Friday, August 3, 2007

"Echo Objects"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Barbara Maria Stafford's Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images.

About the book, from the publisher:

Barbara Stafford is at the forefront of a growing movement that calls for the humanities to confront the brain’s material realities. In Echo Objects she argues that humanists should seize upon the exciting neuroscientific discoveries that are illuminating the underpinnings of cultural objects. In turn, she contends, brain scientists could enrich their investigations of mental activity by incorporating phenomenological considerations — particularly the intricate ways that images focus intentional behavior and allow us to feel thought.

This, then, is a book for both sides of the aisle, a stunningly broad exploration of how complex images — or patterns that compress space and time — make visible the invisible ordering of human consciousness. Stafford demonstrates, for example, how the compound formats of emblems, symbols, collage, and electronic media reveal the brain’s grappling to construct mental objects that are redoubled by prior associations. On the other hand, she compellingly shows that findings in evolutionary biology and the neurosciences are providing profound opportunities for understanding aesthetic conundrums as old and deep-seated as the human urge to imitate, the mapping of inner space, and the role of narrative and nonnarrative representation.

As precise in her discussions of firing neurons as she is about the coordinating dynamics of image making, Stafford locates these major transdisciplinary issues at the intersection of art, science, philosophy, and technology. Ultimately, she makes an impassioned plea for a common purpose — for the acknowledgement that, at the most basic level, these separate projects belong to a single investigation.