making a non-human thing seem human; ascribing human qualities to an object or animal; the practices of naming ships after women and putting costumes on pets at Halloween are examples of anthropomorphism


a self-operating machine, a robot; a robot fashioned to look and act like a human being; a person who acts mechanically, without emotions or independent thinking



the sense of unity of the whole, achieved by the of distribution of parts; in visual arts, the interaction of parts that are weighted to confirm the viewer’s physical awareness of gravity; symmetry


simulacra (simulacrum singular)

a concept introduced in 1981 by philosopher Jean Baudrillard that examines the relationships among reality, symbols, and society.  Simulacra are copies that depict things that either had no original [prototype] to begin with, or that no longer have an original.”  –Wikipedia

Three types of simulacra are each identified with a historical period:

  1. “First order, associated with the premodern period, where representation is clearly an artificial placemarker for the real item. The uniqueness of objects and situations marks them as irreproducibly real and signification obviously gropes towards this reality. [ie: one-of-a-kind things made by hand, and imitations or images of these are obviously not the original]
  2. Second order, associated with the modernity of the Industrial Revolution, where distinctions between representation and reality break down due to the proliferation of mass-reproducible copies of items, turning them into commodities. The commodity’s ability to imitate reality threatens to replace the authority of the original version, because the copy is just as “real” as its prototype.
  3. Third order, associated with the postmodernity of Late Capitalism, where the simulacrum precedes the original and the distinction between reality and representation vanishes. There is only the simulation, and originality becomes a totally meaningless concept.” [To venture a guess, an example would be this blog page, which, when I hit “publish” becomes a record of me typing into a predetermined binomial format, indistinct from all potential identical reiterations.]—Wikipedia, definitions attributed to Paul Hegarty

From C. L:  “Simulacra [are] images that appear to convey reality based on appearance but are based on a system of differences rather than sameness. The simulacrum is artificial (does not attempt to be true to reality) and does not pretend to be an exact copy, in fact relies on distortion.” She adds, “Photographs toy with this idea because the underlying urge claims it is a machine that copies reality. Post-modernity undercut that assumption….”


any of many structural systems that describe or create balance; some kinds of symmetry include:

  • asymmetry—a form of symmetry that does not employ central axes; this form of symmetry is preferred by visual artists for its dynamism
  • bilateral symmetry—occurs when left and right sides mirror each other across a central vertical axis; a familiar, but inexact example is the human body; in visual art, this form if symmetry is static and is used to express stability and authority
  • pattern and repetition—an element or image is repeated exactly or in variations to create unity; in visual art, pattern and repetition are used as systems for organizing 2- or 3-dimensional space
  • radial symmetry (also axial symmetry)—a central point (2D) or axis (3D) having repeating elements radiating outward; an example is a wheel with hub and spokes; in visual art, this form of symmetry is considered to be very stable, but not necessarily static


uncanny valley

a hypothesis in the field of aesthetics  identified by robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970; it has been linked to Jentsch‘s (1906) concept of the “uncanny“, elaborated by Freud (1919).  Mori’s original hypothesis states that as the appearance of a robot is made more human, some observers’ emotional response to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong revulsion.  However, as the robot’s appearance continues to become less distinguishable from that of a [human] being, the emotional response becomes positive once again and approaches human-to-human empathy levels.

This area of repulsive response aroused by a robot with appearance and motion between a “barely human” and “fully human” entity is called the uncanny valley. The name captures the idea that an almost human-looking robot will seem overly “strange” to some human beings, producing a feeling of uncanniness, and will thus fail to evoke the empathic response required for productive human-robot interaction. [The “valley” is the dip that appears when test results of the hypothesis are graphed.]

Theories proposed to explain the cognitive mechanism underlying the phenomenon include: mate selection, mortality salience, pathogen avoidance, conflict with belief systems, violation of human norms and conflicting perceptual cues.      —chart and excerpted text from Wikipedia



the quality of seeming real, of being very like the real thing; in literature, descriptive detail that makes what is written seem true, believable.




next: automatons, simulacra, stuck in the mirror, me and my selfie, the uncanny valley, symmetries—why weave?

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