Science 2.0?

The CTWatch article The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communications & Cyberinfrastructure predicts dramatic changes to peer-review as a result of the web

For all but a very small number of widely read titles, the day of the print journal seems to be almost over. Yet to see this development as the major impact of the web on science would be extremely narrow-minded – equivalent to viewing the web primarily as an efficient PDF distribution network. Though it will take longer to have its full effect, the web’s major impact will be on the way that science itself is practiced.

The list of references of the above article contains links to many of the new scientific communications applications.

Are social web applications capable of transforming the way in which peer-review is carried out?

The following are references to recent articles about the social web applications in science:

Science 2.0: Great New Tool, or Great Risk? Wikis, blogs and other collaborative web technologies could usher in a new era of science. Or not. By M. Mitchell Waldrop

Science happens not just because of people doing experiments, but because they’re discussing those experiments,” explains Christopher Surridge, editor of the Web-based journal, Public Library of Science On-Line Edition (PLoS ONE). Critiquing, suggesting, sharing ideas and data–communication is the heart of science, the most powerful tool ever invented for correcting mistakes, building on colleagues’ work and creating new knowledge. And not just communication in peer-reviewed papers; as important as those papers are, says Surridge, who publishes a lot of them, “they’re effectively just snapshots of what the authors have done and thought at this moment in time. They are not collaborative beyond that, except for rudimentary mechanisms such as citations and letters to the editor.

Scholarship 2.0: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Mar 25, 2008 ]

Komitas, a.k.a. Soghomon Soghomonyan

Some music by the great Armenian monk-composer Soghomon Soghomonyan (Komitas) can be found in the virtual museum of Komitas. Komitas is credited for bringing a renaissance to Armenian music through his collection and arrangement of over 3000 Armenian folk songs.

Gomidas Songs

Isabel Bayrakdarian was on CBC Radio today, presenting her new album Gomidas Songs .

The life of Father Gomidas is a powerful story of devotion and passion for his country, its people and its music — and it is one beautifully explored by Isabel Bayrakdarian and her husband, pianist and composer Serouj Kradijan, in a new CD called “Gomidas Songs.” THE_SUNDAY_EDITION, 2008 12 14

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from 2007-2008  ]

Philosophy of Photography by Henri Van Lier

Philosophy of Photography by Henri Van Lier is a recently published attempt at inducing theory from photography.

A philosophy of photography could be taken to mean the act of philosophizing on the subject of photography. That is to say, one can examine photography on the basis of concepts philosophers have accumulated over a period of two and a half millenia. One could inquire into its links with perception, imagination, nature, substance, essence, freedom and consciousness. […]

But the philosophy of the photograph can also designate the philosophy emanating from the photograph itself, the kind of philosophy the photo suggests and diffuses by virtue of its characteristics. 

Henri Van Lier’s book includes a broad range of insights into photography, its physical and social implications.

After having scrutinized all of its characteristics, it might be said that photography is best understood in light of the opposition often made today between the real and reality. Reality designates the real in so far as it is already seized and organized in sign systems, thus assuming the form of the actions, which are the designates that dominate or represent the signs in question. By contrast, the real is that which escapes this conception of reality. It is all that is before, after and underneath reality, it is all that is not yet domesticated by our technical, scientific, and social relations, and which Sartre, for instance, dubbed the quasi-relations of the in-itself. (p36). 

From the chapter “The Initiative of the Spectacle: Photogenicity”,

Even in a conventional photograph, often something will appear that neither the photographer nor the photogaphed actively looked for or even sensed in advance. A particular area of a face, a statement in someone’s shoulder or ankle, creases in clothes preceding any possible intention, not to be recovered by any notion of intentionality […]
This etymologically defines photogenicity as the manner in which one is generated by light. (It is the word Talbot chose before Herschel proposed “photography”) (p.63)

The introduction, written by Jan Baetens & Geert Goiris, refers to another work on this theme, Towards a Philosophy of Photography by Vilem Flusser. The editors praise Van Lier’s book as a comparable theoretical achievement to Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin and André Malreaux, André Bazin and John Berger. Interestingly, that opening introductory section “What we can learn from Henri Van Lier” begins with the following statement about the Internet,

In our times of globalization, real-time communication, and increasing exchanges or mergers between cultures and traditions, it would be an illusion to think that all texts and ideas exist simultaneously and can be accessed freely in the universal library of Babel, aka Google.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from  Dec 02, 2008]

Robert Capa’s lost negatives, “the Mexican suitcase”

At the beginning of this year, a great discovery was made – I should say ‘recovery’, thousands of Robert Capa’s negatives that were thought to be lost were found.

To the small group of photography experts aware of its existence, it was known simply as “the Mexican suitcase.” And in the pantheon of lost modern cultural treasures, it was surrounded by the same mythical aura as Hemingway’s early manuscripts, which vanished from a train station in 1922.

The suitcase — actually three flimsy cardboard valises — contained thousands of negatives of pictures that Robert Capa, one of the pioneers of modern war photography, took during the Spanish Civil War before he fled Europe for America in 1939, leaving behind the contents of his Paris darkroom.

The Capa Cache (New York Times)

You can view some images of the negatives here:

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from May 12, 2008]

Masters of Photography by Reuel Golden

While visiting the Tate Modern in London last month, I bought a copy of a recently published collection of short biographies and accompanying images with the title Masters of Photography – classic photographic artists of our time.

It is well written book with a good layout and paper quality. The author, Reuel Golden, is a former editor of British Journal of Photography who has lectured and published about photojournalism and the history of photography. He now lives and works in New York, as Executive Editor of the monthly Photo District News. This latest work is a compact book containing a pleasantly surprising quantity of short biographies of the photographers, as well as many images that are skillfully described within the context of the particular style or contribution to photography.

The following photographers are included in the contents: Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Eve Arnold, Eugène Atget, Cecil Beaton, Margaret Bourke-White, Bill Brandt, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, ALvin Langdon Coburn, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Curtis, Robert Doisneau, Tony Duffy, Elliot Erwitt, Lee Friedlander, Fay Godwin, Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Ernst Haas, Bert Hardy, Lewis W. Hine, Horst P Horst, Eric Hosking, Hoyningen-Huene, Eric Hosking, Nadav Kander, Karsh of Ottawa, André Kartész, William Klein, Heinz Kluetmeier, Nick Knight, Dorothea Lange, Frans Lanting, J.H. Lartigue, O.Winston Link, Steve McCurry, Mary Ellen Mark, James Nachtwey, Helmut Newton, Norman Parkinson, Martin Parr, Rankin, Eli Reed, Marc Riboud, Herb Ritts, Alexander Rodchenko, George Rodger, Willy Ronis, Sebastiao Salgado, Cindy Sherman, W.Euguene Smith, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Weegee, Madame Yevonde.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from  May 07, 2008]

No More Smoke Signals


The CANADIAN PREMIERE SCREENING of No More Smoke Signals is co-presented by RIDM, Montreal’s International Documentary Film Festival and Barriere Lake Solidarity.


Concordia University (Montreal)
Monday November 17, 2008
Screening begins 19h30
Venue: Room H-110, 1455 de maisonneuve
Fanny Bräuning / Switzerland / 2008 / 90 minA lone radio station on a small hill in South Dakota, founded in the 1970s by activists of the North American Indian resistance movement: KILI RADIO – “Voice of the Lakota Nation”. A forgotten place between struggle and hope, between Indian legends and everyday life on the poorest reservation in the USA. But there is Roxanne Two Bulls, who wants to begin a new life on the land of her ancestors, and the young DJ, Derrick, who discovers his talent for music at KILI. There is also Bruce, Caucasian, an attorney who has attempted to get an Indian activist released from prison for the past 30 years. And a sudden appearance by the former AIM activist John Trudell, who launched a career as a musician in Hollywood. Everything converges at KILI RADIO, and instead of sending smoke signals KILI transmits its signals throughout the vast and magnificent landscape, with a delightful combination of humour and melancholy. Native hip hop and broken windshields: pride has been restored – it really is OK to be Lakota.



It is a beautiful film based around the story of KILI radio station that touches on the history of Pine Ridge, Leonard Peltier, Wounded Knee Massacre, the Black Hills. This screening was the North American premiere, with the director Fanny Bräuning, and one of the characters from the film, the lawyer, Bruce present for a post-screening discussion. The 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Russell Means, and the Republic of Lakotah Declaration of Independence came up in the discussion. Fanny Bräuning said that she was inspired to make the film after reading Leonard Peltier’s book, Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance.

Lakota declares its Sovereignty

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Nov 17, 2008]

Sublime Limits of Representation

Truly interdisciplinary works of high quality are very rare, because they require the kind of intellectual discipline and curiosity that allows for understanding and insight into not one, but many disciplines that are customarily separated by theoretical and linguistic differences. The recently published James Elkins’ Six Stories from the End of Representation is a fascinating look at the limits of representation in art and science with chapters devoted to painting, photography, astronomy, microscopy, particle physics and quantum mechanics.

The motivation for the book is the writing of a work that does not favor either art nor science at the expense of the other – instead of looking at science through the language and methods of the humanities (or vice-versa), each is treated with their respective conventions.


Serious art and serious science remain very different, and people who study their connections end up looking at special cases that can’t, I think, add to a plausible account of wider movements and ideas.

(As usual, Tim Clark has the best phrase for this—it’s somewhere in Farewell to an Idea—he says “art usually dines very poorly on the leavings of science.”)

So my idea in this book is to stop finding causal connections between art and sciences. Instead I’m trying to find ways of talking about scientific and non-scientific images together, without special pleading or popularization.

In terms of the “science wars” (the book’s second ancillary purpose): it seems essential to me to try not to simplify either the relevant science or the art.

There has been a bit too much low-level squabbling recently between scientists and humanists, especially since Alan Sokal’s hoax and his subsequent book, and Bruno Latour’s playful, and, I think, somewhat irresponsible rewriting of special relativity.

source: Report on a Book Project Titled How Pictures Die: Six Stories from the End of Representation by James Elkins


The first chapter begins with the concept of sublimity, most notably, Immanuel Kant. Kant described the sublime as a mathematical or dynamic experience in his Critique of Judgement. Elkins returns to Kant’s theory throughout the book, the dynamic sublime,


One of Kant’s examples, and still the standard one, is a stormy ocean. By sheer force, the ocean denies us the freedom to act or to move as we will. It is Kant’s idea that a person confronting a tumultuous sea will first be paralyzed and humbled, and then begin thinking of how people avoid drowning: how they navigate the ocean, and how they are, in the end, independent of it. That train of thought is essentially a defense, and it brings with it a comforting sense of detachment […] For Kant, the feeling of the dynamic sublime arises from the contrast between two mental states: first the abject dependence on unmasterable forces, and then the freedom that comes with the awareness that thinking is a different kind of experience.

James Elkins’ Six Stories from the End of Representation ( p.28 )


and the mathematical sublime,


Kant defines it as an experience of something unencompassable, so large that it exceeds our capacity for comprehension. His example, the starry sky, is also one of my subjects in this book. At first, confronted with the starry sky, a viewer is dazzled, confused, and – again – humbled. Then she tries to employ some concept to help her comprehend the incomprehensible heavens: say for example the concept of infinity. The viewer says to herself, “This is infinite,” and for a moment she is comforted. But there follows a third moment (Kant’s analysis is typically intricate) when it becomes clear that the “manifold” object is too expansive to be understood. It cannot be gathered under a single concept, a single intuition. And further: the concept itself, in this case infinity, is not directly experienced, but somehow known. There follows a fourth and final moment when the viewer realizes that her innate capacity to reason is what drives the desire to encompass an unencompassable object with an inadequate concept. Even though the attempt to understand the object fails, the viewer becomes aware of a mysterious, inbuilt capacity to try to match her imagination to objects: a capacity that includes the very idea of a fully adequate concept even though no such concept can be imagined. The game is lost, but she knows that she has a “supersensible” faculty, which allows her to think about such things as infinity and the correspondence between inadequate concepts and unknowable objects. “The bare capacity of thinking this infinite without contradiction,” Kant says, “requires in the human mind a faculty that is itself supersensible [das selbst übersinnlich ist].” That is the sublime: a pleasure that comes from displeasure – the displeasure of realizing that the imagination has been, and will always be, defeated.

James Elkins’ Six Stories from the End of Representation ( p.29 )


Elkins emphasizes that the book is philosophy only in the sense that philosophy is sophophagic (“it eats other disciplines”) and the theme of of the book, representation, is a concept of study in philosophy; however, he avoids what he terms “philosophic vocabulary of representation” such as Vorstellung, Darstellung, Idea, simulacrum, eidolon, imago. I can understand the temptation to focus on the language of the philosophy of representation in any attempt to find a connecting principle between art and science – but that would result in another philosophy book to be read by professional philosophers, whereas Elkins intention was to create a book to be read by scholars in the humanities and natural scientists alike. I think that he succeeds in this.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from  Sept 7, 2008 ]

Carl Jung’s The Undiscovered Self

I was drawn to my first C.G. Jung book by the cover, silver material that served as a mirror. When I first picked up the 1979 edition of The Undiscovered Self at The Word bookstore on Milton Street, I found myself reflected in it. Although tacky somehow, it was nevertheless a clever play on the theme of self-discovery. Time magazine used the same trick on their cover when they recently announced that the person of the year is you.

The inside blurb calls this short book Jung’s “most prophetic – and most influential”. It has certainly proved to be somewhat prophetic of today’s ongoing debate about religion and science. The Undiscovered Self speaks of a growing rift between faith and knowledge, a contrast that “has become so enormous that one is obliged to speak of the incommensurability of these two categories and their way of looking at the world.”

Jung avoids the common pitfall of today which seems to reduce the debate to caricatures completely ignorant of the opposing point of view. He distinguishes between religion which expresses a subjective relationship to certain metaphysical factors and a creed which merely gives expression to a collective belief. Religion is understood in the broad sense, including the relationship of the individual to the metaphysical and the world of dreams, feelings and intuitions. Science, on the other hand, is the rationalistic, statistical and theoretical part of understanding. Self-knowledge, according to Jung, cannot be achieved by abandoning either of these facets.

Rationalized scientific theories are by definition generalized truths that attempt to go beyond the individual case, yet self-knowledge requires special attention to those things that are unique, individual and defy generalization


Since self-knowledge is a matter of getting to know the individual facts, theories help very little in this respect. For the more a theory lays claim to universal validity, the less capable it is of doing justice to the individual facts. Any theory based on experience is necessarily statistical; that is to say, it formulates an ideal average which abolishes all exceptions at either end of the scale and replaces them by an abstract mean. This mean is quite valid, though it need not necessarily occur in reality. ( p.8 )


Statistical methods show us an ideal average, not empirical reality; distinctive facts are individual. The real picture could consist of nothing but exceptions,

There is and can only be self-knowledge based on theoretical assumptions, for the object of self-knowledge is an individual – a relative exception and an irregular phenomenon. ( p.9 ) 

The individual cannot be understood as a “recurrent unit” but as something unique and singular. Jung admits that man is also a “member of a species” to be described as a statistical, comparative unit from which “all individual features have been removed.” This gives us knowledge about the human species, but it does not give us understanding of the individual since it is these ‘removed’ features that are necessary for understanding.

It is possible to store and accumulate knowledge in the form of memories. Understanding cannot be stored in the same way because understanding refers to events and experiences, of which only the memories can be partially preserved. Perhaps it is these memories that are the basis of our knowledge, but the relationship to the experience of understanding is ultimately unknown.

When I attended Marvin Minsky’s presentation on artificial intelligence at Concordia University last year, he was unequivocal about the fact that “experience” is much too ambiguous a term to be used in any definition of understanding. He went on to claim that hearing the term ‘experience’ is a signal for him that the person uttering it is worthy only of dismissal. This was not the most controversial of his statements that afternoon: he seemed to go out of his way to insist that religion is to blame for most of the world’s failures, including stagnating progress in science and technology and the failure to deliver real artificial intelligence. For Minsky, understanding is reducible to neural and semantic nets, representations of structure and function. According to his view, insight, illumination and creativity are all “common sense terms”, like consciousness itself, along with empathy, moral reflection and sense of identity; all are in reality too ambiguous and when correctly defined, reducible to structure and function. He seemed to blame religion itself for the fact that his structure-functional definitions of these terms have yet to take over the normative meaning.

Jung writes of the incompleteness of the scientific view of an individual

Judged scientifically, the individual is nothing but a unit which repeats itself ad infinitum and could just as well be designated with a letter of the alphabet. ( p.11 ) 

Czeslaw Milosz’ Captive Mind does precisely that, designating the characters not by the names of the individuals on which the stories are based, but by the letters of the Greek alphabet Alpha, Beta, Gama and Delta. Jacques Ellul argues that propagandists address their influence to individuals understood solely as interchangeable units, he writes in the first chapter of Propaganda: On the Formation of Man’s Attitudes,

Modern propaganda reaches individuals enclosed in the mass, yet it also aims at a crowd, but only as a body composed of individuals. What does this mean? First of all, that the individual is never considered as an individual, but always in terms of what he has in common with others, such as his motivations, his feelings, or his myths. He is reduced to an average; and except for a small percentage, action based on averages will be effectual. (p. 6) 


With books by Dawkins and Hitchens on the best seller lists, ‘scientific’ attacks against religion have become a common part of popular culture. Jung points out that at the time of his writing The Undiscovered Self, the basic conviction of the day is becoming “increasingly rationalistic”. Moreover, the growing conflict between faith and knowledge “is a symptom of the split consciousness which is so characteristic of the mental disorder of our day.” Jung actually describes this split as a neurotic disturbance at the social level,

In view of this, it does not help matters at all if one party pulls obstinately to the right and the other to the left. This is what happens in every neurotic psyche, to its own deep distress, and it is just this distress that brings the patient to the doctor. ( p.74 )


[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from  Feb 18, 2008 ]