IEEE Visualization '97
Dissolving Descartes: Perception and the Construction of
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 Ü 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
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