William Seaman


Professor of Art, Art History and Visual Studies

Research Description

Recombinant Poetics

Seaman's work often explores an expanded media-oriented poetics through various technological means— Recombinant Poetics. Such works often explore the combination and recombination of media elements and processes in interactive and generative works of art. Seaman enfolds image/music/text relations in these works, often creating all of the media elements and articulating the operative media-processes involved. He is self-taught as a musician/composer. Early on he discussed his notion of Structured Improvisation, employing specific fragments of his own improvisations and musical constructions as a compositional method. Initially explored via tape loops and layering processes in the 80's, he now facilitates this compositional methodology using the computer, in particular using the audio program Ableton Live.

Media Research - Recombinant Informatics and Neosentience 
He has been interested in meaning production and has explored ideas around computational meta-meaning systems— systems that enable a user to become mindfully aware of how meaning is arising and changing through their interaction. He is deeply interested in new forms of computation, learning systems, the concept of creating an electrochemical computer, as well as the concept of Computational Creativity – both using the computer as a creative tool, as well as articulating the future of creative potentials as explored via computational devices – the creativity of creativity. He has won a number of awards including two awards from Ars Electronica in Interactive Art; Intel Research Gift (3 years); Awards in the Visual Arts – Rockefeller Foundation; Fulbright Distinguished American Scholar (Senior Technological Specialist); International German Video Art Prize; NEA Fellowship; Semens’ Stipendium; and Leonardo Award for Excellence, among others. He has been commissioned on a number of occasions including William Forsythe and Ballett Frankfurt (Sleepers Guts) for video/set design; the Museum of Image and Sound - MIS Museum, Sao Paulo, Brazil – Architecture of Association (with Daniel Howe); Tanz_Performance Köln – Inversion (with Regina van Berkel); Vision Ruhr — Exchange Fields (with Regina van Berkel); National Gallery of Canada — Red Dice | Des Chiffré; Greatwoods & Leonard Slatkin, Guest Conductor Pittsburgh Symphony — Pictures at an Exhibition (video for live performance); and the Contemporary Art Television Fund (CAT) – The Water Catalogue.

More recently he has been exploring notions surrounding Recombinant Informatics — a multi-perspective approach to inventive knowledge production. The work The Insight Engine explores interactive Koestler-like bisociation processes for the exploration of crossing disciplinary boundaries and stimulating unconventional thought in research. This generative experimental search-engine work was funded by the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and Bass Connections – The Brain and Society. Seaman is currently working on a series of art/science collaborations — poetic installations and scientific research papers. The book Neosentience | The Benevolence Engine with Otto Rössler has come out through Intellect Press exploring the future of AI and Robotics. Ongoing discussions with Rössler and a new book are in the works exploring Rössler's entire research career. He is also collaborating with artist/computer scientist Daniel Howe on multiple works exploring AI and creative writing/multi-media and has completed an album of experimental music with Howe entitled Minor Distance. He has developed a series of new generative works and is undertaking interface research with Todd Berreth. He has also collaborated with Craig Tattersall from The Boats / The Humble Bee, The Remote Viewer et. al. They have finished a large audio work (over 7 hours) entitled Light Folds (working in part with Ciompi Quartet at Duke) and are working on a new album. He also collaborated with vocalist Marissa Bergmann on a new series of sonic works - A solo album called f (noir). Seaman is a member of the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics at Duke and is working on a collaboration with Tuan Vo-Dinh, the Director of the institute, on a project called the Light Data Domain exploring multi-modal sensor transductions and speed of light data transfer. He is a member of the Duke Institute For Brain Sciences. He co-runs The Emergence Lab with John Supko, Media Arts + Sciences at Duke University. Seaman and Supko's album s_traits exploring AI collaboration was discussed in the top 10 for new Classical music in the New York Times in 2012. Seaman and Supko are currently working on a major new collaboration exploring image, music and text relations. Most recently Seaman has also worked with K. Leimar on a series of audio deconstructions - The Pale Catalog; and a new double album that will be out in the spring 2016 - Deformations. Seaman has also done a series of new linear video works to accompany some of the linear audio compositions.

Seaman studied at Rhode Island School of Design (Foundations, Video and Sculpture), The San Francisco Art Institute (Scuplture, Performance, Installation), MIT (Master of Science in Visual Studies), and the University of Wales (at the Center for Advanced Inquiry in Interactive Art) for his PhD. He is currently working on a new book – From the Architecture of Ideas: The Life and Work of Ranulph Glanville, Cybernetician.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor of Art, Art History and Visual Studies
  • Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Contact Information:


  • Ph.D. University of Wales, 1999
  • M.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985
  • B.A. San Francisco Art Institute, 1979

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions:

  • The Insight Engine. DIBS. 2012

Courses Taught:

  • AMI 198: Experimental Interface Design
  • AMI 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • ARTHIST 791: Individual Research in Art History
  • ARTSVIS 130: Experimental Drawing: Image and Bit Play
  • ARTSVIS 198: Experimental Interface Design
  • ARTSVIS 291: Individual Project in the Visual Arts
  • ARTSVIS 491: Independent Study
  • ARTSVIS 497S: Advanced Visual Practice
  • ARTSVIS 498S: Senior Capstone in Visual Practice
  • ARTSVIS 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • ARTSVIS 694: Individual Research Independent Study in the Visual Arts
  • CMAC 791: Individual Research Independent Study
  • ISIS 198: Experimental Interface Design
  • ISIS 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • ISS 198: Experimental Interface Design
  • ISS 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • MUSIC 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • VMS 131: Experimental Drawing: Image and Bit Play
  • VMS 198: Experimental Interface Design
  • VMS 293: Research Independent Study
  • VMS 391: Independent Study
  • VMS 493: Research Independent Study
  • VMS 497S: Advanced Visual Practice
  • VMS 499S: Senior Capstone in Visual & Media Studies
  • VMS 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • VMS 793: Independent Study in Visual and Media Studies

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