William Seaman


Professor of Art, Art History and Visual Studies

Research Description
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. He often collaborates with others in terms of his musical output.
Media Research - Recombinant Informatics and  Neosentience
Seaman 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 came out through Intellect Press. It  explores the history as well as the future of AI and Robotics. Ongoing discussions with Rössler and a new book are in the works exploring Rössler's entire research career. Seaman has also collaborated 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 Matthew Kenny. 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 ollaborated with vocalist Marissa Bergmann on a new  series of sonic works - A solo album called f (noir). 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 experimental Opera called The Oper& exploring image, music and text relations.
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.
Generative poetic systems, interactive art, experimental art, music, installation art,  generative computational tools, new forms of computation, recombinant informatics, recombinant poetics

Appointments and Affiliations

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

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 114 S. Buchanan Blvd, Room A260, Bay 10, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 684-2499
  • Email Address: bill.seaman@duke.edu
  • Websites:


  • Ph.D. University of Wales (United Kingdom), 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

  • ARTHIST 491: Independent Study
  • ARTHIST 492: Independent Study
  • ARTSVIS 130: Experimental Drawing: Image and Bit Play
  • ARTSVIS 135: Experimental Sculpture and Installation Art
  • ARTSVIS 198: Experimental Interface Design
  • ARTSVIS 199: Drawing
  • ARTSVIS 510S: (Neosentience) Body as Electrochemical Computer
  • ARTSVIS 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • ARTSVIS 590S: Special Topics in the Visual Arts
  • CMAC 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • CMAC 590S: Special Topics in Computational Media, Arts, and Cultures
  • CMAC 666S: (Neosentience) Body as Electrochemical Computer
  • DANCE 135: Experimental Sculpture and Installation Art
  • DANCE 590S: Topics in Dance/Embodiment
  • ISS 135: Experimental Sculpture and Installation Art
  • ISS 198: Experimental Interface Design
  • ISS 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • ISS 590S: Special Topics in Information Science + Studies
  • ISS 666S: (Neosentience) Body as Electrochemical Computer
  • MUSIC 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • MUSIC 590S: Special Topics in Music
  • NEUROSCI 590S: Special Topics in Neuroscience
  • SCISOC 590S: Special Topics in Science & Society
  • VMS 131: Experimental Drawing: Image and Bit Play
  • VMS 135: Experimental Sculpture and Installation Art
  • VMS 198: Experimental Interface Design
  • VMS 493: Research Independent Study
  • VMS 510S: (Neosentience) Body as Electrochemical Computer
  • VMS 575S: Generative Media Authorship - Music, Text & Image
  • VMS 590S: Special Topics in Visual Studies

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Seaman, W, Computational Creativity | A Multi-perspective Approach, Tba (2013) [abs].
  • Seaman, W, Four Transcultural Case Studies: Transmedial Walks, Drives and Observations,, Technoetic Arts, Volume 6, Issue 1, March 2008, vol 10 no. Spring (2013), pp. 2-3 [abs].
  • Seaman, W, Neosentience and the Abstraction of Abstraction, Systems Connecting Matter, Life, Culture and Technology, vol 1 no. 1 (2013) [abs].
  • Seaman, W, From Neosentience to Recombinant Informatics, A Research Overview, Computer Science, Technology, and Application (2013) [abs].