Project published with extended paper in Leonardo, April 2020

Toward a Critical NeuroArt in Critical Neuroscience

Critical Neuroscience proposes a scholarly practice that "responds to the social and cultural challenges posed both to the field of science and to society in general by recent advances in the behavioural and brain sciences" (Choudhury, Nagel & Slaby, 2009, p. 62). Inclusive in the effort is a consideration of how power relations and discourses of consumerism and Capitalism are reified or reconfigured by the neurosciences. Accordingly, Critical Neuroscience tends to examine scientific processes of development and socio-cultural incorporation, looking often at "a gap between promises and expectations [of neuroscience] on the one hand and knowledge and applications on the other"(Schleim, 2014).

To contribute to Critical Neuroscience and encourage examination of popular neuroscience — which is so often charged with propagating "mindless" views (Satel & Lilienfeld, 2015), "uncritical" applications (Racine et al., 2005), and inordinately "seductive" appeals (Weisberg et al., 2008) — I offer Critical NeuroArt as creative intervention into the social roles, positioning, and comprehension of neuroscience. Because art interrogates social, cultural, and material relationships and fosters audience engagement, it should not be discounted in efforts to build a Critical Neuroscience.

Here, I present 'The Neuro News Generator,' a simple work made with the Processing programming language. The piece aims for "awareness of the social implications of research and its uses" (Choudhury, Nagel & Slaby, 2009, p. 62), presenting a game-like, cheeky parody of popular neuroscience news. The work highlights how a program of Critical NeuroArt need not rely upon complex, expensive productions or big STEM grants. I intend to encourage the performance of Critical Neuroscience, celebrating playful, imaginative forms of scholarship that call to attention the complexities of neuroscience and the gaps between brain research and how it is represented or applied.

  • The Neuro News Generator randomly generates 'hot topic' words to complete formulaic pop neuro headlines, foregrounding stock phrases that uncritically stage neuroscience as the final word on the 'realness' of some belief or habit (See work on 'neuro-realism').
  • Created by D.R. Gruber, 2017