Feb 272015

Miguel A. Nacenta – http://nacenta.com

We conventionally describe our world as 4-dimensional. The three dimensions of space (left-right, forward-backward, up-down, or any hybrids of these) and time. Although this simple Euclidean way to think about the world is useful and practical, it does not quite correspond with how we, as humans perceive the world.

The human perception of the world is still largely spatial, but different in many ways. In terms of evolution, it was important for us to remember where we found food last time, or what was a safe spot for us to sleep. Nevertheless, our representations of the world are not accurate, and rather than being based on an intrinsically existing space, they are based on the creation of links and connections between places, landmarks, events, milestones… In other words, our internal experience of the world is not objective and static, but rather a network of subjective relationships of what matters to us, somewhat loosely connected to a sense of space and distance.

Although it might seem that these less accurate way of seeing and representing the world is inferior, and we perhaps should direct our efforts to make people be able to perceive the world as accurately as possible, in my opinion it is better to think about how to take advantage of the flexibility, ambiguity, and connectedness of our natural perceptions of space. In my own research I take advantage of this ambiguity by making non-linear deformations of space useful and easy to do (see http://transmogrifiers.org and the image below), and by trying to understand better how people perceive space in flat and non-flat digital representations (http://bit.ly/nacenta_research).


The Palimpsest project is an important contribution to this endeavour to break and mix the repositories of knowledge that have traditionally kept space on one side and people’s experience of the city (in this case, literature) on the other. Palimpsest will help us relate the space of the city to the more human and more complex collective experience of literature in the city and, importantly, to perceive it across time. It has a tremendous potential to open up new areas of inquiry that come from both the sciences and the arts.

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