This topic has been in the news lately. It seems that there is new research that reveals a primal sense of awareness and vision underlying our ability to recognize visual images. I first came across this in a piece done on NPR and in the NY Times on a blind mans ability to navigate an obstacle course. This patient was left blind by two successive strokes and received damage to the information processing part of his brain, but did not sustain damage to his eyes or optic nerve. In spite of the inability to process visual stimulation, he was able to successfully navigate an obstacle course which was laid before him.
I then saw this piece on CNN about a photograph exibit by blind photographers at the Bezalel Academy of Arts in Israel. What a unique concept. Kfir Sivan and Iris Darel-Shinar have run a photography workshop for blind photographers. The pictures are very stunning and haunting at times. I would love to go see the exhibit.
I was also looking at an article written by the MIT News Office on Elizabeth Goldring, an artist, poet, and Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Over the last 20 years, Goldring has developed what she refers to as a “seeing machine”. The first prototype cost over $100,000, but this most recent incarnation has a possible price tag of around $500 and the possibility of opening access to visually impared people.
The advances in understanding visual perception and processing offer hope for people who have lost their ability to connect to their surroundings. This understanding, along with the growing recognition of the artistic contributions provided by these individuals, will make the neuro-visual research an exciting field to follow.
I ran into Joost on Thursday of last week at Bosworth’s Cafe in Lobby 7 at MIT. As usual, ended talking about one of our favorite subjects, emerging technologies and the developing countries. Joost is a good friend with whom I have shared many beers at the Muddy Charles pub. He is one of those people that makes MIT such a great place to be. Joost is interested in everything dealing with global startups, social enterprises, sustainability, innovation, and technology. He runs the blog Maximizing Progress, in which he shares stories about people, ideas, technology, and just plain cool stuff that happens around MIT and the world.
I love spending time with Joost as we usually end up kicking back some tasty brews, discussing and sometimes pushing to the limit ideas dealing with the plight of humanity and how science, technology, and engineering can provide answers to some of the issues facing the developing world. Just a little of what he does around MIT and Cambridge: HighTech Fever on Cambridge Community TV; teaches various seminars and classes at MIT; The Muddy Charles Pub; Techlink; MIT Enterprise Forum; HowToons. If you see him around campus, definitely stop him and introduce yourself.
I came accross the Discovery Channel‘s Global Education Partnership. This is a very interesting project sponsored in part by the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, Chevron‘s Economic and Community Development program, along with many other companies and individuals. In their own words:
In collaboration with local educators in underserved countries, Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership harnesses the educational power of television by creating Learning Centers – versatile community resources where students, teachers and entire communities can access and share information.
The Global Education Partnership provides equipment, training, and program development to communities in underserved countries. Unlike many other programs, this one is structures to provide both short therm and long term resources and support to all the community where the education centers are established. It is good to see that television is being used to do good and to bring educate.
If you haven’t seen this, you should go to the NanObama web site and take a look at this new art medium that uses nanocarbon tube structures as the basis for creating images and electronic figures. While you are there, make sure you go and take a look at the gallery of other nanoimages at NanoBliss. This is a pretty cool and innovative use of the the technique of photolithography and catalyst patterning.
In the last several years there has been an Academic interest in developing the creative side of scientists. Several Institutions have begun dedicated programs for the nurturing and development of the scientist / artist. There are now several programs dedicated to the advancement and education of scientists as artists. Harvard Medical School BioArt Progam and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute BioArt Program have dedicated BioArt programs. The Canadian Association of Physicists has a yearly Art of Physics competition. Brown University has a nice listing of Art and Technology programs from Universities from around the world. It will be interesting to see how scientists start to use newly developed laboratory protocols and images from their results to generate a whole new art media.