MIT 4 273 - WHEN IS REASONING VISUAL (48 pages)

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WHEN IS REASONING VISUAL



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WHEN IS REASONING VISUAL

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Pages:
48
School:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Course:
4 273 - Introduction to Design Inquiry
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WHEN IS REASONING VISUAL GEORGE STINY MIT Abstract How to stop counting and start seeing My line of thought I d like to take a stab at the following question from the point of view of someone who thinks about design I m mostly interested in how I can come up with something new when I calculate with shapes How creative can I possibly be if I use rules Am I any more creative if I don t I won t say anything else about this but keep it in mind My question right now has to do with seeing 1 When is reasoning visual That I come from MIT where the motto is Minds and Hands I m told this means theory and practice may put me at something of a disadvantage when it comes to original thinking about minds and eyes Anyone who has seen MIT knows instantly that no one there pays much attention to how things look even with a distinguished architectural tradition including Aalto and today Siza Maki Gehry and Correa MIT is not a visual place I m going to try and see anyway I m not daring enough to attack question 1 directly My first thought was to tackle two additional questions and to take a route through their answers that appeared to me more clearly marked 2 When is calculating visual 3 Does reasoning include calculating If the answer to question 3 is a solid yes and I can answer question 2 then I can use visual calculating as a working model to understand visual reasoning This is reasoning by inference from the properties of a part to the properties of the whole And this is how everything is related 1 G STINY if it all fits together the way it s supposed to But the longer I looked at my neat little diagram is this visual reasoning the more I thought about which way the inclusions should go Maybe the relationships are really like this so that reasoning and calculating are merely special cases of visual reasoning and visual calculating In fact I m sure each of my diagrams is correct in its own way and have already established the underlying equivalencies for calculating by counting and alternatively by seeing Counting is the standard model I ll return to the idea that calculating is normative later on Some of you may be familiar with the details They involve the algebras of shapes Ui j U0 0 U0 1 U1 1 U0 2 U1 2 U2 2 U0 3 U1 3 U2 3 U3 3 and whether basic elements in shapes are points with dimension i 0 or lines planes or solids with dimension i 0 And then there are a number of technical devices including for example analytic descriptions of basic elements and their boundaries canonical representations of shapes using maximal elements and reduction rules to compare shapes and combine them But right now I d like to take a more leisurely conversational approach There s no reason to insist on rigor in Bellagio on Lake Como in the summer 2 WHEN IS REASONING VISUAL First I show that calculating is part of reasoning and then by analogy how many kinds of reasoning are there anyway conclude that visual calculating is part of visual reasoning And I go on to present some of the evidence I ve found for visual calculating My plan is the same What I glean from visual calculating will tell me what I need to know about visual reasoning This is a discursive process that runs by logic or desultory rambling I m not too fond of logic and avoid it if I can So I m apt to ramble aimlessly Roaming around to see what s what is a more effective way procedure to get new and useful results But the ambiguity of this process sometimes logic and sometimes not isn t wasted It shows better than anything I can say why visual calculating and so reasoning are important They re the only way I know to deal with ambiguity and novelty and not give up on calculating as a creative part of thought This is the key if calculating is to model visual reasoning Some of you may have already decided that my line of thought is only engineering It may be practical to use models and the like but it s unlikely to lead to fresh insights of the kind you have come to hear I won t argue that I m not doing engineering I m more confident about calculating than I ever will be about reasoning I can point to examples of calculating including one or two of my own invention but I m never sure about reasoning My own reasoning when it goes beyond calculating is as suspect as any If I think I ve got a really good argument someone soon comes along and pokes holes in it And it s the same if I try to follow the reasoning of others I go from thinking I m thinking to thinking I m not This is the sort of abstruse game philosophers like to play It s hard and it goes on and on forever I m no philosopher I m a lot happier with the more accessible pleasures of engineering I like to calculate and to get sensible results But what about fresh insights Everybody is always on the lookout for something new Is there any reason to buy into my three questions if it s not going to go anywhere new and different I m always surprised at how much more there is to calculating than I expect at the beginning What surprises me the most is that the best surprises don t come from clever ways of counting or complicated coding tricks that take real brain power from what s valued and encouraged in calculating but straight from seeing Let s see just how visual calculating works I can t be sure before I show you but I m almost positive that you re going to be surprised at how much there is to visual reasoning if it s like visual calculating 3 G STINY Does reasoning include calculating I want to show that reasoning includes calculating Most of the people I ve asked agree that it does but only as a narrow kind of process among many other kinds of greater scope that contribute more to thinking Even so I need to show this to go on I need an account of reasoning that s like calculating so that I can explain visual reasoning in terms of visual calculating I won t develop an account of my own from scratch Others have done this Thomas Hobbes was apparently the first one in a variety of different ways from which I can select This may take some reasoning at least a little judgment if not actual calculating but the stakes aren t high There s enough agreement to decide on aesthetic grounds alone There s no reason for careful analysis and rigorous argument This is the kind of everyday choice that s easy to make but that …


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