Welcome to my research site

Welcome to my research website. Most of my contributions are made in the form of publications in journals, books or conference proceedings. Please visit the publication page to see the full list of publications (all downloadable). You can also visit my Research pages where I summarize my research lines. Ocasionally, I write posts with some ideas, material, or to announce some publication or changes in my academic life. See below. And welcome.

Interaction Dynamics and Autonomy

maguilera_thesis-2I am glad to post that Miguel Aguilera presented his PhD thesis and is now officially a doctor in cognitive science by the University of Zaragoza. His thesis “Interaction Dynamics and Autonomy in Cognitive Systems” is a rare, challenging, broad, audacious and brilliant contribution to the study of autonomous systems. How does a “self” or an “autonomous system” emerge and constitute itself through interactions with the environment? It seems the answer is impossible to provide, you need to have a self, an identity, before it starts interacting with the environment, but, at the same time, some forms of sensorimotor or cognitive identity emerge and sustain themselves through interactions. You are an example yourself: your identity is the result of your actions, and your actions are caused by you. How could this be? Can we formalize and model this type of emergence of autonomous organizations through interactions? This is the fundamental question addressed by Dr. Aguilera. And the results are innovative, profound, operational and insightful. The core of the thesis is a robotic model capable to switch spontaneously between different behavioural preferences, and whose control architecture is itself a novel contribution to robotics: a kuramoto oscillatory network whose connections plastically change so as to keep macroscopic relationships homeostatic. The robot is a system that is capable to maintain its own behavioural organization while shifting preferences. Nothing is hard-coded, the controller is designed using a carefully scaffolded evolutionary optimization algorithm that gave rise to a complex dynamical system that shows macroscopic properties that emerge from distributed interactive processes at different timescales.

But this is not the major contribution of the thesis.
Continue reading “Interaction Dynamics and Autonomy”

Autonomy and Enactivism

Screenshot_enactivism-autonomy
I have finished the last revision of journal paper entitle “Autonomy and Enactivism“. It explores the conceptual tension between the concept of autonomy (self-organized closure of neural activity) and the sensorimotor constitution of cognition. I have long witnesses a generalized confusion, whose roots I explore in the paper, between two major schools of enactivism (the cognitive science paradigm that focuses on sensorimotor coupling and self-organized dynamics of brain, body and environment). On the one hand what I have called “sensorimotor enactivism”, a school that has gained momentum thanks to the work of Alva Noë and Kevin O’Regan on sensorimotor contingencies. On the other hand what I have called “autonomist enactivism” with a particular focus on biological embodiment and the self-organized nature of brain and body. The gap between both schools has being growing recently, partly motivated by the lack of a clear notion of sensorimotorly constituted neurodynamic autonomy. Building upon the work I have been doing with my colleagues (Di Paolo, Buhrman, Santos, Aguilera and Bedia) during the last years I hope to have contributed to the compatibility and mutual reinforcement between both schools of thought. It is a long paper, and the contribution does not limit to a historical or contingent dispute between schools of thought: the reconciliation demands to develope a theory of sensorimotor autonomous agency and touches upon foundational aspects of cognitive science, from the emergence of norms to the epistemology of mechanistic explanations.

Continue reading “Autonomy and Enactivism”

Everything you need to know about Bitcoin, Blockchain and Ethereum in less than 90 minutes of short videos

In less than 90 minutes of short videos you should be able to understand how Bitcoin, Blockchain and Ethereum works, how is it possible to create applications, contracts, democratic systems or value exchange and reputation systems that are incorruptible, decentralized, without intermediaries, secure, impossible to censor and verifiable. Without magic.

Original picture by Jason Benjamin, on the Public Domain at Flickr
Original picture by Jason Benjamin, on the Public Domain at Flickr

Projects like Bitcoin, Blockstream or Ethereum are about to change the world in irreversible and unpredictable ways (much like the internet did in the 90s) through the Blockchain technology. It makes possible to create things like digital nations, cryptocurrency based universal basic income, autonomous democratic organizations, adaptive employment networks without intermediate management, or incorruptible distributed computers that run on “ether”. If you don’t know what I am talking about or if you don’t believe that any of these makes sense at all, you should watch these videos now:

Understanding the Blockchain technology is very important if you want to acquire the capacity to think and imagine what is possible to do with it, why, how and to which extend we can trust it and how to start using these tools without blindly having to trust third party gurus or applications. More importantly, if you don’t think there can be anything good coming out of a digital currency, you need to understand it first. You won’t be able to critize Bitcoin, explore its deepest implications or fight against its most potentially harmful effects if you don’t understand how the Blockchain works. I am myself skeptical about the potential of Blockchain technologies to challenge the existing injustices and social and economy power struggles. But I want to understand the future. And the Blockchain is here to stay.

Continue reading “Everything you need to know about Bitcoin, Blockchain and Ethereum in less than 90 minutes of short videos”

The multitudinous autonomous collective identity of the 15M

We just published a beautiful paper trying to understand the structure and dynamics of the 15M communication networks and they way in which they give rise to forms of collective identity.

Network analysis of the multitudinous collective identity of the 15M network (green)
Network analysis of the multitudinous collective identity of the 15M network (green) compared to traditional labour unions (in red). Click on the picture to enlarge.

Abstract: The emergence of network-movements since 2011 has opened the debate around the way in which social media and networked practices make possible innovative forms of collective identity. We briefly review the literature on social movements and “collective identity”, and show the tension between different positions stressing either organization or culture, the personal or the collective, aggregative or networking logics. We argue that the 15M (indignados) network-movement in Spain demands conceptual and methodological innovations. Its rapid emergence, endurance, diversity, multifaceted development and adaptive capacity, posit numerous theoretical and methodological challenges. We show how the use of structural and dynamic analysis of interaction networks (in combination with qualitative data) is a valuable tool to track the shape and change of what we term the “systemic dimension” of collective identities in network-movements. In particular, we introduce a novel method for synchrony detection in Facebook activity to identify the distributed, yet integrated, coordinated activity behind collective identities. Applying this analytical strategy to the 15M movement, we show how it displays a specific form of systemic collective identity we call “multitudinous identity”, characterized by social transversality and internal heterogeneity, as well as a transient and distributed leadership driven by action initiatives. Our approach attends to the role of distributed interaction and transient leadership at a mesoscale level of organizational dynamics, which may contribute to contemporary discussions of collective identity in network-movements.

  • Monterde, A., Calleja-López, A., Aguilera, M., Barandiaran, X. E., & Postill, J. (2015). Multitudinous identities: a qualitative and network analysis of the 15M collective identity. Information, Communication and Society, doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1043315
  • Planificación estratégica y gestión de proyectos

    Diagrama de Gantt de un proyecto
    Diagrama de Gantt de un proyecto. By perhapstoopink con licencia CC-by. Tomado de Flickr

    Comienza el curso y en muchos ámbitos laborales, sociales, institucionales y académicos hay que desarrollar proyectos, planificar, decidir sobre cómo vamos a organizarnos, calendarizar, ajustar presupuestos, fijar objetivos, en definitiva planificar. El mundo de la planificación es complejísimo, está lleno de opciones, diferentes filosofías y multitud de herramientas. Aquí repasamos algunas de ellas. Nos hemos centrado en las herramientas y filosofías de la planificación y gestión de proyectos que vienen del mundo del software libre por dos motivos: a) porque la complejidad de los procesos de desarrollo de software es suficientemente grande como para que los métodos sean útiles en casi cualquier otro ámbito de organización de procesos y b) porque es en el mundo del software libre donde encontramos el mayor ejemplo de gestión colaborativa y abierta (frente a las herramientas de gestión y planificación de proyectos del mundo empresarial o institucional más clásicos).

    Continue reading “Planificación estratégica y gestión de proyectos”

    Libro “Buen Conocer / FLOK Society”

    0_0_0000_-_00PORTADA_buen-conocer

    Hoy mismo se presenta (por fin!) el libro que recoge gran parte de los resultados del proyecto Buen Conocer / FLOK Society en el que he estado involucrado desde sus orígines, hace ahora dos años. El equipo de aLabs ha realizado un excelente trabajo con la página web del libro. Como asesor de la edición digital me siento, por primera vez, ante una web que hace justicia al contenido y a la forma en que un libro debe insertarse en el ciberespacio: con copyleft, con una estructura clara, con la posibilidad de descargar los capítulos por separado, con varios formatos abiertos disponibles (html, PDF, ePub, ODT), con metadatos que permiten automáticamente clasificar los contenidos en gestores bibliográficos y facilitar la busqueda, y, no menos importante, con una estética funcional, clara y atractiva.

    Pero lo que realmente merece la atención es el contenido del libro. Son un total de unas 800 páginas (dependiendo de la edición), agrupadas en 12 documentos de políticas públicas y diseño de modelos sostenibles de producción y consumo orientados a construir alternativas viables y democráticas fuera del modelo del capitalismo cognitivo, fuera del formato de la propiedad intelectual, orientados siempre hacia la exploración de la potencia del conocimiento libre, común y abierto, como verdadero motor de una economía social. Todo un reto que ha requerido la colaboración de cientos de personas.

    Entre otras funciones de edición he tenido el honor de ser coautor (junto a David Vila-Viñas) de dos capítulos del libro (además de la introducción):

    Neurociencia y Tecnopolítica

    tecnopolitica-15

    Acaba de publicarse Tecnopolítica y 15M: La potencia de las multitudes conectadas, una obra colectiva coordinada y escrita en mayor parte por Javier Toret y en la que he contribuído con un capítulo titulado Neurociencia y tecnopolítica (escrito junto a Miguel Aguilera) con el objetivo de explorar la analogía entre las formas de emergencia de la consciencia a través de la coordinación a gran escala de la actividad neuronal, por un lado, y la emergencia de la consciencia colectiva a través de la actividad coordinada en las redes sociales. El libro entero es de recomendable lectura, pero si no te da tiempo, el capítulo de Neurociencia y tecnopolítica es un buen resumen de algunas de las ideas más importantes del libro. Puedes descargarte directamente el capítulo pinchando en el enlace:

    A genealogical map of the concept of habit

    Genealogical map for the concept of habitTogether with Ezequiel Di Paolo, we have just published a paper that is the result of a long lasting research (it is more than 6 years now since we started this project!) of doing a history of the notion of habit, to rescue it as a theoretical primitive for cognitive (neuro)science. The paper is entitled “A genealogical map of the concept of habit“, published at Frontiersin, within a special issue on habit. The work is presented as a mini-review focusing on a genealogical map of the historical trends and influences of the habit concept from Greece to 1980s. Different versions of the map of the genealogy of the concept of habit are available to donwload for future development.

    ABSTRACT: The notion of information processing has dominated the study of the mind for over six decades. However, before the advent of cognitivism, one of the most prominent theoretical ideas was that of Habit. This is a concept with a rich and complex history, which is again starting to awaken interest, following recent embodied, enactive critiques of computationalist frameworks. We offer here a very brief history of the concept of habit in the form of a genealogical network-map. This serves to provide an overview of the richness of this notion and as a guide for further re-appraisal. We identify 77 thinkers and their influences, and group them into seven schools of thought. Two major trends can be distinguished. One is the associationist trend, starting with the work of Locke and Hume, developed by Hartley, Bain, and Mill to be later absorbed into behaviorism through pioneering animal psychologists (Morgan and Thorndike). This tradition conceived of habits atomistically and as automatisms (a conception later debunked by cognitivism). Another historical trend we have called organicism inherits the legacy of Aristotle and develops along German idealism, French spiritualism, pragmatism, and phenomenology. It feeds into the work of continental psychologists in the early 20th century, influencing important figures such as Merleau-Ponty, Piaget, and Gibson. But it has not yet been taken up by mainstream cognitive neuroscience and psychology. Habits, in this tradition, are seen as ecological, self-organizing structures that relate to a web of predispositions and plastic dependencies both in the agent and in the environment. In addition, they are not conceptualized in opposition to rational, volitional processes, but as transversing a continuum from reflective to embodied intentionality. These are properties that make habit a particularly attractive idea for embodied, enactive perspectives, which can now re-evaluate it in light of dynamical systems theory and complexity research.

    Devenir Pachamama del Conocimiento, Designing the FLOK society

    For the last couple of weeks I have been involved in a fascinating project: to help Ecuador design a new productive matrix based on an open and commons knoledge society. No researcher in the world can respond to this challenge on her own, so I (we) have decided to offer a participatory research process that could potentially meet the challenge. Below you can download what we call “the mother document” where we detail (in Spanish) the theoretical and political framework of the process, its diferent stages and the design of the collaborative research and production architecture. Donwload mother document.

    Documento madre de propuesta de arquitectura de la participación para un proceso de investigación y producción de 10 documentos base que permitan al Ecuador cambiar a una matriz productiva del conocimiento común y abierto.
    Documento madre de propuesta de arquitectura de la participación para un proceso de investigación y producción de 10 documentos base que permitan al Ecuador cambiar a una matriz productiva del conocimiento común y abierto.