TAPESTRY: The Art of Representation and Abstraction

The Art of It

The Illusion of Objectivity

Culturally we are encouraged to view computers as infallible, rational objects. At the same time, we forget that famous quip about "Garbage in, garbage out." In fact, we can repeatably and reliably compute with certain kinds of data, such as numbers, but the world is a very complex place, and our efforts to reproduce it inside a computer are fraught with challenge.

In the context of 3D modeling and rendering, he truth is that you cannot recreate every aspect of physical reality inside "the box." It would take too long to do, and it would be impossible to perform useful computing using it. Too much of "reality" as we know it involves infinities or at least very large numbers. Because of this, we use approximations--approximations of shape, color, and behaviors of light, shade, and shadow.

We call the process "modeling and rendering" and sometimes forget that it involves decisions about how the model is to be used and by whom. We may come to believe that whenever we "put in all the data" and "push the button," then "out comes a [true and accurate] picture". This is the illusion of objectivity.

The Reality of Subjectivity

So, you cannot recreate every aspect of physical reality inside "the box." If you cannot recreate all of reality in the model, the model becomes like a sketch or drawing. Its author must choose which features to emphasize and which features to de-emphasize, which complex features to replace with simpler ones, etc.

Each gesture should be carefully considered. Each should serve the story-telling purpose of the author. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Last updated: April, 2014

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