Direct Democracy: Participation without Populism?

June 24, 2019

6pm Chatham House – London

To watch the video from the event please click below.

In recent years, the rise of populism in the West, China’s growing influence in global governance and Russia’s alleged interference in foreign elections have prompted a deep rethink of how democratic systems work – and how they don’t work. Increasingly, liberal democracies are accused of failing to address the dislocations of globalization and the role of technology in amplifying tribalism thus polarizing societies and paralyzing governments.

Against this backdrop, the panellists will consider whether and how democratic systems can be rethought and rejuvenated in the 21st century. What new ideas, partnerships and frameworks of governance have the potential to renew existing institutions of democracy? Can social networks and digitization be used to deepen political engagement and empower direct participation without fuelling populism? And is it possible to reconcile the power of direct participation with the values of deliberation, pluralism and compromise?

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.