Book Review: Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle

Reviewed by Amy Ione

As I began Phillip Thurtle’s well-researched Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life, I wondered how his “envisioning of life” would intersect with the abundant evidence that a complex array of grids have served as a foundational element in art, architecture, and design production throughout history. A few examples that quickly come to mind include those used to construct perfectly proportioned Egyptian and Aztec temples, Islamic and Buddhist art, Chuck Close’s stylized portraits, and the layout of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Rosalind Krauss’ 1978 statement that the surfacing of the grid in early twentieth century modernist art was an announcement of “modern art’s will to silence, its hostility to literature, to narrative, to discourse” [1] is also a part of the grid litany, although one that gives a negative cast to how we use grids to engage with objects in our world.

As it turns out, Biology in the Grid moves along a markedly different track. Despite his integration of graphic design, the entertainment industry, advertising, and cultural theory, the book is largely orthogonal to the long art and design trajectory. Thurtle sees grids as a framework within a biopolitical circumstance and makes the point that “living in the grid’ does not equalize us because all lives are not treated similarly despite the seeming uniformity of the form. In his words: Continue reading “Book Review: Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle”

Now Online: Was Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map the First to Name America?

Was Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map the First to Name America? A Quincentennial Reappraisal

Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map, image

Abstract
In addition to his better known artistic, scientific and engineering talents, Leonardo da Vinci has an extensive reputation as a cartographer, drawing maps for a wide range of hydro-engineering projects for the rulers of Florence, Milan, Arezzo and the Vatican, amongst others. However, he is not generally acknowledged as authoring a world map (or mappamundi) spanning the globe, which was the domain of a few specialized cartographers of the era. Nevertheless, there is a world map among his papers in the Royal Library, Windsor, which has the correct overall configuration of the continents, including an ocean at the north pole and a continent at the south pole. Moreover, it has a unique cartographic projection onto eight spherical-geometry triangles that provide close to isometric projection throughout the globe.

This quincentennial anniversary year of his death in 1519 is an appropriate moment for a reappraisal of this contribution to global cartography. Although the authenticity of this world map has been questioned, there is an obscure page of his notebooks in the Codex Atlanticus containing a sketch of this precise form of global projection, tying him securely to its genesis. Moreover, the same notebook page contains sketches of eight other global projections known at that time (early C16th), from the Roman Ptolomaic conic section projection to Rossellli’s (1508) oval planispheric projection. This paper reassesses the dating of Da Vinci’s unique mappamundi to suggest that it predates that of Waldseemüller (1507), and may thus have been the first map to name both America and Florida.

Citation:
Tyler, CW. 2019. “Was Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map the First to Name America? A Quincentennial Reappraisal,” Calafia Journal, 2:7-12. PDF

Book Review: The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity by Jeffrey Sconce

Reviewed by Amy Ione.   

The Technical Delusion: Electronics, Power, Insanity by Jeffrey Sconce is a robust and multidimensional reminder of the complexity of human consciousness. Moving from Enlightenment studies of electricity and human anatomy to our 21st century digitally-connected globe, this interdisciplinary study asserts that delusions of electronic persecution have been a preeminent symptom of psychosis for over 200 years. One impressive feature of the study is how deftly Sconce weaves together case studies, literary source material, court cases, and popular media. Through this material he argues that we are moving toward an increasingly psychotic reality in which data practices will produce a world in which thought, reflection, and doubt will be disrupted by the very structures humans are putting in place. In his view, the current melding of big data and political power is creating a situation in which it is becoming more difficult to isolate precisely how (or perhaps where) bodies, the mind, electronics, and information intersect. He draws a parallel between psychotic disembodiment and electronic simulations:

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EVENT: Einstein’s Wife by David C. Cassidy

Einstein’s Wife by David C. Cassidy
Wednesday, May 29th 7:30PM
Playroom Theater, 151 West 46th Street, 8th Floor

Mileva Marić confronts the challenges of disability and discrimination, love and fate, and her marriage to Albert Einstein. Based on actual events.
Time: Fall 1893.
Place: Zagreb, Croatia, Austro-Hungarian Empire

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CONFERENCE: Race and Biomedicine Beyond the Lab: 21st Century Mobilizations

26th-27th SEPTEMBER 2019, KING’S COLLEGE LONDON

PROPOSALS DUE 1 JULY 2019
Submit abstracts via Google Forms

This two-day interdisciplinary conference will be an important step toward building an international research network that focuses on the ways that race and biomedicine are mobilized beyond the lab in the 21st century. We seek to foreground how non-scientists are at the forefront of novel, plural, generative deployments of biomedical ideas of race that either entrench or resist historical ideas about race and its relation to biology across domains of environments, markets, and human rights.

Biomedical ideas of race have conventionally operated in two oppositional ways: notions of race as genetic or biological truth; and, conversely, accounts of health and health disparities as products of racism rather than caused by race itself. Debates about these opposing logics have never been completely cordoned off into domains of biomedical experts, but they are increasingly moving beyond the lab, and being deployed in diverse ways. Nonscientists are at the forefront of a range of deployments. On the one hand, biomedical ideas of race are being used by broader stakeholders to maintain historically entrenched ideas about race (e.g. pathologization of racialized groups to justify political repression and social service marginalization). On the other hand, biomedical ideas of race are also strategically mobilized in alternative directions, to stake claims and resist race-based injustice (e.g. identifying bodies in mass graves as racially indigenous in order to ground genocide claims in international courts).

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WORKSHOP: Scientific Polyphony: How Scientific Narratives Configure Many ‘Voices’

Workshop organised by Dr Kim M. Hajek and Prof. Mary S. Morgan
3 June 2019, London School of Economics and Political Science
www.narrative-science.org

In the history of science, especially of the human and observational sciences, it has often been the case that knowledge-making activities drew upon many ‘voices’—accounts of a storm given by different observers; patient voices incorporated into a psychological case history; myths transcribed by an anthropologist. What many of these examples share is that the information provided by different voices takes narrative form in its own right. Yet scientists have also organised them into related groupings or broader narratives, as a way to elucidate particular research problems.

This workshop asks how narrative has helped scientists to configure extended chunks of information, and ultimately to manage a multiplicity of voices in their enquiry. Using case studies from across a range of fields, workshop participants explore the roles played by narrative forms of explanation both within and across the contributions of multiple voices to science. Of particular concern are the ways that narrative serves to order polyphonic material into a larger epistemic scheme, and reciprocally, how narrative valorises or suppresses particular voices, or indeed shapes what counts as a ‘voice’ at all.

For more information on the project, please see: www.narrative-science.org

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Exhibition: “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty”

Exhibition: “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty
April 30-August 3rd, 2019

Marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Combines works from Houghton’s history of science collections, including first editions of Copernicus, Newton, and Galileo, with highlights on loan from a private spaceflight collection, including materials used in the Apollo mission and on the lunar surface.

The exhibition is accompanied by a commemorative catalog which focuses on the loaned items only and is also available for free online here.

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BRODRICK, HJ: Agatized Rainbows: A Story of the Petrified Forest (Popular Series No. 3)

Harold J. Brodrick. Agatized Rainbows: A Story of the Petrified Forest (Popular Series No. 3). Holbrook, AZ: Petrified Forest Museum Association, 1951. Unmarked text. Very Good. Booklet (Saddle Stitched). (#29885) $12.00

Buy it Now

Color reproductions. 24p. Presented by the Petrified Forest Museum Association and the Arizona State Highway Department. Popular Series No. 3.

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Thinking 3D: From Leonardo to the Present

For centuries, artists and scientists have wrestled with how to convey three-dimensional objects on the page. Using some of the Bodleian Libraries’ finest books, manuscripts, prints and drawings, Thinking 3D tells the story of the development of three-dimensional communication over the last 500 years.

The exhibition shows how new techniques, developed from the Renaissance onwards, revolutionized the way that ideas in the fields of anatomy, architecture, astronomy and geometry were relayed and ultimately how this has influenced how we perceive the world today. Timed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the exhibition shows how Leonardo and his contemporaries made great strides in the realistic depiction of 3D forms. Thinking 3D explores technological advances up to the present day including 3D modelling, photography and stereoscopy; and also highlights the works of modern practitioners and researchers in Oxford.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a range of other exhibitions and events across Oxford in 2019 as part of the Thinking 3D research project.

For more information, see: https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/news/2019/mar-5

Review of A Different Kind of Animal: How Culture Transformed Our Species

Reviewed by Amy Ione, March 2019
Published: Leonardo Reviews

A Different Kind of Animal is based on two lectures Robert Boyd delivered in 2016 at Princeton University as a part of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values series. In these lectures Boyd introduces his theory that biology and culture are both evolutionary, a topic he’s been working on with Peter Richerson for three decades. Needless to say, this is a broad topic, a point brought home by the four Responses to the lectures also included in the volume. All four commentators endorse the contours of Boyd’s theory and their critiques also raise valid questions: Is Boyd too reductive? Does Boyd’s view of social learning and cooperation rely too much on copying others? Does he adequately define the ways that norms arise and change? Is he ignoring how individuals manipulate norms?

At the beginning of the book Boyd points out that his lectures are about human uniqueness and cumulative cultural adaptation, not the inventive capacities of individuals. He writes:

“We are much better at learning from others than other species are, and equally important, we are motivated to learn from others even when we do not understand why our models are doing what they are doing. This psychology allows human populations to accumulate pools of adaptive information that greatly exceed the inventive capacities of individuals. Cumulative cultural evolution is critical for human adaptation.” (p. 16)

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