Mimesis

n. The imitation or representation of aspects of the sensible world, especially human actions, in literature and art. (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed.)

Biology. The close external resemblance of an organism, the mimic, to some different organism, the model, such that the mimic benefits from the mistaken identity, as seeming to be unpalatable or harmful. (Dictionary.com)

More from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:

Basic theoretical principle in the creation of art. The word is Greek and means “imitation” (though in the sense of “re-presentation” rather than of “copying”). Plato and Aristotle spoke of mimesis as the re-presentation of nature. According to Plato, all artistic creation is a form of imitation: that which really exists (in the “world of ideas”) is a type created by God; the concrete things man perceives in his existence are shadowy representations of this ideal type. Therefore, the painter, the tragedian, and the musician are imitators of an imitation, twice removed from the truth. Aristotle, speaking of tragedy, stressed the point that it was an “imitation of an action”—that of a man falling from a higher to a lower estate. Shakespeare, in Hamlet’s speech to the actors, referred to the purpose of playing as being “…to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature.” Thus, an artist, by skillfully selecting and presenting his material, may purposefully seek to “imitate” the action of life.

The place I recently spotted the word was in the book The Hand by Frank Wilson, which I will be posting about shortly. Wilson discusses Origins of the Modern Mind by Merlin Donald, and quotes this passage:

Mimetic skill or mimesis rests on the ability to produce conscious, self-initiated, representational acts that are intentional, but not linguistic…. Mimesis is fundamentally different from imitation and mimicry in that it involves invention of intentional representations….Mimetic skill results in the sharing of knowledge without every member of the group having to reinvent that knowledge….The primary form of mimetic expression was, and continues to be, visuomotor. The mimetic skills basic to child-rearing, toolmaking, cooperative gathering and hunting, the sharing of food and other resources, finding, constructing, and sharing shelter, and expressing social hierarchies and custom would have involved visuomotor behavior. (Donald, pp. 169-177, quoted in Wilson, p. 48)

"Can researchers study the populations of online video games, like Everquest 2, just as they study traditional communities like Miami, Pittsburgh or Minneapolis?"

A research study by a University of Minnesota computer scientist and colleagues from across the country shows that online, interactive gaming communities are now so massive that they mirror traditional communities.

Real time effects for daily living

A breakthrough iPhone application called RjDj allows you to go about your daily business listening to the world through real-time audio effects. Similarities to drugs and to movie soundtracks are mentioned in the video, but this is much, much bigger and cooler than those. RjDj uses motion and sound sensors to layer digitally mapped feedback over everyday experience. It’s a step toward pre-processing all of the sensory stimuli flowing into your body so that they’re optimized for comfort, pleasure, and information density. I predict this is going to become one of the central uses of mobile computers, and RjDj suggests that it’s already on its way.

(via Althouse)

Interaction powered by humans

Popular Science writes about harvesting energy from human movement:

The Bionic Energy Harvester can produce enough power from a one-minute walk to juice a cell phone for 30 minutes. The generator sits on your knee and gathers energy toward the end of your step, when your leg begins to brake.

There may be a lot of potential here, but most of the article talks about the ability to charge a phone, which just doesn’t seem that exciting. But this is cool:

Soon, we might not even have to consciously move to create power. Wang is working on a polymer film that would surround his power-generating fibers and allow them to be implanted into our bodies. There they would harvest kinetic energy from the steady dilation and contraction of blood vessels, providing a source of electricity for pacemakers, insulin pumps and other medical devices—making for a truly powerful breakthrough.

There are also some innovative musical applications:

Dance clubs are also getting in on the action. In the Netherlands, Rotterdam’s new Club WATT has a floor that harnesses the energy created by the dancers’ steps. Designed by a Dutch company called the Sustainable Dance Club, the floor is based on the piezoelectric effect, in which certain materials produce an electric current when compressed or bent… As clubgoers dance, the [floor] generates anywhere from two to 20 watts of electricity, depending on the impact of the patrons’ feet. For now, it’s just enough to power LED lights in the floor, but in the future, more output is expected from newer technology. In London, Surya, another new eco-nightclub, uses the same principle for its dance floor, which the owners hope will one day generate 60 percent of the club’s electricity.

Using piezo materials in a dance floor to power a real-time interaction is more inspiring than using it to provide some percentage of the venue’s electricity. To me, the LED floor implies a revolution of environment, in its Gibsonian sense, not environmentalism. Here’s more about Club WATT:

Music for the deaf and hard of hearing

The “Emoti Chair” as they call it is built to bring musical pleasure to the deaf and the hearing impaired. The chair has a multitude of build-in speakers and vibrating devices delicately calibrated to “translate music and sound into movement. Whether it be rocking or vibrations, the music can be heard through the movement of the chair, expressing to the person sitting, the emotion heard in sound.”