For the past few years I have been investigating cybernetics and systems theory, phenomenology and artificial intelligence in various mediums and contexts. Exploring an artist-as-researcher approach which combines new technologies, inquiry into emerging or abandoned lines of research and traditional scholarly writing. Researching if and how interactive/new media arts can amplify a sense of what I characterize as reciprocal coupling and co-evolution with an increasingly technologized environment.
Most recently, I have begun to forge a new direction in my work centered on ecology, new media technology and community engagement. Currently pursuing an arts and technology initiative that aims to address the ecological and environmental health concerns of local communities via novel and creative uses of environmental sensing and renewable energy technologies. I have also been investigating eco-art practices and eco-philosophy or “ecosophy”. Increasingly interested in issues related to art-science collaboration and with bringing the often abstract and esoteric ideas of science and technology “down to earth”.
General Research Areas

Co-evolutionary Experience in Interactive/New Media Art

In my research to this point, I have utilized discursive argumentation in addition to artistic and first-person explorations in order to build the foundations of a theoretical framework that can be used to examine how our bodies experience and adapt to an increasingly technologized environment, how this environment may be reconfiguring our lived experience and how the amplified experiences of the arts can make us aware of this dynamic. My dissertation, titled “Symbiogenic Experience and the Emergent Arts”, features the intertwinement of techno-scientific artwork and scholarly writing mentioned above. In it, I navigate various theories of ontology in order identify a range of interactive/new media artworks that, in phenomenal terms, set themselves apart as distinct forms of art experience by amplifying a sense of what I characterize as reciprocal coupling and co-evolution with an increasingly technologized environment. I refer to these works collectively as the “emergent arts”. I then utilize these artworks (which include recent work of my own) to expand upon philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s embodied phenomenology and link it with neocybernetic theory and the material practices of cybernetics. All of this establishes a foundation for then explicating the central characteristics of the unique experiences offered by the emergent arts, experiences that I refer to as “symbiogenic”.


  • Castellanos, C. (2012). “Ambiguity and Unknowability in the Emergent Arts”. Presented at the Society of Literature, Science and the Arts, Milwaukee, Wisconsin., accessed December 11, 2013.
  • Castellanos, C. & Barnes, S. (2012). Biopoiesis. In Leonardo 45.1, pp. 382-383.
  • Castellanos, C., & Gromala, D. (2010). The Symbiogenic Experience: Towards a Framework for Understanding Human-Machine Coupling in the Interactive Arts. In Technoetic Arts Journal, 8(1), 11-18.
  • Castellanos, C., & Gromala, D. (2009). Symbiogenic Experiences in the Interactive Arts. Digital Arts & Culture Conference, 2009 (7 pgs), Irvine, CA., accessed May 4, 2011.
  • Castellanos, C., & Gromala, D. (2009). The Symbiogenic Experience: Towards a Framework for Understanding Human-Machine Coupling in the Interactive Arts. Consciousness Reframed 2009, 10th Annual Planetary Collegium Research Conference (7pgs), Munich., accessed May 4, 2011.
  • Castellanos, C., & Gromala, D. (2009). The Symbiogenic Art Experience: A Phenomenological and Aesthetic Approach to the Question of Human-Machine Co-evolution. Presented at the Society of Literature, Science and the Arts Annual Conference, Atlanta., accessed May 4, 2011.
  • Licklider, J. C. R. (1960). Man-Computer Symbiosis. Human Factors in Electronics, IRE Transactions on, HFE-1(1), 4-11.
  • Page, R. M. (1962). Man-Machine Coupling – 2012 A.D. Proceedings of the IRE, 50(5), 613-614.

“Symbiotic Intelligence” and “Technogenesis” in the Interactive Arts

Themes of co-evolution and symbiosis are of course not uncommon in the interactive arts, as the work of Stelarc and Ken Rinaldo (to give just two examples) shows. The theorists discussed here outline a domain of art experience and analysis that examines, bears witness to, and engages with the observation that humans are increasingly cooperating and merging with the intelligent technological systems of their environment. From Jack Burnham’s “symbiotic intelligence” to Gordon Pask’s “ambiguity of role” to Mark Hansen’s embodied technicity and technogenesis, there is a conception of interactive art that as art that — whether directly discernible or not — exhibits a certain level of agency, novel forms of animism, autonomy, which leads to engage in reciprocal couplings with it of one sort or another. The work of all the artists reviewed in this research can be read across the three broad but interrelated concepts of emergence, autonomy and interactivity. My treatment of these concepts draws primarily from cybernetics and autopoietic theory. This aspect of the research provides at least a provisional overview of these concepts as well as insight into how they can be thought of within an arts context.


  • Burnham, J. (1970). The Aesthetics of Intelligent Systems. In On the Future of Art, 95–122. New York: Viking Press.
  • Castellanos, C., Gromala, D. & Pasquier, P. (2010). Heterogenesis: Collectively Emergent Autonomy. Workshop on Interactive Multimedia Installations and Digital Art, ICME 2010 (pp. 1606-1611), Singapore.
  • Goodal, J. (2005). The Will to Evolve. In Stelarc: The Monograph, edited by Marquard Smith, 1-31. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Hansen, M. B. N. (2006).Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media. New York: Routledge.
  • Pask, G. (1971). A Comment, a Case History, and a Plan. In Cybernetics, Art, and Ideas., edited by Jasia Reichardt, 76–99. London: Studio Vista.
  • Rinaldo, K. (1998). The Flock. In Leonardo 315, 405-407.

Self-organization and Emergent Phenomena

I often apply concepts such as self-organization, autonomy and emergence to both my theoretical work and my artistic practice. I believe that we can look at certain interactive artworks as helping to bring concepts like emergence and interactivity down to earth, down to the level of aesthetic experience. An extensive analysis can be done relating to various theoretical aspects of intelligent systems that have appealed greatly to artists. Ideas such as co-evolution of humans and machines or biology and technology; notions of symbiosis, perspectives on agency, the nature of autonomy, self-organization, heterogeneity; the list is almost endless. Much like a conceptual framework for the studying the aesthetics of interaction (which is still in its early stages), it might also be useful to speak of an aesthetics of evolution or self-organization for example. Again, the list could be quite large. Perhaps new models of analysis appropriate for the study of complex, dynamic systems need to be developed when we speak of art that utilizes intelligent systems, for art is no longer merely expression and technology is not merely technical. Thus, the artist-researcher’s role should necessarily be partly theoretical and wholly, indeed radically, experimental.


  • Cariani, P. (1992). Emergence and Artificial Life. In C. G. Langton, C. Taylor, J. D. Farmer, & S. Rasmussen (Eds.), Artificial Life II, Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, vol X (pp. 775-797). Redwood City, CA: Addison-Wesley.
  • Castellanos, C., Gromala, D. & Pasquier, P. (2010). Heterogenesis: Collectively Emergent Autonomy. Workshop on Interactive Multimedia Installations and Digital Art, ICME 2010 (pp. 1606-1611), Singapore.
  • Guattari, F. (2001). Machinic Heterogenesis. In D. Trend (Ed.), Reading Digital Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Hansen, M. B. N. (2009). System-Environment Hybrids. In B. Clarke & M. B. N. Hansen (Eds.), Emergence and Embodiment : New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory (pp. 113-142). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Varela, F. J. (1981). Autonomy and Autopoiesis. In G. Roth & H. Schwelger (Eds.), Self-Organizing Systems: An Interdisciplinary Approach (pp. 14-23). New York: Campus Verlag.
  • Whitelaw, M. (2004). Metacreation: Art and Artificial Life (illustrated edition.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cybernetics and Intelligent Systems

Certain relevant technological aspects of my research and artistic practice entail the adaptation of various cybernetic, and artificial intelligence techniques. Most of these come from technologists whose research methods or views resonate with the phenomenological view that holds that mind, body and world are inextricable. Examples include reinforcement learning and the electrochemical machines of Gordon Pask.


  • Brooks, Rodney A. (1986). A Robust Layered Control System for a Mobile Robot. IEEE Journal of Robotics and Automation 2(1), 14-23.
  • Cariani, P. (1993). To evolve an ear: epistemological implications of Gordon Pask’s electrochemical devices. Systems Research, 10(3), 19-33.
  • Collins, Nick. (2008). Reinforcement Learning for Live Musical Agents. Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference. Belfast, Northern Ireland.
  • Pask, Gordon (1971). A comment, a case history and a plan. In Jasia Reichardt (Ed.) Cybernetics, Art, and Ideas. London: Studio Vista (pp. 76-99).
  • Pask, G. (1960). The Natural History of Networks. In M. C. Yovits & S. Cameron (Eds.), Self-Organizing Systems: Proceedings of an International Conference, 5 and 6 May (pp. 232-263). New York: Pergamon Press.
  • Pickering, Andrew (2007). Ontological Theatre: Gordon Pask, Cybernetics, and the Arts. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 14(4), 43-57.

Embodiment and Computational Systems

In the broadest sense I am interested in the coupling of human and machine, what this means for our lived embodied experience. I do not to study entire fields of physiological or biomedical research but rather those whose technological aspects are relevant for my research and which contain specific methods and techniques that I utilize in my artistic practice. Examples include sensory substitution and physiological monitoring (e.g. biofeedback).


  • Kaczmarek, K. A., Webster, J. G., Bach-y-Rita, P., & Tompkins, W. J. (1991). Electrotactile and Vibrotactile Displays for Sensory Substitution Systems. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 38(1), 1-16.
  • Miranda, E. R., & Wanderley, M. (2006). Biosignal Interfaces. New Digital Musical Instruments: Control And Interaction Beyond the Keyboard (pp. 173-217). Middleton, WI: A-R Editions.
  • Saunders, F. A. (1983). Information Transmission Across the Skin: High-Resolution Tactile Sensory Aids for the Deaf and the Blind. International Journal of Neuroscience, 19(1), 21-28.


As much of my research deals with highly subjective phenomenon, analyzing these experiences necessitates a methodology that takes experience — particularly mind/body experience — seriously. Thus my core research method and philosophical approach is currently founded upon phenomenology, particularly the existentialist is a phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Phenomenology, in the context of my research is a philosophical method based upon systematic and rigorous reflection on, and analysis of, the structures of consciousness and the phenomena which appear to it. Existential phenomenology is a form of phenomenology which studies concrete human existence, including our experiences and actions in concrete situations.


  • Dreyfus, H. L., & Dreyfus, S. E. (1999). The Challenge of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Embodiment for Cognitive Science. In G. Weiss & H. F. Haber (Eds.), Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture (pp. 103-120).
  • Gallagher, S. (1995). Body Schema and Intentionality. In J. L. Bermúdez, A. J. Marcel, & N. Eilan (Eds.), The Body and the Self (pp. 225-244). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Merleau-Ponty, M. (2002). Phenomenology of Perception. (C. Smith, Tran.) (2nd ed.). London/New York: Routledge.

For a complete list of publications please see my cv