January 23, 2007
With the unfolding of Web 2.0 technologies, software developers such as authors/technicians are constantly improving their products. WordPress for bloggers, has a Featured Blogs element which uses the user’s tag clouds with an algorithm to generate clusters of tags. This is one of the clusters for my entries categorized under tag clouds itself.
Using the liquify tool in Adobe Photoshop I digitally manipulated text tags chosen by WordPress, maintaining WordPress generated proportions by using larger or bold fonts to visually demarcate tags that were used more often in this tag cloud.
I wanted the shapes of the words to take flight, to mimic the movement of the clouds.
I took this photo when I was on a First Air flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit, Nunavut in 2003. I think I used to ask for Row 21, a window seat so I could take aerial photos.
November 29, 2006
This is a work in process vaguely entitled Synaptic Gasp. The synaptic cleft in the human brain reminds me of the gap between the hand of God and Adam in Michaelangelo’s visualization of Creation.
Neurons must be triggered by a stimulus to produce nerve impulses, which are waves of electrical charge moving along the nerve fibres. When the neuron receives a stimulus, the electrical charge on the inside of the cell membrane changes from negative to positive. A nerve impulse travels down the fibre to a synaptic knob at its end, triggering the release of chemicals (neurotransmitters) that cross the gap between the neuron and the target cell, stimulating a response in the target (Baggaley 2001:104).
My mind is stuck on the image of the gap. That’s the leap of faith between that which we can know and that which is beyond our capacity to know. In the human brain this synaptic gap is so microscopic no one has ever seen it. But there are amazing images that are somewhat like science fiction as artists attempt to compile scientific data into visualizations of what it might look like. I am not attempting to be a science illustrator. But I think somehow this image will be like a cartography of a way of thinking that resonates more with complex hyperlinkages than with the human brain. I have been working on this Adobe Photoshop Image which seems to keep getting larger and larger.
I used the starry night wallpaper for the background. I did a pencil drawing of the the neural architecture learning as I was drawing. And I keep making sketches of close-ups so now I am trying to imagine terminal nerve fibres entwined in neurofilament, proteins at the interface of the downstream end of neuron’s dendritic spine and an excitary synapse.
The brain is a supersystem of systems. Each system is composed of an elaborate interconnection of small but macroscopic cortical regions and subcortical nuclei, which are made of microscopic local circuits, which are made of neurons, all of which are connected by synapses (Damasio 1994:30).
Damasio’s elegant text reads like poetry. He describes the neural underpinnings of reason and challenges Cartesian dualisms of mind/body, emotions/reason. Feelings and logical thinking are not like oil and water.
The “body [. . .] represented in the brain [constitutes] an indispensable frame of reference for the neural process that we experience as the mind (Damasio 1994:xvi).”
Our bodies are the ground reference for the construction we make of the world. Our embodied selves construct the ever-present sense of subjectivity, our experience. The body becomes is the instrument through which we construct our most refined thoughts and actions (Damasio 1994:xvi).
Churchland takes this reasoning to imply that we, our subjective selves — our very consciousness — are merely chemical reactions, synapses firing across synaptic gaps for purely physical reasons that science alone (not religion) will one day explain and interpret for us.
The ontology of things ─ objects, substance, stuff are all one thing ─ raises questions about the world’s origin or original principle (arche) and its nature (physis). The Conflicting-Worlds model holds that science and religion are mutually exclusive ways of knowing. Science is one ontological perspective, a way of studying what exists and ways of being of different kinds of things. Religion provides another ontological perspective or another way of adding something to the study of what exists. Those who adopt the Same-Worlds-Model, argue that science and religion are different epistemologies not different ontologies. Probably most of those who believe in the Same-Worlds-Model believe in a Higher Power, a God, Divine Architect in some form, who created man with the capacity and responsibility to explore logic, pure mathematics and physics. I can believe what I want but I like to read from both sides of the Möbius Strip.
Flashback: A uniformed unsmiling, fully armed police officer pulled me over. What had I done? What was I, my young, idealistic, apolitical and therefore politically naïve self ─ doing there in a Third World country under an unstable, potentially dangerous, communist, military dictatorship? The officer leaned into the open window on the passenger side of our old Renault 4. There was a long silent pause as he decided what to do with this flushed creature whose hands were clenched on the steering wheel like a ship’s railing in a storm. He reached in and picked up the book on the front car seat and calmly asked me a question in a voice that could have been saying, “Did you know you failed to stop back there?” But that’s not what he asked. Instead, I can still hear his words even decades later. He asked me, “Do you pray?” Is this a threat? No, he was fingering the book entitled Livres de prière indicating that he too prayed and would appreciate having the book. As I drove away trembling I looked in the rear view mirror as he opened the book, then pocketed it.
After I returned to my Western home and graduate studies, I could not forget this incident which repeated itself in many forms. In spite of the pervasive even dogmatic message that the logical next step in human consciousness resided in the 20th century’s western form of atheism, humanism and materialism most people many still living in fragmented nation states that were former colonies ─ still believe that humans are spiritual beings and that some form of prayer unites us all even if it is a silent “Help!”
For more on the body/mind duality debate see Dawkins, Pinker, Fodor, Searle. According to Richard Dawkins (1976 SG, 2006 GD) these scientific and religious ways of knowing are conflicting and mutually exclusive.
Heraclites described the ontological ultimate stuff a process, a ceaseless flux like fire, not a substance retaining its identity through time.
These sources include:
Baggaley, Ann, Ed. (2001), “Anatomy of the Human Body,” Human Body, Dorling Kindersley Publishing: NY, p. 104.
Damasio, Antonio R., 1994, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Grosset/Putnam: New York.
Damasio, Hanna, (1994) “Gage’s skull, illustrations” in Damasio, Antonio R., 1994, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Grosset/Putnam: New York. p. 31-2.
Johnson, Graham, (2005), “The Synapse Revealed,” 23 September 2005, Science Magazine and the National Science Foundation. The first place winner of the Science and Engineering Visualization Challengewas Graham Johnson from Medical Media, Boulder, Colorado. His image is described on Science Magazine’s web page:
Deep inside the brain, a neuron prepares to transmit a signal to its target. To capture that fleeting moment, Graham Johnson based this elegant drawing on ultra-thin micrographs of sequential brain slices. After scanning a sketch into 3D modeling software, he colored the image and added texture and glowing lighting reminiscent of a scanning electron micrograph.
November 2, 2006
Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2006. Digital image of: 1998-9. “Space Invasion with Fireplace and PC.” Acrylic on Arches Paper, 30″ x 22.5.” Lac Gauvreau, Québec, Canada. BY-NC-SA.Uploaded 2006/11/02
I was looking for an old website I had built in 2000 when I came upon Stefano Cazzella’s elegantly designed blog entitled, caccio’s blog: Building WORLD 2.0.
Using the Creative Commond license Stefano Cazzella had hosted text and image from my Flickr album or my WordPress blog on his site. It looks very good there so I hope he does not remove it. However, I have asked him to put my name on it. The digital signature is barely visible on the snow through the window of our A-frame cottage but I had not written my name in my Flickr description of the page. So I sent it to Stefano Cazzella and will wait to see what happens. Fewer than fifty people have viewed this on WordPress but over 200 visited the same image on Flickr since it was first uploaded on November 2, 2006.
I began making my first web pages when Dave and I lived here on Lac Gauvreau, Chemin de la Baie Ste. Anne, Ste Cécile de Masham, Québec. I had already taken my first contemporary social theory courses with Rob Shields. From that time onwards he has been a valued mentor for my grad studies. I was working on the year long PhD seminar course with Professor Wallot at the University of Ottawa. This Canadian Studies PhD was a life-transforming experience. It was education as its best. The institution provided everything a grad student could need including access to a super coach and computer lab. As always Dave and I were squeezing as much as we could with bare bones technology. I was using our first digital camera and this flat bed scanner. My son Dan, who was studying at the Cite collegiale in Ottawa, taught me just enough .html coding so I wouldn’t make too much of a mess for him to clean up. He was a bit of a purist.This acrylic painting was painted over the Christmas holidays in 1998-1999. I had already painted the tree outside our cabin by Lake Gauvreau. The next day the branches were so burdened with snow I had to repaint them entirely. I decided to let them invade the inner space of the cottage since their presence was so insistent.
The painting is 30″ x 22.5″ on Arches paper.
It was shown in March 1999 at an exhibition on Bank Street in Ottawa, ON and again in a gallery on Great George Street , Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in the summer of 1999.
Space invasion with fireplace and PC was one of the first images on my Carleton University home page and on the collaborative, innovative virtual space called artengine. It is one of my favourite images and after our chaotic move out west I really don’t know where the actual physical painting is or the great high resolution digital images the professional photographer took of my work in May-June? of 1999.
One of the challenges for me is to find the kinds of sites that provide me with ideas I can build upon. For example, currently I am unable to simply use a search engine to find useful information on the concept of memory work. I have kept track of this concept over the years using my EndNote bibliographic database. My sister Sharon introduced me to EndNote c. 1992?, an authoring software for creating digital databases with a powerful cross-referencing ability. Thousands of useful entries later and numerous upgrades later I continue to thank you Sharon.
The Creative Commons actually builds on a way of sharing, adapting, building knowledge claims that has been a part of teaching, learning and research for time immemorial. What I can illustrate in an image is difficult to argue in text. Basically we are all using communal memories, communal archives to build our own original creations. Creative Commons acknowledges that and goes against the current where academic capital has become a jealously guarded commodity, knowledge bytes are the new virtual gold. We are in the middle of a virtual gold rush.
I think this is my first complete reference blog-to-blog and I am touched. I had a professional photographer take slides of this series of paintings in 1999 and had Kodak produce a CD-ROM of them all in high resolution. (I lost the CD in our last move unfortunately but I still have the painting.) A lower resolution version of Space Invasion became my avatar for my first web page in 1999. It is was my first acrylic painting completed in the first few days of 1999 for my first exhibition in Ottawa, Ontario and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
I have written somewhere else on one of my blogs that working with Web 2.0 is like being trained by a cat to be at least minimally presentable to be associated with cat royalty. Feed owners learn what Web 2.0 tools like or not very quickly. Bricoleurs learn by trial and error not only how to design spaces that connect, but also how to frame and protect our content. This is a delicious example of how to learn-by-doing.
The Creative Commons license 2.5 that I use with all my work,
November 1, 2006
In my attempt to understand how Frimr reached its scores I found sites called blogjuice? which led me again to Technorati. I had visited their site before so this time I decided to register. I now have a Technorati Profile. I am now trying to use Technorati to refine searches for key concepts such as memory work, answerability, post-national, ethical topography of self.
I continue to find so many free, useful and fun internet services. Flickr is by far the most entertaining. For keeping track of bookmarks, which I call my webliographies, del.icio.us and swicki offer much more than I could ever have imagined. Swicki even does it with image collages of your individualized tag clouds. I have been learning how to interconnect my Flickr with WordPress and Blogspot. That is also amazing.