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Theseus’ Paradox

Inquiry by Design

A Visual Investigation of Image Differentiation

HGK Basel Summer Design Workshop 2011

Matthew Wizinsky


Introduction

Subject of Inquiry

Objectives

The Ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus’ paradox is a paradox that raises the question of whether an object which has had all its component parts replaced remains fundamentally the same object.

Theseus’ paradox is the starting point for a body of research into the material, iconic, and trace components of an image. By exploring two distinct images, my investigation seeks to discover what constitutes one image’s differentiation as well as potential methods for blending two images into a new representation that retains the identity of both originals.

According to Greek legend as reported by Plutarch, The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned [from Crete] had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same. Plutarch, Theseus 1 Plutarch thus questions whether the ship would remain the same if it were entirely replaced, piece by piece. Centuries later, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes introduced a further puzzle, wondering: what would happen if £the original planks were gathered up after they were replaced, and used to build a second ship.2 Which ship, if either, is the original Ship of Theseus? 3 1 Plutarch. “Theseus”. The Internet Classics Archive. 2 Chisholm, Roderick M. The Ship of Theseus, Person and Object:

A Metaphysical Study,

Through doing so, the differentiating elements of each image are assessed and applied toward new symbolic representations of each. This process of abstraction moves from the photographic, through the visually symoblic, and arrives at the doorstep of language—without ever employing the use of letter forms. For this investigation, I have employed two photographs of distinct places: Chicago, my home, and Basel, the place where these studies are taking place. My purpose in this selection is to further explore what constitutes the identity of a city through those visual elements of differentiation. What this research reveals is to be considered in relationship to the differentiational aspect of language— specifically, the written word. The visual qualities inherent an images appear to have great durability in retaining signification, even as the elements are reduced, simplified, and manipulated. As the end results of this study should testify, this durability of the image’s signification—despite shifting connotations—can even go so far as to suggest language (each city’s name), so long as both image and word are familiar.

3 Wikipedia. The Ship of Theseus.

Inquiry by Design

HGK Basel Summer Design Workshop 2011

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Original Images

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Material Manipulation

Inquiry by Design

Blur

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Material Manipulation

Inquiry by Design

Halftone

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Material Manipulation

Inquiry by Design

Area Color by Circle

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Material Manipulation

Inquiry by Design

Area Color by Square

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Material Manipulation

Inquiry by Design

Area Color by Isometric Triangle

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Segmentation

Inquiry by Design

Hoizontal

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Segmentation

Inquiry by Design

Vertical

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Trace

Area by Color & Contrast

Inquiry by Design

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Trace

Area by Contrast & Manipulation

Inquiry by Design

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Trace

Skyline

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Trace

Skyline

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Icon

Image Reduction

Inquiry by Design

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Icon

Image Reduction

Inquiry by Design

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Merge

Segmentation

Inquiry by Design

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Merge

Segmentation

Inquiry by Design

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Merge

Segmentation

Inquiry by Design

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Merge

Material Manipulation

Inquiry by Design

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Merge

Trace & Icon

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Merge

Trace & Icon

Inquiry by Design

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Merge

Trace & Icon

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Merge

Trace & Icon

Inquiry by Design

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Merge

Material Manipulation, Trace & Icon

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Transition

Toward the Symbolic

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Transition

Toward the Symbolic

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Transition

Toward the Symbolic

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Transition

Toward the Symbolic

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Result

New Differentiated Symbols

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Result

Poster with Merged Elements

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Theseus’ Paradox: A Visual Investigation of Image Differentiation  

Theseus’ Paradox is the starting point for a body of research into the material, iconic, and trace components of an image. By exploring two...

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