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authorSilvio Rhatto <rhatto@riseup.net>2018-08-07 10:05:58 -0300
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+[[!meta title="Maciunas Learning Machines"]]
+[Maciunas’s Learning Machine](http://georgemaciunas.com/exhibitions/knowledge-as-art-chance-computability-and-improving-education-thomas-bayes-alan-turing-george-maciunas/george-maciunas/maciunas-learning-machine/).
+## Snippets
+ The declared aim was “to learn as if mechanically and without having to think
+ too much.” 38
+ [...]
+ The idea of the interactive user was born. George Maciunas is one of them.
+ [...]
+ This interest in graphic forms of communi- cation can in turn be traced back to
+ Maciunas’ profound aversion to books. Instead of spending hours of his time
+ reading, he preferred to learn by taking in as much informa- tion as possible
+ at a glance. This explains his fascination with diagrams, charts, maps, tables,
+ systems of coordinates, and graphs. The charting of history, moreover, was but
+ one facet of the visual information which was to preoccupy him throughout his
+ life, not just as an architect, but as a knowledge worker.
+ [...]
+ Thus the Atlas of Russian History ranks among those forms of knowledge-driven
+ visualization systems that can be grouped together under the term “operative
+ pictoriality.” 51
+ One key feature of “operative pictoriality” is the interaction on a map of the
+ visual and the discursive. The latter takes the form of keywords used to
+ chronicle historical events—trans- formative processes of which each map can
+ provide no more than a snapshot showing them at a certain point in time, or at
+ a particular stage in their unfolding. The Atlas of Russian His- tory is
+ remarkable for another quality as well, namely in the way it uses recurring
+ terminol- ogy. As a kind of hyperlink, this terminology facilitates navigation
+ through the Atlas, which after all works on the principle of anticipation.
+ [...]
+ The cartography ends more or less abruptly in the late nineteenth century. The
+ heroic phase of Soviet history that was to follow in the early twentieth
+ century was too complex to be contained, let alone mapped, in the traditional
+ atlas format. To a certain extent, therefore, Maciunas can be said to have
+ reached the limits of what the charting and mapping of his- tory could achieve.
+ The limit he had reached was systemic, of the kind Gregory Bateson examined in
+ his book Mind and Nature (1979): “All description, explanation, or representa-
+ tion is necessarily in some sense a mapping of derivatives from the phenomena
+ to be de- scribed onto some surface or matrix or system of coordinates. In the
+ case of an actual map, the receiving matrix is commonly a flat sheet of paper
+ of finite extent, and difficulties occur when that which is to be mapped is too
+ big or, for example, spherical. . . . Every receiving matrix,” Bateson
+ concluded, “will have its formal characteristics which will in principle be
+ distortive of the phenomena to be mapped onto it.” 59
+ [...]
+ The distortion of phenomena in the Atlas of Russian History consisted in its
+ gross simplifica- tion of complex geohistorical processes as factographic
+ fallout. To be able to capture that “hot” phase in a chronology which, owing to
+ the large number of fast-moving events that have to be taken into account, has
+ the character of “differential elements”—to borrow Claude Lévi-Strauss’
+ definition for the study of anthropology—Maciunas had no choice but to change
+ his mode of presentation. He therefore switched from two-dimensional mapping of
+ history to the historiogram, which could be expanded in three dimensions
+ without any major structural changes and thus lent itself more readily to the
+ ever greater factual density Maciunas now grappled with.
+ [...]
+ Usually, geographical maps are static representations. The snapshots of history
+ they pro- vide have no room for the dynamic dimension of historical processes.
+ The arrows Maciunas used in the Atlas of Russian History are an attempt to
+ restore a sense of dynamism. The vectors are necessary to the mental animation
+ of systems, and signify large-scale move- ments such as migrations or
+ invasions. Yet they can only ever mark out the general direc- tion, never the
+ exact route taken. It is the arrows, moreover, which lend the charts the dia-
+ grammatic character that appeals so strongly to non-cartographers such as
+ Maciunas. The rudimentary nature of the cartographic information provided on
+ the various sheets also belongs in this category. Because Maciunas dispenses
+ with a frame, a grid, and a specifica- tion of scale, the representational
+ space of his history charts tends to resemble pictures rather than maps. 61
+ [...]
+ The history of the empire was to inform maps of the empire. The political
+ function of the atlas of history was thus very similar to that of history
+ painting. Its purpose was not so much to deliver comfort and relief—which was
+ what history paintings had to do—as to nurture historical awareness. Such
+ awareness as the basis for social development, however, was to be found only at
+ the top of the learning curve that was preceded and facilitated by the
+ positivistic acquisition of facts. To para- phrase Jürgen Habermas, social
+ evolution is driven by changes in the knowledge poten- tial. 69 The historical
+ sources show a milieu which believed in the reformation—meaning the
+ improvement—of the world by education. Maciunas’ maps are of a piece with this
+ en- lightenment ideology. As an imaginative matrix, they do not deliver an
+ abstract model of history, but rather generate their own history—one whose
+ narrative strategies elude any direct empirical verification. This metahistory
+ is ideologically motivated. As the factual density increases, so the process of
+ historical change picks up speed, culminating in the Russian Revolution.
+ Maciunas’ mapping project was focused on that one event, an event which
+ exemplifies most vividly the feasibility of history, which in turn allows for
+ the idea that society can indeed be modeled.