Wednesday 4 February 2015

↓ reading ↓ imagining ↓ picturing ↓ procrastinating

While Bible might be delivering good news for some parts of population, in our house - it's Focus magazine. Today's issue alone is going to take a few bubble-baths of reading. So what's the good news of today? 

↓  reading

First of all, Einstein's collected papers are available online through Princeton university - a very clearly structured interface for accessing some of the most extraordinary pieces of writing of the 20th century. For example, one can now dip into a delightfully lyrical world of Einsteinian letter-writing, such as this one he sent to Mrs Curie in 1913.

"A few days have passed since the wonderful profusion of things rushed past me. The fibrils of my brain must still be in terrible disarray from all of that....
If science can be poetic - Einstein has certainly nailed it - of course, among a few other facts that he had nailed rather well too. Such a pleasure to read! I only wish the texts were complemented by the scans of the originals.

↓  imagining

The second bit of great news is that...  everything is in the head. It's official. Apparently, carrying out five sessions of imaginary exercise per week had positive effects on developing grip-strength in volunteers at Ohio University.  No sweaty armpits, no chlorine soaked hair, no shin splints - only five imaginary sessions which, I could perform from a hammock under linden trees.


Third - not entirely everything is in the head, as page 81 suggests. Why do we get a mental picture when reading? Or - why don't we? 
Visual and auditory areas of your brain are at work when you read, as you subvocalise the words when one of the characters is speaking... All of this contributes to what we think of as pictures in our head - yet in reality our brains probably contain no such thing. Indeed, recent theories treat vision more like an activity or interaction with the world rather than a picture-making process. Oddly enough, more detailed written descriptions may not result in richer or more satisfying mental imagery. Sometimes, the simplest descriptions allow you to create your own imagined world with far more detail and emotional involvement. 
 Less is more, they suggest. It is more emotionally satisfying to be involved in creating a personalised mental imagery. This satisfaction is probably what explains the allure of haiku poems and artists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto and Indrė Šerpytytė

Indrė Šerpytytė is one of the artists currently showing as part of Conflict Time Photography exhibition at Tate Modern. In one of the rooms (towards the end) she is showing wooden carvings of KGB interrogation houses and their studio "portraits". Refreshingly, her take on Lithuanian history is a non-judgemental, non-sentimental commentary with plenty of gaps and empty spaces for the viewer to fill in. My favorite works, however, are those from Forest Brothers series: dense treescapes, suspended between the world of Hansel-and-Gretel-fairy-tale fear of the dark forest and an honest link with factual landscape of the post-war Lithuanian resistance fighters. Less is more.

↓  procrastinating

The final good news is called WIKIGALAXY. Computer science MA(!) student Owen Cornec put together this galaxy-style visualisation of tens of thousands of Wikipaedia pages to help you get lost down even more rabbit holes of useless but fascinating information. While drifting aimlessly among his 3D paths linking various concepts, I did wonder if this could be called a binding. If the metaphor of book can extend into the digital reading media, could we not extend the notion of binding too, to denote the ways that keep separate pages of digital information together? 


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