“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rutgers Talk: Hyperobjects are Phased

In the 1960s, Edward Lorenz was seeking to find patterns in long-term meteorological data. He used a three-dimensional coordinate system: phase space. Lorenz reduced the meteorological data he was examining to three variables which would describe the state of the weather at any moment. The variables formed the dimensions of the phase space. Plotting these moments in phase space, Lorenz discerned a striking pattern in the data, the Lorenz Attractor. The phase points coalesce around a particular area of the phase space. Lorenz could not predict where the next phase point would alight, but it soon became clear that it would appear somewhere in the resulting butterfly-like shape.

In the 1980s, more sophisticated graphics software explored similar types of "strange attractors," complex systems like the weather that seem chaotic but whose phase space diagrams reveal a coherent, if unpredictable, pattern. Computers were useful not only in crunching the numbers and generating the data, but in organizing those data into a useful visual form. The graphics were not incidental visual aids: the visualization was the scientific work.
Formal causes, people!

Software can see something you can only see in pieces and shadows: the transdimensional object called global warming. That's why hyperobjects are so hard to believe...they exist in a higher dimensional phase space. This is one big new point I'll be making on Friday.


Adam Parkinson said...

Great post - how do you think this relates to a 'science of multiplicities' (or at least Delanda's line on multiplicities) or even Levi's topologically structured virtual-proper-being?

Sorry, I'm in the middle of a PhD write up where OOO is wrenching me from a Deleuzian quagmire...

camerontw said...

There's a thin-ish paper that registers this same idea (if I understand your preview of Friday's paper right) by Don Ihde called "Whole Earth Measurements," or, (the title of the first section) HOW MANY PHENOMENOLOGISTS DOES IT TAKE TO DETECT A "GREENHOUSE EFFECT"? Of course your preaching to the choir if your choir is filled with designers. See the also-not-so-dense paper by Jorge Frascara, "Diagramming as a way of Thinking Ecologically" in Visible Language: http://visiblelanguagejournal.com/web/issues/issue/volume_35.2


Robert Jackson said...

It kind of links in with what Graham said, in so much as, you can tell the remnants of real objects by simulations.

As a rule, the better the simulation, the more the real object is anchored in reality.

It also confirms my earlier riffs on encapsulation. Interfaces are relational necessity, not the playthings of computation.

Michael- said...

damn fine post Tim, and looks to be a reallyfascinating talk as well.

The more I ponder hyperobjects the more I 'see' what you OOO-folk might be after here...

As Robert wrote, "remnants of real objects" can be detected, i just think objects/assemblages can be said to be directly encountered as well, if only partially because of their structural ‘depth’ (as well as ours). Partial or refracted or opaque contact is still somewhat direct.