NYPL Enhances Public Domain Collections For Sharing and Reuse

The New York Public Library opened an online archives portal today. From their press release:

“Today we are proud to announce that out-of-copyright materials in NYPL Digital Collections are now available as high-resolution downloads. No permission required, no hoops to jump through: just go forth and reuse!

The release of more than 180,000 digitized items represents both a simplification and an enhancement of digital access to a trove of unique and rare materials: a removal of administration fees and processes from public domain content, and also improvements to interfaces — popular and technical — to the digital assets themselves. Online users of the NYPL Digital Collections website will find more prominent download links and filters highlighting restriction-free content; while more technically inclined users will also benefit from updates to the Digital Collections API enabling bulk use and analysis, as well as data exports and utilities posted to NYPL’s GitHub account.”

Full press release: http://www.nypl.org/blog/2016/01/05/share-public-domain-collections

Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature (Book Review)

Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature by Alva Noë. Reviewed by Amy Ione for Leonardo Reviews.

Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature
by Alva Noë

Reviewed by Amy Ione

Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature endeavors to, as Alva Noë the author puts it, introduce art as “its own manner of investigation and its own legitimate source of knowledge” (p. xii) using the enactive approach that he has been working with for a number of years. According to this view, “experience is something we enact or perform; it’s not something that happens in us or to us” (p. 215), “it is something we do, or make, or achieve. And like everything else we achieve, we do so only against the background of our skills, knowledge, situation, and environment, including our social environment” (p. xii). His basic philosophical argument is that we can only understand the human mind in relation to bodily actions given that our experience is situational. Within this he claims that our lives are structured by organization and because art is a practice for bringing our organization into view, it reorganizes us.

When we consider art, Noë tells us, there are two levels we need to keep in mind. On the one hand, the defining feature of what he terms Level-1 activities is that they are basic and involuntary modes of organization. On the other hand, Level-2 activities play with and re-shape level-1 activities. The sum total is that active human experience is neither personal consciousness nor subpersonal (autonomic) consciousness. It is not personal because it is interactive and (again) situational activities add meaning to our lives in a way that does not reduce to subpersonal (autonomic) consciousness. Since technologies are a part of how we reorganize our lives, and art is an engagement with technologies, art includes a second-level manner of organization/reorganization.

Noë chose to characterize art in terms of strange tools rather than technologies because he sees art as an engagement with the ways our practices, techniques, and technologies organize us; art is not a technological practice so much as a pursuit that presupposes such practices. Essentially, Noë tells us the tools that help us organize our lives are bound up with our habits. Regular tools aid us in performing our normal habits. But, for Noë, artistic goals — confrontation, intervention, and subversion — differ from ordinary ones. Thus, the “strange tools” that artists use aid them in disrupting and reorganizing the norms of communication:

“Art always disrupts business as usual and puts the fact that we find ourselves carrying out business as usual on display. Put bluntly: the value of art does not consist in a (coevolving) fit (or dialogue) between what we make and what we like, but rather in the practice of investigating and questioning and challenging such processes” (p. 238).

The strongest sections of the book are the personal stories. In these narratives Noë eloquently communicates about the many artists he has known over the years. We learn that his parents were artists and that he grew up within the vibrant New York City art community of Greenwich Village in the late twentieth century:

“For me, art … is personal. The question of art, the question of why it matters, what it is, how it figures in our lives, is in some ways my very first problem in philosophy. … I admit that this book’s central claim — that art is a philosophical practice and philosophy an artistic one — serves me rather well. It can be understood, finally, as my defense of philosophy and its value, a defense of my work, in the setting of my family’s engagement with art. If art is the most important thing, and philosophy is art, then it turns out I’m an artist after all. Look, Dad!” (p. 208).

Continue reading “Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature (Book Review)”

Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind (Book Review)

Book Review of Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind by Ben Shephard. Reviewed by Amy Ione.

Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind
by Ben Shephard

Reviewed by Amy Ione

Headhunters: The Search for a Science of the Mind traces a slice of history that in turn introduces us to some of those drawn to study human psychology and mental health a few decades after Darwin’s theory of evolution took root. Four of these pioneers are the focus of this book: William Rivers, Grafton Elliot Smith, Charles Myers, and William McDougall. They met at Cambridge in the 1890s and Shephard links their lives more broadly through their efforts to study the brain as biological approaches were gaining increased leverage due to Darwin’s work. The author begins the book by placing us in that context:

“How, then, did the human brain evolve? Why did it evolve as it did? In the 1870s, modern experimental neuroscience began, using electricity to stimulate the nervous system of animals and microscopes to observe the nerve cells of humans. Within two decades, researchers had established the location of functions within the brain, unraveled the way that the nervous system automatically governs the body’s functions, and begun to discover how messages are sent between neurons and synapses. But these extraordinary advances only posed further questions — about human behavior; man’s relations to his fellow primates, and the human occupation of the earth. A generation of scientists went looking for answers” (p. 1).

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Carolyn Merchant on her new book: Autonomous Nature

In this interview Carolyn Merchant talks about her new book, Autonomous Nature: Problems of Prediction and Control from Ancient Times to the Scientific Revolution.

In this interview Carolyn Merchant talks about her new book, Autonomous Nature: Problems of Prediction and Control from Ancient Times to the Scientific Revolution. The book  investigates the history of nature as an active, often unruly force in tension with nature as a rational, logical order from ancient times to the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century.

Ways of Seeing: Human and Animal Perspectives

A fascinating article in Atlantic brings to mind how limited our perspective is when we focus only on human seeing.

Many of us equate the variety of ways in which we see with John Berger’s classic book Ways of Seeing, also presented as a series on BBC. His book’s focus on cultural perspectives doesn’t touch on how differently humans and animals see. Berger later wrote an essay, “Why Look at Animals?” a part his 1980 anthology About Looking, which examines how we look at animals, but not how animals see.

A fascinating article in Atlantic brings to mind how limited our perspective is when we focus primarily on human seeing. The subject of how animals see is a fascinating field study, one that warrants more attention, as a recent article titled “This Animal Has a Suit of Armor With Hundreds of Built-In Eyes” reminds us. This article introduces a group of little-known sea creatures called chitons. They have evolved armor contains hundreds of eyes.

Chitons are mollusks, related to snails, clams, and octopuses. Their oval bodies are covered by a hard shell consisting of eight overlapping plates, which makes them look a bit like a woodlouse with a skirt, or perhaps like the forehead of a Klingon. In many species, these plates are dotted with hundreds of tiny beads, each less than a tenth of a millimeter across. These are eyes. Each contains a lens, a light-sensitive retina, and a layer of black pigment.

For links to a variety of examples on how animals see, visit Christopher Tyler’s Eye Page. He also includes links to a number of other sites. The image accompanying this post is from Tyler’s site. It is the eye of a female net-casting spider from Australia. The large lens concentrates light on the retina.

“Alice through the Looking-Glass of Eleanor of Aquitaine”

“Alice through the Looking-Glass of Eleanor of Aquitaine” presented by Christopher Tyler at the “Alice through the Ages” Conference, Homerton College, Cambridge, Sept 15th-17th, 2015.

oxford-alicePresentation by Christopher Tyler
“Alice through the Ages” Conference
Homerton College, Cambridge,
Sept 15th-17th, 2015.

There is one large-scale motif running through the two books that has largely escaped critical attention – the pervasive mediaeval theme. It is remarkable that there has been little examination main context of the Alice stories, the mediaeval temperament of many of the characters. The present treatment focuses on some remarkable parallels between the travails of the fictional Alice and a historical Alice who lived in the time of the knights and castles, duchesses and chess games that figure so largely in the narrative. This earlier Alice spent her life as a trading pawn of the Plantagenet and Capetian monarchs of England and France, a lost soul on the checkerboard of 12th century territorial intrigues. She was a daughter of King Louis VII of France known as Alice of the Vexin, an aptly eponymous territory that has been the site of struggles between the English and continental powers from the 10th to the 20th centuries. For much of her life, this Princess Alice was held hostage by the Plantagenet court, successively held as a bargaining chip by Queen Eleanor and King Henry II, and their sons Richard the Lionheart and John.

I will explore the proposition that Lewis Carroll, in his efforts to beguile the young Alice Liddell on their boat trips between Oxford and Woodstock might have drawn inspiration for many aspects of the Alice stories from the local mediaeval history of two of the principal castles of these towns, Beaumont Palace and Woodstock Castle, which served as two of the courts of these protagonists (and where both Plantagenet princes were born). As the son of a mediaevalist (Rev Charles Dodgson), Lewis Carroll had ample opportunity for exposure to these stories, known from the mediaeval history of Ranulf Higden of Cheshire.

Click here to Buy the Book

Article: Tyler Study debunking myths about color vision (Optometry Today )

Abstract: A set of structured demonstrations of the vividness of peripheral color vision is provided by arrays of multicolored disks scaled with eccentricity. These demonstrations are designed to correct the widespread misconception that peripheral color vision is weak or nonexistent. (Christopher Tyler)

Research debunks misconceptions around peripheral colour visionStudy uses arrays of multicoloured disks to demonstrate colour perception in peripheral vision

Some common science-related misconceptions are particularly persistent, such as a duck’s quack doesn’t echo, or that we only use 10% of our brains.

Now new research from City University London is aiming to dispel a long-held misbelief relating to colour vision: that it is weak or non-existent in our periphery vision.

“This misconception about weak peripheral colour vision is completely incorrect,” said Professor Christopher Tyler, a visual neuroscientist at the university’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, who carried out the study.

“Although the number of cone photoreceptors is lower in the periphery than in the fovea, with about 4000 cones per mm2 throughout the peripheral retina compared to 200,000 in the central fovea, this is still plenty enough to give colour vision,” said Professor Tyler.

Continue reading article in OT (Optometry Today), 11 Nov 2015 by Ryan O’Harehttps://www.aop.org.uk/ot/science-and-vision/research/2015/11/11/research-debunks-misconceptions-around-peripheral-colour-vision

Read the full study in
i-Perceptionhttp://ipe.sagepub.com/content/6/6/2041669515613671.full.pdf

Screening of the optical movie ‘Tim’s Vermeer’

Screening of the optical movie ‘Tim’s Vermeer’ followed by presentations and panel discussion by Tim Jenison, Philip Steadman, Christopher Tyler and Sir Colin Blakemore. European Conference on Visual Perception, Liverpool, August 22-28th

Screening of the optical movie Tim’s Vermeer followed by presentations and panel discussion by Tim Jenison, Philip Steadman, Christopher Tyler and Sir Colin Blakemore. European Conference on Visual Perception, Liverpool, August 22-28thhttp://www.ecvp.org/2015/everyman.html

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Now Available: Parallel Alices by Christopher Tyler

In his new book, Christopher Tyler examines the pervasive mediaeval theme in Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, written by Lewis Carroll.

Parallel Alices: Alice through the Looking-Glass of Eleanor of Aquitaine
by Christopher Tyler

Cloth (with dust jacket): 170 pages. Over 100 colour illustrations. Glossary, timelines, annotated bibliography, index. ISBN: 10: 0972533044; 13: 978-0-9725330-4-1

Paperback (colour): 144 pages. Over 100 colour illustrations. Bibliography, index. ISBN: 10: 0972533087; 13: 978-0-9725330-8-9

Paperback (monochrome): 170 pages. Over 100 monochrome illustrations. Glossary, timelines, annotated bibliography, index. ISBN: 10: 0972533095; 13: 978-0-9725330-9-6

Prices: Cloth: US$54.00; Paperback: US$24 (colour): US$12 (monochrome)

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Transdisciplinary Imaging Conference Proceedings

The Second International Conference on Transdisciplinary Imaging at the Intersections between Art, Science and Culture 2012: Interference as a strategy for art. Conference proceedings

The Second International Conference on Transdisciplinary Imaging
at the Intersections between Art, Science and Culture 2012:
Interference as a strategy for art

Conference proceedings are available online now.

Today we’re saturated with images from all disciplines, whether it’s the creation of ‘beautiful visualisations’ for science, the torrent of images uploaded to social media services like Flickr, or the billions of queries made to vast visual data archives such as Google Images. These machinic interpretations of the visual and sensorial experience of the world are producing a new spectacle of media pollution.Machines are in many ways the new artists.

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