site, the task is given to the artwork itself. The structure of the artwork changes in response to continuous stimulus from its context.

As viewers enter the installation space they are able to see out onto a public area through a large window. Hanging in front of the window is a triptych of screens. The centre screen presents an abstracted collage of images from the area beyond. On the right screen a cinematic montage of images free associate and evolve continuously. The left screen is a live feed from a small robot camera that pans and tilts to examine the world around it.

The installation consists of a computer-controlled camera that is able to look around and inspect its visual context, a computer, and the screens that present the process of contextual negotiation. An artificial neural network creates a field of memories categorized by similarity and presented on the centre screen. A model of creativity explores this memory field, activating different associations between the present context and the system’s past sensory experience and showing that creative act on the right screen.

The image on the centre screen is the memory system of “Memory Association Machine”. The image can be considered a map that plots elements of the systems memory (the collection of images captured by the camera) by similarity. The position of the items of the memory are determined by a Self-Organizing Map which changes its internal structure in an attempt to resolve the world around it.

A model of human creativity, inspired by the work of cognitive scientist Liane Gabora, is implemented on top of this memory system. Gabora’s theory considers creativity as a controlled form of free-association. Each image the camera captures is added to the memory and stimulates this new memory location. This initial stimulation causes those areas nearby (holding similar images) to also be activated. Depending on the organization of the memories this cascade of activation selects a series of images from memory. This process creates a flow of images that resembles how free association could work in the human mind. Memory Association Machine‘s free association is visible on the right screen.

Memory Association Machine is intended to be a creative machine.