Monthly Archives: December 2013

what I mean by mapping

In the introduction to their book Mapping; Ways of Representing the World Daniel Dorling and David Fairbairn refer to mapping as “… the mental interpretation of the world”. This concept of mapping would appear to be similar to the process described by Edward C Tolman, who in Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men argued that the responses of rats navigating mazes were based on cognitive maps, a cognitive map being a “… tentative map, indicating routes and paths and environmental relationships …”.


mapping and my artwork

Since 1977 I have been producing graphic artwork by programming computers. Since 1985 I have been using an approach where the programs create images by generating and recording the behaviours of imaginary creatures. The artworks are, in a way, maps of the creatures’ behaviours. Some of this work can be seen on my Vimeo site.

When writing the programs I also am involved in a kind of mapping process. To design a program I have to build a mental map of what should happen when the programs are working. in a sense, I have to imagine how the creatures might map their environment. I also have to think about how to translate my idea for the program into programming language – this is another kind of mapping.

Thinking about how imaginary creatures might think ties in with my interest in how humans think.

Conway’s Game of Life

I first came across ‘life’ when I was a student at The Slade School of art in the 1977-79. I had previously been fascinated by the storyboards generated by an artist John Crabtree (known as Chris at the time) and work being done at UCL on studying how to generate homeostatic patterns of population growth. The game got me interested in emergence and as I had already been interested in the way we appear to make sense of phenomena by  looking for patterns that we recognise (or perhaps projecting patterns into phenomena) I was really taken with the idea.

Snow Crash

Neal Stephenson’s book Snow Crash included a virus like a computer virus but which could effect people. As I recall, characters who understood programming techniques were more vulnerable. I wonder if it was this idea that led me to be concerned about the influence of the fundamental basis of computer architecture on the way our lives, and thoughts, are being organised?

A few years ago, looking at a job description I was intrigued by the term matrix management, so I did some cursory research. What struck me about it was its similarity in some respects to a symbol state tables. I had based the behavioural design system of my suite of agent based interactive art works Smallworld on this approach to representing dynamic systems and recognised that such a system could very easily be set up to generate closed loops.