Wednesday, November 16, 2005

artificial coupling devices

very interesting meeting to discuss sensory substitution held by the dysturb reading group based on the approach taken in Compiegne.

it may or may not be obvious that research using artificial coupling devices lies very closely to the dynamical systems approach to learning, there were several points in the reading that I found most relevant some of which were brought to the discussion.

Of particular interest is the point raised from sensory substitution experiments about the richness of perception depending as much on the quality of movements as in that of the sensations. Yet I am a bit surprised that much of the actual research lies on the side of supplementing sensations, as opposed to supplementing motor activity. If perceptual supplementation is to be taken seriously then motor-substitution should have similar effects on our perception as well as the more commonly explored sensory-substitution. The thing might be that we do supplement our motors in all ways since we are very young of age, with bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, eventually cars, etc. So, do these motor-supplementation change our perception? they do. But we are too used to them to take much 'scientific' notice. So, how do these motor-supplementations change our perception?.. I'm thinking that this field would benefit from minimal studies experimenting with motor and sensor supplementing and see how equivalent they are. It would be very interesting if one could even compensate our perception with motor and sensor changes such that one suppresses the other's effect.

Another point of interest is the possibility of studying 'values' from such experiments, without resource to philosophy and pschocology. It is interesting to know that for a person that experiments such 3D perception from a camera mounted on its head which was born blind the 3D perception has little or no meaning. This points towards values not being something that is attached to objects out in the world but rather of values being a historical construction from the interaction with perceptions over time.

Many other really interesting points, but the last one I'll mention here is that of the plasticity shown by organisms' nervous systems and bodies. The capacity of take in perturbations from the environment and couple with them in an increasingly meaningful way over time. One thing which is of interest is to know where this plasticity is taking place. For example, say somebody trains to 'see' with his stomach and then the patch is displaced or placed in a completely different place (its back), how long does it take to re-learn/re-adapt to 'see' again? I think that depending on how long it takes one to re-learn would say something about where the plasticity is coming from. If it took very little time, once learnt, to swap between any part of the body the patch and still see then if would be a plasticity at a very high level in the nervous system. On the other hand, if one had to learn almost from scratch again then it would imply that a lot of it is happening at the level of the body... does that make any sense?

anyway, hopefully more on this later on..

the reading was: Lenay C., Gapenne O., Hanneton S., Marque C. et Genouëlle C. Traduction anglaise (2003) Sensory Substitution, Limits and Perspectives, in Touch for Knowing, John Benjamins Publishers, Amsterdam.

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