Category Archives: Considered Thoughts

More carefully thought through and edited entries

Brain Map

Interactive 3D map of the human brain

When reading this article in the New York Times I came across another article that mentioned the map linked to above.

It was made using Pycortex.

I haven’t quite absorbed the potential uses I might make of this apparent confirmation of ideas that have been circulating for many years now in articles that I have read and patterns that seem to be emerging in my own mind regarding how we make sense of things, but it is great example of mapping.


Have just found this fascinating resource. I was actually looking for Japanese Maps and in doing so came across this site:

“Making Maps:DIY Cartography”

More thorough on the subject than I could manage so if we part company here I can’t blame you for following this richly linked chreode.



Seeking Shelter

What are we doing all the time? My interest in how we orient (or orientate) ourselves is perhaps related to what I have just thought after beginning to re-read Norbeg Schultz’s “Genius Loci” and getting an insight into why we are motivated to orient ourselves anyway.

What if, whatever else we may be doing, we are continually seeking shelter? When we read an environment, real or imagined, what guides our interpretation of the space? Are we by any chance seeking dwelling places, categorising where may be safe and where we might be in danger. Identifying and ranking places of potential risk of violence, the weather or other unpleasant phenomena, as well  as places where we may get social contact, food, shelter, etc?

As I wanted to motivate my programmed agents in my artwork so that their behaviours could be read by humans, they were given generic behaviours like this. Embodied at base in Smallworld’s ‘to’ and ‘from’ tendencies, so I have been aware of this for a long time but have not articulated it in words. Now I shall do it, in words and pictures.

Both humans and my agents “map” their context. The Smallworld agents or “animals” choose to ignore some things and attend to others, they even form an hierarchy of categorised locations in their dynamic map. These could have been flagged up but my intention has been for us to read the rhythmic , spatial and compositional patterns without having a map to guide us, as unmapped phenomena, so we can engage in natural mapping behaviour to generate a map based upon an interpretation of their actions and, if we recognise such patterns, form an empathy or antipathy toward them, to relate to them in fact.

Whilst we are relating to their actions we may also engage proprioception and begin to imagine what an agent, or several agents might be feeling if they were to share our sensibilities. We might name these feelings: fear, hope, indecision, satisfaction, contentment, need, invigoration, etc..

Each composition can create different potential environments to orient ourselves in.

Could the unease felt when seeing some fractal forms mentioned by Michael Kaschalk in his talk at BFX Festival Relate to an unease at not being able to use our usual orienting skills to map the territory? Are we disoriented, to some extent sensing a boundary of madness, the state when our mapping system lets us down by misinterpreting our environment making dwelling in it difficult? Being unable to differentiate correctly we are thrown into whatever reaction we are inclined to have to the unknown, unusual, or uncanny. Is it indeed similar in some ways tho the “uncanny valley” effect in robotics and moving pictures?

How can we tell? How prove that this is happening? We cant’t.. We could set up scientific experiments to measure things and apply mathematics to generate a scientific “strong hypothesis” but we might as well ( rather than alternatively) trust our natural judgement through our personal mapping abilities.

We Are Maps

The other day, I was imagining the way our consciousness might appear if it is constructed as the result of the activity of our neurons and it seemed to me that the network of connections and their level of interactivity is rather like a multidimensional map of sorts. Then it struck me that if that is the case we may actually be seen as maps. Complex, dynamically, self-aware maps perhaps, but maps all the same. Mind maps begin to have a peculiar resonance and exploring their potential as ways of representing personality becomes an interesting proposition.

In the programs that I use to make my artwork the representation of the behaviours of the ‘entities’ that generate patterns through their interaction are designed using symbol state tables, which are actually very simple versions of these kinds of map and almost constitute programs in themselves. I will now be looking for others who have had the same idea to see where they have taken it.

Interface for behaviour design,1985

Interface for behaviour design,1985

Map Making and Mapping

In the introduction to their book Mapping; Ways of Representing the World Daniel Dorling and David Fairbairn write that “The physical creation of maps which embody the ‘world-view’ of … societies is the process of map-making. This can be distinguished from the mental interpretation of the world which is termed mapping.”

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.