The Poietic Generator is a social network game designed by Olivier Auber in 1986, and developed from 1987 under the label free art thanks to many contributors. The game takes place within a two-dimensional matrix in the tradition of board games and its principle is similar to both Conway's Game of Life and the surrealists' Exquisite corpse.
However, it differs from these models in several respects. It is not an algorithm like Conway's, but human players who control in real-time the graphic elements of a global matrix, on the basis of one unit per person. Unlike the exquisite corpse in which there are always hidden parts, here all the players' actions are visible at all times by each of them. Unlike board games, there is no concept of winning or losing, the goal of the game is simply to collectively draw recognizable forms and to observe how we create them together.
The name "Poietic Generator", derived from the concept of autopoiesis in life sciences (Francisco Varela), and of poietic in philosophy of art (Paul Valéry, René Passeron (French)), illustrates the process of self-organization at work in the continuous emergence of the global picture. Since its inception, the Poietic Generator has been designed as part of a wider action research to create an "Art of Speed".
Rules of the game
Every player draws on a small part of a global mosaic formed by the dynamic juxtaposition of those parts, which are manipulated by all the participants (eventually it will be possible for several thousand players to play simultaneously). Every player can therefore change the sign in his/her square, depending on the overall state of the image, which itself depends on the actions of all the individual players. Out of this cybernetic loop emerges a kind of narrative: autonomous forms, sometimes abstract, sometimes figurative, appear in a completely unpredictable manner and tell stories.
In practice, each player can draw (using a graphics tablet) on a very simple image. This image is limited in size (20×20 pixels) by design. This was done to prevent a single player from drawing figurative signs by himself. The overall image is continuously formed in the style of a spiral, that is to say the sign of the first player occupies the whole image, and the signs of the newcomers are juxtaposed in the first winding around it, and so on. If a player forfeits the game, his/her sign immediately disappears and its position remains empty until another player occupies it. A zoom in/zoom out feature ensures that the image constituted by the juxtaposition of all signs, is permanently visible to all the players.
The Poietic Generator runs on two types of architecture, a centralized network (for versions 1, 3, 4), or an ad hoc distributed network capable of implementing the multicast protocol (case version 2). Therefore no location in the network plays a particular role and according to the rules of the Poietic Generator, an "all-all" interaction may take place without the intervention of any kind of control center.
- Videotex version, developed in C for the French Minitel system (1987)
- IP Multicastversion, developed in C for the Internet Mbone (1995)
- IP Unicast version, developed in Java for the Web (1997)
Since 1987, the Poietic Generator (various versions) inspired many experiments in diverse contexts. The first public experiment was at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1990 as part of the "Communication and monumentality" exhibition. Other museums, art galleries, digital public spaces, festivals, and international conferences, etc. then followed, including the 1991 "Communicating Machines" exhibition by the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie (Paris).
Several experiments were on the periphery of academic research. For instance, experiments were conducted in particular at Telecom ParisTech (where Olivier Auber was a guest artist between 1994 and 1997), during the Internet Mbone experiment (with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Xerox PARC), and at other laboratories. The subjects of the experiments were diverse: network protocols, the process of emergence of forms, human-machine interfaces, collective intelligence, group behavior, etc..
Since 1997, the Poietic Generator is accessible to everyone on the web as a work of free art (under Free Art License from 2002). At the request of various groups of artists, teachers or researchers, this led to several hundred recorded game sessions, some of them commented. In several of these sessions, 70 players participated simultaneously. Several experiments were in kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools (including one experiment linking multiple classrooms).
The most recent event was in the spring of 2011 when 70 people responded to a call on the France Culture radio station to finance the mobile version of the Poietic Generator via the crowd-funded platform KissKissBankBank. This version is currently online (2012).
Position in art history
Several art historians and theorists, including Don Foresta, Gilbertto Prado,  Mario Costa, Caterina Davinio, Jean-Paul Fourmentraux, Louis-José Lestocart, Elisa Giaccardi, Edmond Couchot and Norbert Hillaire, recognize the Poietic Generator as one of the historical works of digital art, interactive art, generative art and Net.art. Please note that the Poietic Generator was born at the time of Minitel, before the invention of the Web (1994), and implemented from 1995 onwards on experimental Multicast networks foreshadowing IPv6. The introduction of the Minitel in France, offered, for the first time in the world, an easy way to implement telematic art. Several French artists attempted somewhat similar experiments, but none of them had the durability of Poietic Generator.
Anne Cauquelin, who deals with the mechanisms of the "system of art" in several of her works, considers the Poietic Generator to be the prototype of a new "cognitive art". This new "cognitive art", following Marcel Duchamp, Yves Klein and Andy Warhol, re-institutes the task of questioning again, and in a more radical way, the "doxa of art".
Like in the Renaissance, art becomes (a) heuristic, a type of missile with the task to explore a continent.
Since 1987, the Poietic Generator directly inspired multiple variations and derivative works. Some of them developed by its original author based on his own research process, some of them by other artists and/or researchers, especially Yann Le Guennec and fr:Albertine Meunier. It has also initiated various experiments with some communities, including some contributors of Wikipedia. As a model, the Poietic Generator directly inspired the work of some architects, planners, research groups working on the "future of money", as well as anthropologists. Indirectly, the Poietic Generator probably inspired many other artists and designers too.
Jean-Paul Fourmentraux, in his classification of Net.art devices, quotes the Poietic Generator as one of the few representatives of the "alteraction" devices category. These type of devices support processes of pure synchronous human communication, free from algorithmic control or the introduction of external data. This alteraction process, envisioned as "an intermediate action which makes one become other" (Philippe Quéau), is outside the field studied by the general theory of games, as its branch covering multiplayer games (coordination games, cooperative games) which does not consider the emergence of meta-levels: specifically the "becoming other". If according to testimony, the Poietic Generator has an amazing ability to immerse its players in a learning process of social phenomena, it is likely that, giving more than living a kind of "conversation", it allows in some degree, access to its model, by observing and interpreting autopoietic phenomena, that is to say truly "living", which take place there. According to Olivier Auber, there would be in the Poietic Generator, intrusion of eigenfrequencies, similar to those existing in other autopoietic systems (cell, cerebral cortex, etc.). Despite their apparent complexity, these temporal phenomena (oscillations between structure and chaos, complexity and simplicity) could be analyzed, even "mathematised", particularly in the light of the simplicity theory (Jean-Louis Dessalles 2008). Structuring phases observed correspond to a "becoming other" (Quéau) of greater "simplicity" (Dessalles). The emergence of these kinds of paradigm shifts would be both unexpected and deterministic.
The Poietic Generator may be seen as a generic model of multiple complex systems (informational, urban, economic, ecological, etc.) to which everyone is confronted daily. But unlike these systems, often opaque about their prerequisites, their rules and infrastructure, the Poietic Generator is perfectly transparent: "everything is known or knowable", in particular the fact that it operates either centrally or without any center. According to Olivier Auber, these two architectures, centered or not, are achieving some forms of "perspective" (within the meaning of the Renaissance) in which the vanishing point lies, in the first case, in a physical center (the server), in the second in a "code" under cover of which the network is sharing information (its sign of recognition in some way). He speaks in the first case of a "temporal perspective" because it is in the center where emerges moment by moment the "proper time" of the network (its rhythmic pulsations). In the second case, he speaks of a "digital perspective" because it is a "code" (an arbitrary number) which is the guarantor of the emergence of the proper time of the network in each of its nodes. These two perspectives are of course not visual as is the case of the spatial perspective, but they share with it some topological and symbolic attributes. In particular, one can speak of "legitimate perspective", as Alberti did in the Renaissance. The Poietic Generator as an Ideal city, implements these two non-visual perspectives, described by Oliver Auber "anoptic perspectives," as perfectly and obvious as possible. Throughout the game, players can gradually take a cognitive step back, and by analogy grasp in thought the nature of the perspectives in question. The hypothesis of Olivier Auber is that these perspectives are exercised within the framework of "real" systems, opaque and complex as mentioned above, and that they shape the imagination and judgment, that is to say the doxa of those who are enrolled in it.
In attempting to uncover the "anoptic perspectives", the Poietic Generator positions itself as a metagame which invites a questioning of the processes of social interaction, especially when they are mediated by technological devices interacting with social networks. For Olivier Auber, the Poietic Generator, as a model and experience available to all, could contribute to "a certain conceptual knowledge (dianoia) of how the doxa is formed and exercised on us, especially through technology". At a time when technical objects are close to the body and are preparing to invade it, the Poietic Generator could help us by providing "a set of conceptual tools for the new "perspecteurs" (Abraham Bosse) that we could all become" in order, he says, to "rethink the imagination of the technology in full light".
That's probably it, the "continent to be explored" mentioned by Anne Cauquelin
Reception by the institutions of research, culture and media
Attempts like this are crucial to emancipate the technology from the status a mere instrument for defined purposes, and to recognize the role that it should have as a creator of culture and practices.
Since the 1990s, many scientists in all disciplines, mention the Poietic Generator as a model which may help to rethink the cultural, even anthropological changing, latent in networks, and especially emphasize the urgency of the "redefinition of the notion of authorship". Some of these researchers brought in a personal support to attempts to practice large-scale experiments using channels such as broadcast television stations, museums, public places, etc. Without listening and support from these institutional broadcasters, few of these projects have been successful. Handicapped by its transdisciplinary or even "undisciplinary" nature, and naturally questioning the legitimacy of human organizations to which it is dealing with, the action research on the Poietic Generator has never found any other field to flourish as the Internet itself. Nevertheless, the Poietic Generator and writings of its author are quoted in many academic thesis, and in at least one "100% plagiarized".
- Olivier Auber, independent researcher, member dof the research cluster of the P2P foundation, affiliated since 2012 to the interdisciplinary research group "Evolution, Complexity and COgnition" (ECCO), Vrije Universiteit Brussel and to the Global Brain Institute
- Prior the free art license (2000), the Poietic Generator had its own free license: http://web.archive.org/web/20020605145918/http://perso.enst.fr/~auber/sommaireA.html#statut
- Poietic Generator's contributors : http://poietic-generator.net/blog/?page_id=91
- Esquisse d'une position théorique pour un art de la vitesse, Olivier Auber, SPEED 1997
- Olivier Auber, in Poietic Generator reloaded, l'aventure peut (re)commencer !
- Vidéotex version for the Minitel system (1987): deprecated.
- IP Multicastversion, developed in C for the Internet Mbone (1995): (Telecom ParisTech server)
- IP Unicast version, developed in Java for the Web (1997)(Olivier Auber's server)
- Play over the web : http://play.poietic-generator.net/
- Android app
- Iphone/Ipad App
- Play via Facebook
- Reference site: http://poietic-generator.net/blog/
- The exhibition "Communication and monumentality" (Centre Georges Pompidou, 1990) presented the seven laureates of the France-Japon Symbol contest launched by Philippe Quéau. The Poietic Generator was one of them: Charles Lenay "The poietic generator - interactive telecommunication artwork". Whole Earth Review. Spring, 1989
- Festival X-00, Lorient, France, 16-19 mars 2000, Théophanie assistée par ordinateur BREAK21 festival - Ljubljana, Slovenie, 11 mai 2000
- Musée Royal de Mariemont : art en ligne · art en réseau · art en mouvement, 6 juin 1999, ARTMEDIA VIII (Paris 2002) - Texte d'Olivier Auber in Dossier Artmedia VIII, in "Ligeia", Paris, 2002, pp. 21-245 (CNRF journal, including Artmedia VIII Proceedings), ARTMEDIA IX (Salerno 2005) - Annonce - Mario Costa (ed.) (2005), Phenomenology of New Tech Arts, Salerno: Università di Salerno (Catalog, pp. 56), WJ-SPOTS#1 (Paris 2009) - Web
- Jean-Louis Boissier, Catalogue de l'exposition « Machines à communiquer faites œuvres », La Communication, Lucien Sfez (éd.), Paris, Presses Universitaires de France et la Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, (1991)
- ProspecTic, nouvelles technologies, nouvelles pensées, Jean-Michel Cornu, FING & Fyp Editions, oct. 2008. (Web)
- Elisa Giaccardi, Center for LifeLong Learning and Design (L3D), Department of Computer Science and Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado : Mediators in Visual Interaction: An Analysis of the “Poietic Generator” and “Open Studio” (PDF)
- Some records: (perspective-numerique.net)
- Some comments: (Transactiv.exe)
- France-Culture, Place de la Toile, 2011.04.10 (Audio)
- A call to finance the mobile version of the Poietic Generator (KissKissBanBank crowdfunding platform)
- Don Foresta : Chronologie historique résumée d'échanges artistiques par télécommunications. Les précurseurs, jusqu'en 1995, avant l'Internet (PDF)
- Gilbertto Prado : CRONOLOGIA DE EXPERIÊNCIAS ARTÍSTICAS NAS REDES DE TELECOMUNICAÇÕES (Web)
- Gilbertto Prado : Arte telemática: dos intercâmbios pontuais aos ambientes virtuais multiusuário (Itaú Cultural:São Paulo,2003) (Web)
- Mario Costa: Internet et globalisation esthétique. L'avenir de l'art et de la philosophie à l'époque des réseaux, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2003 (Google books)
- Caterina Davinio, Tecno-Poesia e realtà virtuali / Techno-Poetry and Virtual Reality, essai (Italian / English). Préface par Eugenio Miccini, Sometti. Collana: Archivio della Poesia del 900, Comune di Mantova, Sometti (I) 2002
- Jean-Paul Fourmentraux, Art et Internet. les nouvelles figures de la création, Paris, CNRS Editions, 2005
- Louis-José Lestocart, Epistémologie de la complexité et art contemporain, Collège de France / PLASTIR, 2007 (PDF)
- Elisa Giaccardi : Interactive Strategies of Network Art, Proceedings of CADE '99: Third Conference on Computers in Art & Design Education”, University of Teesside, 7–9 April 1999. PDF
- Edmond Couchot et Norbert Hillaire : L’art numérique, Éditions Flammarion 2003
- Example of telematic art using Minitel : Image-la-Vallée, vitrail monumental dessiné collectivement par minitel, (Jean-Claude Anglade) 1987. (Web)
- Anne Cauquelin: Fréquenter les incorporels, PUF, collection « Lignes d'art », 2006. Que sais-je ? L’art contemporain, PUF, 9eme édition, mai 2009.
- Anne Cauquelin, , à propros of "cognitive art" in L'art contemporain, PUF (2009), p. 123.
- Olivier Auber, derivative works of the Poietic Generator: L'Anneau France-Japon, 1988 (lauréat du concours du symbole France-Japon, Paris-Kobé, 1988), Le Trésor des Nibelungen, 2001 (Boston CyberArt 2001, ISEA 2001, NibelungenMuseum, Worms 2001), @rbre (open collective memory), 2000 (Tourouvre 2006, Québec 2008), L’Invisible Monument, 2002 (Metz, 2003)
- Elen S. Riot : Olivier Auber, la perspective numérique, in Technology Review, MIT Ed. mars-avril 2008
- Derivative work (Free Art Licence): l’Agrégateur Poïétique (Yann Le Guennec)
- Derivative works (Free Art Licence): BIG PICTURE, A petits pas vers l'annonciation, ballet pour angelinos (Albertine Meunier 2010)
- Derivative experiment: Wikipedia Watchlist, 2006/2008, (WebArchive, meta.wikimedia)
- Atelier urbain du Grand Paris : La cité bionumérique
- Théorie Relative de la Monnaie, Stéphane Laborde, Préface de Yoland Bresson, creationmonetaire.info 2011. [PDF]
- Les monnaies et après ? Inventons ensemble comment donner et échanger au XXIe siècle, sous la direction de Jean-Michel Cornu. Fondation Internet Nouvelle Génération (FING), 2012.
- Sally A. Applin & Michael Fischer: Prospects for Extending User Capabilities Beyond Mixed, Dual and Blended Reality, Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent Canterbury 2012. PDF
- Examples of recent works using some Poietic Generator's principles: Cinematrix (Loren Carpenter, SIGGRAH, 2006), Bar chart for words (Martin Wattenberg, IBM, 2008), Interactive documentaries (Rizomer, 2011)
- Jean-Paul Fourmentraux, Les Dispositifs du Net Art, 2010
- Philippe Quéau : Metaxu : théorie de l'art intermédiaire, Editions Champ Vallon, 1989 - 337 pages
- Jean Petitot, Modèles dynamiques en Sciences cognitives
- Olivier Auber : Perspectives anoptiques : théorie et applications PDF
- simplicity theory (Jean-Louis Dessalles, Telecom Paristech, 2008)
- Olivier Auber : Du Générateur poïétique à la perspective numérique, Revue d'esthétique 43 - 07/2003 - p. 127, oline on Archée, Québec, "The Aestetic of the Digital Perspective", Artmedia VIII, Paris, 2002 (arts.ucla.edu)
- De nouvelles perspectives pour les « réseaux sociaux » ?, conférence dans les cadre des « Entretiens du nouveau monde industriel », Centre Georges Pompidou, 4 octobre 2008 (vidéo)
- Olivier Auber : Perspectives anoptiques : théorie et applications, ibid.
- Isabelle Stengers, lettre de soutien, 1995
- Anne Sauvageot et Michel Léglise, Culture visuelle et art collectif sur le web (PDF)], rapport au Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, 1999 (PDF)
- Chercheurs ayant apporté leur soutien au Générateur Poïétique : Francisco Varela (sciences du vivant) - lettre, Paul Virilio (urbaniste et essayiste) - lettre, Isabelle Stengers (histoire des sciences) - lettre, Bernard Stiegler (philosophie) - lettre, Jean-Pierre Dupuy (philosophie) - lettre, Roy Ascott (arts numériques) - lettre, Fred Forest (art sociologique) - lettre, Jean-Pierre Le Goff - lettre, Pierre Lévy (sciences cognitives) - lettre, Isabelle Rieusset-Lemarié (sciences de l'information) - lettre, Michel Tibon-Cornillot (histoire des sciences), Charles Lenay (histoire des sciences cognitives) - lettre, René Passeron (esthétique) - lettre, Louis Bec (vie artificielle) - lettre, Philippe Coiffet (robotique) - lettre, Pierre Sirinelli (droit) - lettre, Sandra Travers de Faultrier (droit) - lettre, Jean-François Colonna (mathématiques appliquées) - lettre
- Olivier Auber : 'Grandeur et déchéance programmée de l'art numérique en France 2011 (Web)
- Le copyleft appliqué à la création hors logiciel. Une reformulation des données culturelles ?, Antoine Moreau, Université de Nice, 2011 (Web), Sémiotique de la représentation de soi dans les dispositifs interactifs, Fanny Georges, Paris I, 2007 (PDF), Le Net-art, témoin d'une ère post-nationale, Isabelle Lassignardie, Université de Pau, 2003 (Web, Quand un média devient médium Cécile Wekler, Université Paris 3, 2006 (PDF), L’interactivité dans le Web-art Jean-Davis Boussemaer, Université Grenoble 3, 2003 (PDF), Mario Costa et l'esthétique de la communication, Amélie Hamon, Université Paris I, 2006. (PDF), L'art numérique: médiation et mises en exposition d'une esthétique communicationnelle, Lauren Malka, Paris IV, 2005. Web, Les grandes images", Julien Piedpremier, Paris VIII, 2005. PDF, Art Libre : Un enchevêtrement de réseaux discursifs et créatifs ?, Charlotte Bruge. Lille III, 2003 PDF, Art Internet, anatomie de l'echange, Eric Le Maillot, Groupe EAC, 2006 Web
- Étude sur une thèse 100% plagiée (diffusée pendant plusieurs années par l'ANRT) reprenant les textes d'olivier Auber : Archéologie du copier-coller, Jean Noël darde