IEEE Visualization '97


Dissolving Descartes: Perception and the Construction of Reality
Speaker:Mark Pesce, Independent Author

Johannes Kepler had a devil of a time trying to discern the laws of planetary motion from the observed movements of the heavenly bodies. He spent months - perhaps years, trying to divine the circles which could contain their motions. >From Pythagoras to Kepler, our visualization of the "perfect" forms of circle and sphere constrained the development of science far more than they aided it; when Kepler discovered the ellipsoid- and Newton wrote an equation to describe it - they laid down the fundamental mechanism of scientific discovery, in it an endless two-step of visualization and codification.

What we observe becomes scientific law; what we can see becomes true. The old proverb goes, "Seeing is believing," but somewhere along the way "seeing" has become confused with "visualizing", leading researchers in directions conditioned more by preconceived notions of underlying reality than any foundation of phenomena.

Science refuses to stir from its Narcissus trance; transfixed by our own gazings into the mirror, only the subtle genius of a Heisenberg to remind us that our reflections tell us more about ourselves than the outside universe. Yet visualizations are useful; the ability to bend space and time, to map to the human sensorium that which can not be directly observed has extended our understanding immeasurably, from the inner boundaries of quantum uncertainty to the outer edges of the Big Bang. For this reason - and because visualization will become increasingly the foundation from which we make the decisions upon which our lives depend the sciences of visualization must articulate a philosophical system which infuses these perceptions with a necessary self-consciousness. As the heirs to Wiener, McLuhan and Maturana, it's been left to us to build a synthetic coherence from both phenomena and perception, moving from Cartesian duality to a quantum poesis, from separation to unity, from perception to reality.

Biography: Mark Pesce is an Internet visionary and co-creator of VRML. What started as a vision of 3D information on the Internet has blossomed into the reality of a true Cyberspace under his guidance. He has presented his vision of VRML on numerous occasions to the international World Wide Web community. Pesce is the co-recipient of Meckler's Market Impact Award for Virtual Reality, and was recently named one of Network Computing's Most Influential People in Networking.

In his efforts to create a comprehensive framework for the inventory of affect in cyberspace, Pesce has consistently critiqued the medium he helped to create. "Final Amputation: Pathogenic Ontology in Cyberspace", delivered at CYBERCONF3, laid out a model - perceptual cybernetics - useful in understanding the psychological consequences of communicative mediation. Tying this foundation to Post-Modernist theory on one hand and esoteric magick on the other, Pesce outraged/delighted the audience at ISEA 1995, with "Ontos, Eros, Noos,Logos", uniting the Deleuzian discourse of assemblage with the ancient forms of ritual and witchcraft. In "Proximal and Distal Unities", presented at CYBERCONF5, Pesce argued that Peirre Teilhardde Chardin's Noosphere had arrived, and seemed to be using human agency to invoke itself into greater being.

During their 1996 competition, Mr. Pesce received an Honorable Mention from the Ars Electronica Foundation for WebEarth, which creates a fully-interactive real-time model of the planet from space, on the desktop. Mr. Pesce is the author of three books, "VRML: Browsing and Building Cyberspace", "VRML: Flying Through the Web", and " Learning VRML: Design for Cyberspace", all published by New Riders Publishing. Most recently, Mr. Pesce was selected as one of the " ID 40" for 1997 by International Design magazine, and as one of the Microtimes 100 for 1996.