Zenetic Computer



I Wanted to Have a Computer do Zazen:

Training a machine in the way of Zen

There is no "hesitation" in a computer. The scheduled communications proceed as if the machine knows exactly what it is doing. However, human consciousness, language and judgment are qualities that always hesitate. They are constantly wavering.

Buddhism and Daoism hover at the base of Eastern philosophy and Japanese culture, where the rhythm of a haiku and the design of a kimono flutter freely. Within that setting, ideas indeterminate or ambiguous are not destroyed, but preserved - they bide their time on the bench until a more resonant feeling emerges. When this resolution is finally reached, they rise from the bench and rush to the playing field.

With the ZENetic Computer, I focused on the "hesitation" lurking within human consciousness and unconsciousness, as the Zen ascetic explores the Zen Dialogues led by a Zen master. We projected this Eastern, Japanese sensibility onto a computer screen and built an interface so that the users could enter the world of a Japanese Sansui ink painting.

Regarding the development of this project, I provided scenographic images of Eastern philosophy, and Dr. Naoko Tosa, having an exceptional artistic sense, transformed these images into interactive technology. We then reviewed the results together many times. We strived especially for the outflow of "subtractive" aesthetic sense and the formulation of a margin of judgment that skirts the threshold of consciousness. Also, in order to make this variable process more dynamic, we included in our system the successes of Dr. Peter Davis' chaos engine research.

Clouds of consciousness and rivers of a narrative never before experienced are flowing through the ZENetic Computer. This is an endeavor wherein we have tried to train a machine in the way of Zen. Please abandon all former ways of thinking and enjoy playing with this experiment.

Prof. Seigo Matsuoka
Director, Editorial Engineering Laboratory
Professor, Tezukayama University

Related Book Publications

  1. Seigow Matsuoka. "Sansui shiso - mou hitotsu no nihon." "Sansui Thought - Another Japan." Gogatsu shobo, 2003. In Japanese.
    Tracing the history of suiboku sansui painting back to China, from Sesshu to Hasegawa Tohaku, and further to Yokoyama Misao, this great work brings to light what sansui meant to the Japanese people and what kind of Japan lay therein.
  2. Naoko Tosa. "Cultural Computing." NTT Publishing, 2004. In Japanese.
  3. Y. Liu, P. Davis, "Dual synchronization of chaos", Physical Review E 61, pp. R2176-R2179. March 2000.
  4. Seigow Matsuoka, "The Science of the beauties of nature." Shunjusha, 1994. In Japanese

Musical Publications

  1. Toshinori Kondo CD: The YOSHIWARA by Victor Entertainment

Related Links

Accepted Papers

July 16-18 2003, IEEE Information Visualization (IV03) London UK.

September 1-5 2003, Ninth IFIP TC13 International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, INTERACT 2003 - Bringing the Bits Together. Zurich, Switzerland

November 2-8 2003, ACM Multimedia 2003. Berkeley, CA, USA.

November, 20-21 2003 - 2nd International Conference on Virtual Storytelling Toulouse, France

Invited Lectures

  • April 30th, 2003 Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University
  • May 27th, 2003 Department of Information Science Kyoto University, Japan
  • July 17, 2003 Department of Computer Science London University


January 17, 2003L'OREAL Art & Science WorkshopKyoto Culture Museum
October 24 - November 13, 2003 MIT MUSEUM Boston, MA, USA
November 2 - 8, 2003 ACM Multimedia 2003 Berkeley, CA, USA
November 10 - 30, 2003 Kyoto Future Cinema Festival Kyoto Culture Museum, Kyoto, Japan
May 13 - June 6, 2004 Invited showing Kodaiji Zen Temple, Kyoto, Japan

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Naoko Tosa