Sociable robots, jazz music, and divination: Contingency as a cultural resource for negotiating problems of intentionality

Eitan Wilf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

In practices that range from mechanical divination in Central Africa to gamelike interactions among jazz students and the development of a jazz-improvising humanoid robot marimba player in the United States, contextually meaningful contingency is widely used as a cultural resource for negotiating problems of intentionality. Whereas anthropologists have been concerned with the use of contingency mostly as a cultural resource for increasing predictability of intentions in conflictual situations, I highlight contexts pervaded by modern normative ideals of creativity in which predictability of intentions constitutes a problem, for which contextually meaningful contingency is used as a solution. In practices that range from mechanical divination in Central Africa to gamelike interactions among jazz students and the development of a jazz-improvising humanoid robot marimba player in the United States, contextually meaningful contingency is widely used as a cultural resource for negotiating problems of intentionality. Whereas anthropologists have been concerned with the use of contingency mostly as a cultural resource for increasing predictability of intentions in conflictual situations, I highlight contexts pervaded by modern normative ideals of creativity in which predictability of intentions constitutes a problem, for which contextually meaningful contingency is used as a solution.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)605-618
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Volume40
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Keywords

  • Computerized algorithms
  • Contingency
  • Creativity
  • Intentionality
  • Jazz music
  • Mechanical divination
  • Semiotic mediation

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