Category Archives: science and philosophy

art, science and the meaning of research

open questions for a public dialogue in response to Tim Ingold’s lecture  @ GAM – Galleria d’Arte Moderna within IperPianalto  by andrea caretto | raffaella spagna


1) Responsibility, art and science. Being responsible in modern terms has to do with the ability to predict the future consequences of action in order to make good in the present. Science is traditionally in charge of prediction. This idea begins to unravel as we realize that in a complex world the more we learn about the future the more there is to know and the more uncertain the future becomes. Can art making and research become allies to deal with complexity when we are called to act responsibly? John Cage, Joseph Beuys and the ability to respond to uncertainty and unpredictability. How can we learn to respond to the challenges of our times, to correspond with reality –  as scientists, artists and citizens? 2) Science, art and the dynamics of the market. In its etymological sense, art has to do with “moving towards something”, once again evoking a correspondence with the world. What about the practice of contemporary art? what is  still present, what is lost and what is  transformed of this original meaning? how do the dynamics of the market that undermine the curiosity oriented research in science, limit or eradicate the sense of open correspondence in the practice of art making and fruition? 3) Questioning objectivity, certainty and universality in science (and in art).  How do we cope with the inherent uncertainty of our reality? How can we openly value the subjective nature of research while pursuing its inner quality? How can we learn to include wisdom emerging from different forms knowledge, based on sensitivity to experience?

tools for conviviality

invited artist / scientist @ Senza casa, senza cosa? by Maurizio Cilli for 999  A collection of questions about contemporary living / Triennale di Milano (2018)

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A reflection on the objects that populate the material and immaterial homes of humans and the tools to make them. An open reading and discussion of texts by Ivan Illich, Tim Ingold and Richard Sennet on relationship between people and their instruments, knowing and making, building and dwelling.

walking pianalto

a collective action across the Altopiano of Poirino from Cambiano to Montà d’Alba

invited artist / scientist  @ IperPianalto  by andrea caretto | raffaella spagna for Fondazione Spinola-Banna per l’Arte and GAM – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea of Torino

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Norwergian philosopher Arne Naess argued that ethics depends on how we experience the world, which in turn depends on the power we have at our disposal. Defined as energy over time, power is a physical variable that influences our perception of distances and how we interact with our outer and inner reality.

A reflection on the use of the body’s metabolic power to experience time and space, through walking.

A collective use of Polaroid with the awareness that picture taking is rooted in our way of being and moving: our physical, mental and emotional posture.

A reading of “speed stunned imagination” from energy and equity by Ivan Illich.


when the earth shakes…and science with it

the management and communication of uncertainty in the L’Aquila earthquake

new paper the Journal Futures,  with Bruna De Marchi

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In the spring of 2009, a strong earthquake shook the Italian city of L’Aquila and the region surrounding it. Besides the tragedy of human and material losses, the disaster triggered an unprecedented series of legal consequences. In this paper, we take the L’Aquila case, in all its psychological, social and legal controversies as exemplary for reflecting on how uncertainty can be recognized, treated and communicated in the context of mass emergencies. We examine the inherent path-dependency and multidimensional nature of uncertainty by projecting it along a number of axes, analyzing how the different components evolve and interact with each other. We show that contradictions, controversies and conflicts are bound to arise in the practice of expert advice for public policy as a result of: 1) the improper reduction of the overall situational uncertainty to its scientific component only; 2) the treatment and communication of scientific uncertainty as an independent variable that can be analyzed and computed in isolation from ethical, political and societal concerns. Finally, we provide some suggestions about a more integrated approach to expert advice for public policy.

what I cannot create, I do not understand @ GAM

lecture performance @  GAM – Galleria di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea – Torino

in Atlante Energetico – curated by Elena Mazzi for Fondazione Spinola-Banna per l’Arte and GAM

video, still images, blackboard and words


The project inspired by Richard Feynman’s quote on his last blackboard at Cal Tech continues to develop in the shape of a multimedia lecture performance at the contemporary art museum of Torino.

It is a story about the delicate and mutable relationship between knowing and making; discovery and invention; science, technology and governance. Three chapters range from the making of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos (1940s), the Challenger disaster (1980s) and the emerging technologies in the field of ICT and synthetic biology (2010s).

what I cannot create, I do not understand @ SVT

Richard Feynman and the quality of science

public talk @  Post-Normal Times? New thinking about science and policy advice, SVT Bergen


A reflection about different ways to define and assess quality in science, through the transitional key figure of Richard Feynman. Renowned theoretical physicists, Nobel Prize recipient, great communicator and educator, Feynman has been the perfect candidate for granting the advent of new technoscientific endeavors with the epistemic and moral authority of Mertonian science, while at the same time redefining it from within: by intersecting and blurring the boundaries between knowing and making, discovery and invention, curiosity-oriented science, corporate technoscience and democratized DIY experimentation. A historical, epistemic exploration of the ‘real’, fictional and constructed role of Richard Feynman is performed ironically: by appropriating and interpreting parts of the available material by and about him, in episodes ranging from his (actual or symbolic) involvement in the Manhattan Project, the investigation of the Challenger disaster, the birth of nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

la demarcazione della scienza come problema pratico

seminario @ Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia di Milano

Corso di Comunicazione della Scienza per Ricercatori Vincitori di Borse Cariplo


Filosofi e sociologi della scienza si sono a lungo confrontati con il problema della demarcazione della scienza come questione analitica: l’identificazione delle caratteristiche uniche ed essenziali che distinguono i processi e i prodotti della ricerca scientifica dalle altre attività speculative. Tuttavia, la demarcazione della scienza può essere considerata anche come una questione eminentemente pratica: il tentativo, non solo da parte di filosofi e sociologi ma anche di scienziati, funzionari pubblici e imprenditori, di legittimare le proprie visioni del mondo, sistemi di conoscenza e potere, attraverso una varietà di repertori retorici. Queste strategie di demarcazione definiscono e implicano una varietà di possibili relazioni tra la scienza, la tecnologia e la sfera normativa della democrazia, lungo una traiettoria che trae le sue origini nella Rivoluzione Scientifica e l’istituzione dello Stato Moderno.

Come sono stati definiti nel tempo i confini che separano la ricerca e l’applicazione scientifica dalle altre attività umane? da chi e a quale scopo? Nell’indagare queste domande, si distinguono tre principi di demarcazione, tre assi che definiscono un possibile sistema di riferimento all’interno del quale esaminare i rapporti tra scienza e democrazia: la separazione, l’ibridazione e la sostituzione. Il primo si riferisce all’ideale separazione tra i fatti della scienza e i valori dei processi di governo, e al corrispondente duplice sistema di legittimazione che regola la relazione moderna tra il sapere e il potere. In questa prospettiva, l’incertezza e la complessità sono idealmente esternalizzate dall’ambito della conoscenza e ricerca scientifica. Il secondo corrisponde alla transizione dalla scienza fondata sulla curiosità, alla scienza industriale, la cosiddetta big science, in cui scienza e tecnologia, scoperta e invenzione, fatti e valori sono ibridati in imprese tecnoscientifiche. In questo caso, l’incertezza e la complessità non possono essere efficacemente estromesse, e sono ridotte e idealmente controllate attraverso la valutazione e la gestione quantitativa del rischio. Il terzo principio riguarda l’ideale sostituzione delle risorse naturali con gli artefatti tecnoscientifici, dei processi decisionali con la gestione dei dati, del comprendere con il fare, e da ultimo della scienza con la tecnologia. In questo scenario, i valori sono sostituiti con i fatti nel senso che le questioni normative sono ridotte e trasformate in problemi tecnici, da risolvere con strumenti tecnoscientifici. In questo caso, la complessità e l’incertezza sono riconosciute, per essere ingegnerizzate e idealmente eliminate.

Nell’esplorare lo spazio definito da questi tre assi, è possibile aprire delle strade di riflessione comune sul mutevole significato del termine ‘scienza’, spesso definito e legittimato – i.e. demarcato ­– in modo implicito e non condiviso.

do we really want and need to be smart?

public talk @ Human Entities – Culture in the Age of Semi-Autonomous Machines

Lecture Series organised by CADA in partnership with the Architecture Triennale Lisbon


Emergent information and communication technologies (ICT), such as the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), constantly redefine the texture of our culture, society and lifestyle, raising a number of fundamental epistemic, normative and ethical issues, in a constant co-evolution. These technologies are constructed, named, offered, and ultimately regulated, according to and through specific techno-scientific imaginaries, here defined as collections of visual and verbal metaphors that are created and communicated both in the specialized literature and in the mass media for the public at large.

Wonder, power, control and urgency can be defined as standard imaginaries of techno-scientific innovation: the fundamental axes defining an ideal space in which the multifaceted vision of the IoT can be projected and analyzed, in terms of what we want (wonder), we can (power and control) and we need (urgency) to be smart. Within this ideal space, we will examine together a variety media available on the web and produced by some of the key actors of the IoT revolution.

This exploration leads to an open-ended reflection on the underlying aims and contradictions of the ICT enhancement, in relation to the possible decline of some of the fundamental attributes of our integrity and agency.