Wednesday 20 March 2013

Bojana Danilovic, the woman who sees the world upside down

I came across an utterly fascinating case study on Twitter the other day (via Mo Costandi; see this video too):
Rare brain condition leaves woman seeing world upside down
Bojana Danilovic has what you might call a unique worldview. Due to a rare condition, she sees everything upside down, all the time.

The 28-year-old Serbian council employee uses an upside down monitor at work and relaxes at home in front of an upside down television stacked on top of the normal one that the rest of her family watches.

"It may look incredible to other people but to me it's completely normal," Danilovic told local newspaper Blic.

"I was born that way. It's just the way I see the world."

Experts from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been consulted after local doctors were flummoxed by the extremely unusual condition.

They say she is suffering from a neurological syndrome called "spatial orientation phenomenon," Blic reports.

"They say my eyes see the images the right way up but my brain changes them," Danilovic said.

"But they don't really seem to know exactly how it happens, just that it does and where it happens in my brain.

"They told me they've seen the case histories of some people who write the way I see, but never someone quite like me."

Tuesday 12 March 2013

A taxonomy of information

Over the past several months I've been thinking about how perception falls within a hierarchy of types of information use. This was spurred by my ideas about an ecological approach to language, in which perceptual information and linguistic information are distinguished on the basis of the relationship between event structure and meaning. As part of this work, I defined perception as the apprehension of structure in an energy array where 1) the structure is specific to an event or property in the world, 2) where the meaning of the structure (for that organism in that task) is about that event or property (i.e., a dog's bark is about the event of a barking dog), and 3) where the meaning of the structure must be learned (or, more correctly, where an organism must learn how to coordinate action with respect to this structure). I arrived at this definition because it seemed to capture the ecological approach to perception and because it makes it obvious how perceptual information and linguistic information differ (also because I am crazy-obsessive about definitions).