Arbitrary Radius Circle
3 Channel Video, HD, color, stereo, 9mins, 2021

Having loosely weaved texts and footage from lectures, poem, and fictional stories, ‘Arbitrary Radius Circle’ speculatively examines the intersection of reinforcement machine learning and popular behavioral psychology, raising questions about the nature of artificiality, as well as the invisibility of animals in labs and their unrecognized labor.


Laboratory Rat, Psychologist and Machine Learning

In 1948, a psychologist B.F. Skinner devised an operant conditioning chamber (known as a ‘Skinner box’) to study animal behavior. Using a lever system that a rat presses to gain food inside a chamber, Skinner discovered that the food acts as a ‘reinforcement’ which induces rat’s repetitive behavior. The premise that responses through conditioning shape actions became a pivotal model of Behavioral psychology, and Behaviorists consequently conducted various animal experiments to examine deeper on the learning process and problem-solving of the organism.

Now we can witness a rather complex model of learning with Machine Learning (ML), which takes data and algorithms to make a machine ‘learn’ cognitively and utilize this learning in decision making. The project speculates its resonance with Skinner’s basic principle - such as Reinforcement Learning (RL) - which concerns how the agent takes action in an interactive environment in order to maximize reward. Humans are training machines and animals in an analogous learning model, whereas, rather obviously, its purpose and circumstance are divergent. Having concerned the outcome of training deeply intertwined with human behavior and the economics of ecology, the questions arise: Are the anthropomorphized expressions toward nonhumans such as ‘machine, animal learning’, ‘machine intelligence’ the part of ‘becoming’? Is there a new type of empathy emerging through the technical apparatus? What makes the animals in the lab invisible, and their labor unrecognized?

Arbitrary Radius Circle, still, 2021

︎Critical Essay

“Artificiality and Nature under a Microscope”

︎︎︎Yi Jinkyung (EN), Translation: Minji Chun