On the Evolution of the Heavenly Spheres: An Enactive Approach to Cosmography
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The ability to view the world from multiple perspectives is essential for tackling complex, interconnected challenges. Yet conventional academic structures are designed to produce knowledge through ever-increasing specialization and compartmentalization. This fragmentation is often reinforced by tacit dualistic assumptions that prioritize linear thinking and abstract ways of knowing. Though the need for integrated approaches has been widely acknowledged, effective techniques for transcending disciplinary boundaries remain elusive.
This thesis describes a practical strategy that uses immersive visualizations to cultivate transdisciplinary perspectives. It develops an enactive approach to cosmography, contending that processes of visualizing and interpreting the cosmos iteratively shape ‘views’ of the ‘world.’ The archetypal trope of the heavenly sphere is examined to demonstrate the significance of its interpretations in this history of ideas. Action research and mixed methods are employed to elucidate the theoretical considerations, cultural relevance, and practical consequences of this approach.
The study begins with an investigation into the recurring appearance of the heavenly sphere across time, in which its embodied origins, metaphorical influence, and material embodiments are considered. Particular attention is given to how cosmographic tools and techniques have facilitated imaginary ‘flights’ through the heavens, from the ecstatic bird’s eye view of the shaman to the ‘Archimedean point’ of modern science. It then examines how these cosmographic practices have shaped cosmological beliefs and paradigmatic assumptions. Next, the practical utility of this approach is demonstrated through the development of cosmographic hermeneutics, a technique using visual heuristics to interpret cosmic models from transdisciplinary world views. Finally, the performative practice of cosmotroping is described, in which cosmographic hermeneutics are applied to re-imagine the ancient dream of the transcendent ‘cosmic journey’ within immersive vision theaters. This study concludes that the re-emergence of the heavenly sphere within the contemporary Digital Universe Atlas provides a leverage point for illuminating the complexity of knowledge production processes. It is claimed that this research has produced a practical strategy for demonstrating that the ultimate Archimedean point is the ability to recognize the limits of our own knowledge, a crucial first step in cultivating much-needed multi-perspectival and paradoxical spherical thinking.
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