National Geographic: Swarm Behaviour

National Geographic’s Swarm Behaviour is a thoroughly interesting article on insect behaviour. It discusses how research into insect behaviour is leading to new techniques in problem-solving, management, and artificial intelligence.

It even could shed light on humans and our behaviour.

“A honeybee never sees the big picture any more than you or I do,” says Thomas Seeley, the bee expert. “None of us knows what society as a whole needs, but we look around and say, oh, they need someone to volunteer at school, or mow the church lawn, or help in a political campaign.”

Very often, we don’t try to see intelligence elsewhere. We’ve created a definition of intelligence based on what we know.

I like to think that us humans are pattern recognition and replication machines with vastly more soft-wiring than other creatures. Even so, there’s still a lot of hard-wiring and hormonal influences, much more than we would like to believe.

We certainly swarm, drawn to volunteering to mow church lawns or queue for iPhones. Whatever we do, we love to believe we can justify it.

Artistic Composition – Eyetracking and Training

Eyetracking trace over the same image, one is more expansive, the other focuses on the centre of the image

One of these days I’ll get my hands onto some eye tracking tools!

Cognitive Daily: Artists look different discusses research into the differences between the way trained artists and ordinary folks view images.


As someone who works daily with architects, structural engineers, graphic designers and architectural photographers, I’d love to see how their eye movements differ from the above.

Vogt and Magnussen argue that it comes down to training: artists have learned to identify the real details of a picture, not just the ones that are immediately most salient to the perceptual system, which is naturally disposed to focusing on objects and faces.

Vaughan at Mind Hacks puts it more succinctly:

The study concluded that artists spend more time looking at areas of the visual scene that the rest of us pass over as less important.

That’s what I’d call composition. Working with talented visual people, I wonder if eyetracking could reveal their perceptions of good and bad composition, and how they differ by profession.

It’s also interesting to see the effect being ascribed to training rather than artistic talent.

I’m inclined to think that notions of composition come from some kind of imposed training, even if it is implicit training. My question is, does my brain think it’s good composition because it appreciates the arrangement, or because it’s been trained to?

SerendipitRSS: Icon Analysis and Revision Control

A delightful, but freaky coincidence between A List Apart and Boxes and Arrows this morning.

So I’ve popped a couple of pages from their RSS feeds into Firefox tabs, I’ve been staring at this image of spacially frequency-filtered icons, and trying to imagine how the techniques could be of use to me.Icon Analysis picture - from
Then I flick over to the next tab to see the heading

I Wonder What This Button Does

It turns out this is an article on revision control, in particular Subversion (SVN) – answering a lot of the questions I had about two months ago, plus giving me a couple of good pointers.