From: Jill Scott
Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2007 12:41:02 +0100
Yes and thank you for your thoughtfull response.
I agree that literal visualization evidence is a questionable quality, especially if it is related to success. But I also think, that different approaches to communication often help or hinder the understanding of research. From our experience one of the main differences between art and science researchers is in their use of metaphors. This concerns the value of visual poetic metaphors compared to a more literal use of metaphors. Often scientific researchers have not had any formal training in the development of visual metaphors, and educators in these fields tend to use language metaphors because they feel that they minimize ambiguity and seem to be understood by most people. However, language in itself can be very ambiguous and full of clichés and triviality and these metaphors can cause conservative judgements and really affect the levels of respect.
This is an issue that may need to be taken into account in relation to the future of art and science collaboration, because I have the impression the basic scientific researchers are ambiguous about the value of metaphors. A literal interpretation of a metaphor can easily lead to a wrong understanding of the subject at hand. Some examples include; a visual metaphor of an atom as a solar system consisting of a sun (the nucleus) and it's planets (the electrons) http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2843/is_5_29/ai_n15734306or how biological evolution corresponds to the metaphor of climbing a mountain in a three dimensional fitness landscape, http://www.morphostasis.org.uk/metaphors.htm. This lack of training and consequent miss-representation in visual metaphors seems ridiculous when some of the most complex and beautiful metaphors can be found in science.
Instead of using metaphors based on generalizations and language, the contemporary poetic metaphor is more based on thought and conceptual associations. As Lakoff suggests (Lakoff, G. (1993). The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor.
http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~market/semiotic/lkof_met.html) artists and writers learn that there are many conceptual types of visual poetic metaphors. There are structural metaphors related to the concept of dimension, whose dimensional associations may change with differing cultures. Another type of metaphor is about orientation and occurs when structures are experienced in terms of spatial orientation. A third might be ontological metaphors, which occur when our experiences are related to abstract phenomena or in terms of concrete textures, forces or objects.
As you said these perspectives may help to reflect the cultural load that we all bring to perception and interpretation. So here are two questions to which I would love to have your response again-
It would be interesting to see what would happen if scientists were to start to explore more poetic metaphors, (rather that those found on the front cover of Nature. What do your think about this?
Could more discussions about metaphors between artists and scientists actually contribute to a highly skilled, critical and reflective artwork, which might gain more respect from science?
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