- Interfacing Thought: Cognitive Aspects of Human-Computer Interaction
Interfacing Thought consolidates and presents theoretically important cognitive science research in the new and intensely active domain of human-computer interaction. It is a valuable survey of the whole range of problems and tasks in this growing field.The twelve essays focus on the design of "user interfaces," or computers as experienced and manipulated by human users, showing how human motivation, action, and experience place constraints on the usability of computer equipment. In confronting the challenge of developing an applied science of human-computer interaction grounded in the framework of cognitive science, the essays make basic contributions to the development of cognitive science itself.John M. Carroll is Manager of Advisory Interfaces at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center. He is coeditor, with Thomas G. Bever and Lance A. Miller, of Talking Minds: The Study of Language in the Cognitive Sciences, an MIT Press paperback. A Bradford Book.
- Wednesday is Indigo Blue - Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia
How the extraordinary multisensory phenomenon of synesthesia has changed our traditional view of the brain.
A person with synesthesia might feel the flavor of food on her fingertips, sense the letter "J" as shimmering magenta or the number "5" as emerald green, hear and taste her husband's voice as buttery golden brown. Synesthetes rarely talk about their peculiar sensory gift--believing either that everyone else senses the world exactly as they do, or that no one else does. Yet synesthesia occurs in one in twenty people, and is even more common among artists. One famous synesthete was novelist Vladimir Nabokov, who insisted as a toddler that the colors on his wooden alphabet blocks were "all wrong." His mother understood exactly what he meant because she, too, had synesthesia. Nabokov's son Dmitri, who recounts this tale in the afterword to this book, is also a synesthete--further illustrating how synesthesia runs in families.
In Wednesday Is Indigo Blue, pioneering researcher Richard Cytowic and distinguished neuroscientist David Eagleman explain the neuroscience and genetics behind synesthesia's multisensory experiences. Because synesthesia contradicted existing theory, Cytowic spent twenty years persuading colleagues that it was a real--and important--brain phenomenon rather than a mere curiosity. Today scientists in fifteen countries are exploring synesthesia and how it is changing the traditional view of how the brain works. Cytowic and Eagleman argue that perception is already multisensory, though for most of us its multiple dimensions exist beyond the reach of consciousness. Reality, they point out, is more subjective than most people realize. No mere curiosity, synesthesia is a window on the mind and brain, highlighting the amazing differences in the way people see the world.
- Selfless Insight - Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness
Attention, self-consciousness, insight, wisdom, emotional maturity: how Zen teachings can illuminate the way our brains function and vice-versa.
When neurology researcher James Austin began Zen training, he found that his medical education was inadequate. During the past three decades, he has been at the cutting edge of both Zen and neuroscience, constantly discovering new examples of how these two large fields each illuminate the other. Now, in Selfless Insight, Austin arrives at a fresh synthesis, one that invokes the latest brain research to explain the basis for meditative states and clarifies what Zen awakening implies for our understanding of consciousness. Austin, author of the widely read Zen and the Brain, reminds us why Zen meditation is not only mindfully attentive but evolves to become increasingly selfless and intuitive. Meditators are gradually learning how to replace over-emotionality with calm, clear objective comprehension. In this new book, Austin discusses how meditation trains our attention, reprogramming it toward subtle forms of awareness that are more openly mindful. He explains how our maladaptive notions of self are rooted in interactive brain functions. And he describes how, after the extraordinary, deep states of kensho-satori strike off the roots of the self, a flash of transforming insight-wisdom leads toward ways of living more harmoniously and selflessly. Selfless Insight is the capstone to Austin's journey both as a creative neuroscientist and as a Zen practitioner. His quest has spanned an era of unprecedented progress in brain research and has helped define the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience.
- Why Architects Still Draw
An architect's defense of drawing as a way of thinking, even in an age of electronic media.
Why would an architect reach for a pencil when drawing software and AutoCAD are a click away? Use a ruler when 3D-scanners and GPS devices are close at hand? In Why Architects Still Draw, Paolo Belardi offers an elegant and ardent defense of drawing by hand as a way of thinking. Belardi is no Luddite; he doesn't urge architects to give up digital devices for watercolors and a measuring tape. Rather, he makes a case for drawing as the interface between the idea and the work itself.
A drawing, Belardi argues, holds within it the entire final design. It is the paradox of the acorn: a project emerges from a drawing--even from a sketch, rough and inchoate--just as an oak tree emerges from an acorn. Citing examples not just from architecture but also from literature, chemistry, music, archaeology, and art, Belardi shows how drawing is not a passive recording but a moment of invention pregnant with creative possibilities.
Moving from the sketch to the survey, Belardi explores the meaning of measurement in a digital era. A survey of a site should go beyond width, height, and depth; it must include two more dimensions: history and culture. Belardi shows the sterility of techniques that value metric exactitude over cultural appropriateness, arguing for an "informed drawing" that takes into consideration more than meters or feet, stone or steel. Even in the age of electronic media, Belardi writes, drawing can maintain its role as a cornerstone of architecture.
- Buildings Must Die: A Perverse View of Architecture
Part memento mori for architecture, and part invocation to reimagine the design values that lay at the heart of its creative purpose.
Buildings, although inanimate, are often assumed to have "life." And the architect, through the act of design, is assumed to be their conceiver and creator. But what of the "death" of buildings? What of the decay, deterioration, and destruction to which they are inevitably subject? And what might such endings mean for architecture's sense of itself? In Buildings Must Die, Stephen Cairns and Jane Jacobs look awry at core architectural concerns. They examine spalling concrete and creeping rust, contemplate ruins old and new, and pick through the rubble of earthquake-shattered churches, imploded housing projects, and demolished Brutalist office buildings. Their investigation of the death of buildings reorders architectural notions of creativity, reshapes architecture's preoccupation with good form, loosens its vanities of durability, and expands its sense of value. It does so not to kill off architecture as we know it, but to rethink its agency and its capacity to make worlds differently.
Cairns and Jacobs offer an original contemplation of architecture that draws on theories of waste and value. Their richly illustrated case studies of building "deaths" include the planned and the unintended, the lamented and the celebrated. They take us from Moline to Christchurch, from London to Bangkok, from Tokyo to Paris. And they feature the work of such architects as Eero Saarinen, Carlo Scarpa, Cedric Price, Arata Isozaki, Rem Koolhaas and Francois Roche.
Buildings Must Die is both a memento mori for architecture and a call to to reimagine the design values that lay at the heart of its creative purpose.