David Eagleman’s work developing alternative sensing systems and devices to share another’s umwelt are agile, real-time investigations into what I hope to produce as a static work. “The idea that because their senses pick up on different things, different animals in the same ecosystem actually live in very different worlds” is a great definition for the term umwelt, an ideal concept for describing the environment that one must enter to read Transformation, my book about moles.
I would like to present a story that relates to the dedicated reader some information about the burrowing, insectivorous mammal. Ideally, this book would be presented as a tunnel the reader crawls through, encountering large pages that contain a short story about a mole paired with related mole facts. The title, transformation, refers to the process of normalizing data to make it fit an evaluative system : we can’t ever adequately appropriate another’s umwelt and the experience of reading this book emphasizes the chasm that exists between different creatures’ abilities to process their experiences.
The first hardship one encounters is the unfamiliar access method. We are used to holding books, not traveling through them. My ideal form of this book is a tunnel about five feet high and wide (I would like my book to be difficult but not inaccessible in the ADA sense) one enters through a vestibule that allows prospective readers to collect the tools they might need to effectively read the book. Upon entering the tunnel, the reader sees pages hinged on the extreme left and right, which may be passed through like saloon doors once read.
Although most of the illustrations, illuminations, and “mole facts” are visible in natural light, there is little natural light available in the tunnel. Moreover, the text of the story is written in ink that is only visible under UV-light. Fortunately, a UV flashlight is one of the tools that can be brought from the vestibule. It is still a bit difficult to read only what appears beneath the little circle of light.
Still, there is another obstacle to understanding the story because it is encrypted. It’s a simple substitution cipher for the English-language text but it will require more effort than the average book. Note-taking tools are supplied.
This particular book is beyond my abilities to produce for a final project but I am working on a half-size model. I have already discovered many frustrating details in the reduced size (and requirement of portability) of the model. I have adjusted the text so that it is a short poem rather than a fully-developed story. I do, however, anticipate something approximating success. If it turns out this model is simply unworkable I will first cry for days but then will submit drawings instead, most likely using SketchUp.