Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jersey City Graffiti 1: The Story


This is the first part of a three-part article. It was originall posted at The Valve on Sept. 25, 2007.


I always tell people that if you want to know what’s going on with a city, look at the writing on the wall: you can tell what skill level and what social problems are happening, what’s going on with the youth.
– Toons, Los Angeles graffiti artist

Graffiti. Not graffiti in general, which has been painted and written since humankind first put markings on cliffs and in caves, but graffiti of a certain type that originated on the East Coast of the United States, particularly New York City and Philadelphia, during the late 1970s. This type of graffiti became associated hip hop culture, which also includes the music itself, with its DJs and MCs, the videos that go with that music, the various styles of break dancing, and certain fashion styles. As hip hop spread around the world, so did associated graffiti styles, though they've never become completely absorbed into hip-hop culture.

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Figure 1: Mural, Jersey Avenue, Jersey City
Note: If you want to see a larger image, you can click on the image and thus be taken to my Flickr site, where I store these images online. 
That is as typical of the style as one could hope for in a single example, and that is why I chose it. The style is based on letters, specifically, the letters of the writer’s nickname. A “writer” is someone who paints graffiti. Reading the mural from left-to-right, we have DR. SEX (notice the downward sweep of the two R’s), Jersey Joe (the green creature), and HOUR. That elephant-like creature in the middle of this mural is called a character; such characters are often used as embellishments, though in some cases the embellishments may expand and take over.

This mural is about 50 yards from my apartment building, clearly visible from my front windows and from the street. Or it was visible; now it is painted over it in a medium light gray paint. Someone complained to the City and the City responded.

While I am interested in graffiti in general, I am writing specifically about examples within walking distance of my apartment. Much of what I say, however, is informed by general reports and discussions about graffiti  most of which are journalistic, even informal, rather than scholarly. I have no reason to think that my local sites are unique in any but a geographical sense. I’ve seen similar images in books and websites devoted to graffiti.

The Lay of the Land

I live in the Hamilton Park neighborhood of Jersey City, New Jersey, located on the West bank of the Hudson River across from lower Manhattan. This is a complex urban environment containing housing, small businesses, major roads, abandoned buildings and lots, and small concentrated patches of woodland and grassland. Think of it as an urban savanna in a temperate climate.

While exploring one site I sometimes feel like I’ve fallen into one of those jungle adventure movies at the point where the Intrepid Explorers first see signs of The Ancient Temple That Has Been Lost for Ages:

Lost Temple of Graffamundo in the Jersey Jungle.jpg

Figure 2: Lost Temple?

The letters to the left of center spell out “AIDS,” a graff crew that is quite active in the area. I have no idea whether or not there is any affiliation with an old Chicago crew writing under the same letters: Artists Inventing Def Styles. It should go without saying that these artists know quite well that “AIDS” is also the name for a chronic disease. Another locally active crew calls itself ADHD.

Less than a mile from that graff we come to the remains of an old chocolate factory – at least that’s what I’ve been told about the building:

MOK WERDS AIDS and Missle Launch Silos for the WAAGNFNP*

Figure 3: The old chocolate factory

Notice the remains of spent fireworks at the lower right. I don’t know when those fireworks were discharged, though July 4th is a plausible guess, but I took the photograph on October 31, 2006.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Graffiti Aesthetics 3: Stylistic Identity

This was originally published in The Valve on August 24, 2007.
I want to arrive at an approach to the question: What's the point of a writer painter his or her name if you can't read it? But I'm heading toward it slowly, indirectly. I want to begin by remounting the hobby horse I rode in my previous graffiti post, the need for accurate description.

I start with the assumption that the objects of interest – graffiti in this case, but it could be literary texts or musical compositions, for example – have an unbounded number of properties, only some of which are relevant to their aesthetic function. The most interesting properties are those which give them differential identity in the total field of objects in which they exist, the point that the early Structuralists made about phonological systems of natural languages. For example, while /l/ and /r/ sound different, that difference is not linguistically significant in all languages (e.g. Japanese). We cannot identify the relevant visual properties of graphs simply by examining isolated cases. We must consider them in relation to the whole field.
(As a side issue, I note that each object is created at a certain time and place in response to the field as it exists at that time. As more objects are created over time, the differential identity of each and every object in the field shifts as the field itself changes. This is a major source of the instability of meaning probed by deconstruction.)
Let us begin by considering another Ceaze, a very simple one:

Ceaze
Figure 1: CEAZE
Note: If you want to see a larger image, you can click on the image and thus be taken to my Flickr site, where I store these images online.
One of the most obvious characteristics of those letters is their angular and rectilinear form. The “C” is made without the standard curves and the “A” without sloping sides. Are those properties differentially significant, do they distinguish Ceaze's style from that of other writers? We can't tell by looking at this example. We need to consider other examples and compare them with the Cease. Here are two other examples:

cool-X.jpg
Figure 2: Themo
in the spirit of picasso?.jpg
Figure 3: unidentified
The first is by Themo (identified for me by Problems) and has the rough form of an “X.” There are many X-form pieces. I can't make out the letters in the second one and no one had identified the writer for me. The overall form, however, is asymmetric and irregular, which is what I'm interested in. Lots of grafs are like that as well - I think of them as crazy organics.

These pieces are quite different in overall form from the Ceaze. By noticing the differences we can begin to see which properties of the Ceaze have differential significance. That the name is readily intelligible is one of those differentiating properties. As we will see shortly, thought, it is a secondary one in this system of differential signification. The relevant differential properties are utterly banal: 1) the letters are aligned to the same horizontal line, 2) the letters have the same height, 3) the letters are of roughly equal width and 4) they do not interact with one another; they are contained within boundaries that cleanly separate them from one another. Neither of the two other grafs have these four properties; note in particular that their letter forms are deeply intertwined with one another.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Did Indian Philosophy have an Early Modern Period?

Thus for example the early modern [European] philosopher who perhaps declared his independence from the past most loudly, Descartes, can be shown to have had a significant debt to Augustine, and this even in the work, the Meditations, in which he declares that it is his intention to proceed having forgotten everything he has learned up until this time.

In India, there is no such comparable expression of radical individualism. But Ganeri has compellingly shown that there is nonetheless a complex interplay between innovation and authority that mirrors the conciliatory syntheses going on simultaneously in Europe, even if the rhetoric of innovation is rather more subdued. In the Indian expression of this interplay there was, Ganeri emphasizes, no ‘quarrel of the ancients and the moderns’, that is, no radical rejection of the authority of tradition, nor any bold claim of the superiority of the present age. What there is, however, is a marked decline in deference to the ancients, and a parallel rise in calls to readers to think through philosophical problems themselves. Thus Ganeri cites the 16th century Nyāya philosopher Raghunātha Śiromaṇi, who insists that “these matters spoken of should not be cast aside without reflection just because they are contrary to accepted opinion” (4; Inquiry 1915: 79, 1-80, 3; trans. Potter 1957: 89-90).

One reason why the sort of call for independent thought that Raghunātha expresses here has generally been overlooked, or has not won for Indian philosophy in this period the appellation ‘modern’, is that most philosophers continued to write works of commentary. 
Later:
One very significant difference between European and Indian modern philosophy, also emphasized by Ganeri, is the fact that in the former case the shape that philosophy took, indeed the self-consciousness of philosophy as modern, was largely, or nearly entirely, a consequence of the emergence of modern science. There simply is no sense in thinking about modern European philosophy in general without thinking about the way it is shaped by such developments as the decline of geocentrism, the invention of the microscope, the development of key elements of what would later be called the ‘scientific method’, and so on. In India, by contrast, early modern philosophy continued to engage principally with questions of what we would call ‘epistemology’ and ‘philosophy of language’.
Thus, in Europe, the rise of science provoked a break from the past and we see the emergence of a new cultural rank. That didn't happen in India.

H/t, 3QD.

Five Friday Fotos: Shaky-Cam 3, Visions of the City

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Rise of the Rest

Pankaj Mishra reviews Niall Ferguson, Civilisation: The West and the Rest (2011) in the London Review of Books. Here's an excerpt:
Needless to say, most contemporary scholars of global history do not hold the West and the Rest in separate compartments. Far from developing endogenous advantages in splendid isolation from the Rest, Western Europe’s ‘industrious revolution’, which preceded the Industrial Revolution, depended, as Jan de Vries and other historians have shown, on artisanal industries in South and East Asia. Contrary to Ferguson’s Hegelian picture of stagnation and decline, China and Japan enjoyed buoyant trade and experienced a consumer boom as late as the 18th century. The pioneering work of the Japanese historian Hamashita Takeshi describes a pre-European Asia organised by China’s trans-state tributary network, demonstrating that there were many other centres of globalisation in the early modern world apart from those created by Western Europe. In The Birth of the Modern World 1780-1914, which synthesises much recent scholarship on the ‘extra-European origins of the modern European and American worlds’, C.A. Bayly shows that longstanding Chinese business clans were as important as bourgeois capitalists in Hamburg and New York in spreading world trade across South-East Asia. Ferguson should know some of this, since he endorsed Bayly’s book when it appeared as ‘a masterpiece’ that renders ‘parochial’ all other histories of the 19th century.

As in Ferguson’s other books, a vast bibliography trails the main text of Civilisation, signalling the diligent scholar rather than the populist simplifier. But he suppresses or ignores facts that complicate his picture of the West’s sui generis efflorescence. Arguing that the Scientific Revolution was ‘wholly Eurocentric’, he disregards contemporary scholarship about Muslim contributions to Western science, most recently summarised in George Saliba’s Islam and the Making of the European Renaissance. He prefers the hoary prejudice that Muslim clerics began to shut down rational thought in their societies at the end of the 11th century. He brusquely dismisses Kenneth Pomeranz’s path-breaking book The Great Divergence, asserting that ‘recent research has demolished the fashionable view that China was economically neck to neck with the West until as recently as 1800.’ But he offers no evidence of this fashion-defying research. Given his focus on the ineptitude and collapse of the Ming dynasty, you might think that their successors, the Qing, had for nearly two centuries desperately clung on in a country in irreversible decline rather than, as is the case, presided over a massive expansion of Chinese territory and commercial interests. Each of Ferguson’s comparisons and analogies between the West and the Rest, reminiscent of college debating clubs, provokes a counter-question. The rational Frederick the Great is compared to the orientally despotic and indolent Ottoman Sultan Osman III. Why not, you wonder, to the energetic Tipu Sultan, another Muslim contemporary, who was as keen on military innovation as on foreign trade?

Graffiti Aesthetics 2: Learning to See

This originally appeared at The Valve on August 18, 2007. Upon re-reading it I rather like it. I'd forgotten I'd undertaken this kind of analytic and descriptive work. We need more of it.
It took me awhile to feel that I “comprehend” the more complex graffiti, the so-called “wild style” pieces where the letter forms are elaborated and extended so they are all but unrecognizable. It is not at all clear to me, however, just what is there for comprehension, hence the scare quotes. As far as I know, there has been little discussion about the logic and aesthetics of such pieces. The writers certainly know what they're doing in the way that all artists know what they're doing; but much of this knowledge is not explicit and analytic. It is intuitive and procedural.

I am not at all prepared to present a sophisticated analysis of such work. But I would like to ride one of my methodological hobby horses, the need for accurate description. Though it lacks theoretical pizzazz, description is important because it provides the verbal “handles” we use to “grab” an object and examine and manipulate it. We describe so that we can think. If our descriptions are poor, then our thinking will be inconsequential.

Old School and Wild Style

Let us begin with a simple old-school (not wild style) piece by Gaser (photographed on November 26, 2006):

Gaser
Note: If you want to see a larger image, you can click on the image and thus be taken to my Flickr site, where I store these images online.
Since description is at issue, let's begin with a basic description of the piece:
The letter-forms are simple block letters with 3D extensions. Notice that three of the letters - G S and R - ordinarily have curves in them, but Gaser has eliminated any curves in this version. He doesn't always do that, but he did it here. (This is, of course, common enough in display fonts.) Note also the downward extension of the “A” and the “R.” The name form is outlined by a narrow yellow stripe and set off against relatively small red “clouds,” as they are called - common practice. Notice “LOTUS” written at the upper right. I don't know whether that's a crew, a girlfriend - real possibilities, or something else. The letters stand man-high off the ground, about six feet.

Finally, the yellow stripe across the middle appears to be a “slash” (mark of disrespect) by another writer. This Gaser piece is next to another piece of similar size and style that has been extensively slashed, though not completely “gone over.”
That description is about as straight-forward as it gets. Note, however, that it only really works if you've seen the photograph or the piece itself. Without the photograph, for example, the description doesn't really tell you much about the letter forms. It doesn't tell you that they are all of the same height, except for the downward extensions on the “A” and the “R,” though you might make that assumption based on your knowledge of standard letter forms. Nor does my description tell you about the black lines in each of the letter forms. Nor does it tell you the angle and depth of the 3D extensions. And so forth.

It would, of course, be possible to describe many of those things. But the description would be a long one. Describing visual forms is difficult; hence the saying, “a picture's worth a thousand words.” If all graffiti was like that Gaser, the point would be fussy and pedantic. Most of the pieces I've photographed, however, are not that straightforward. They are far more resistant to such easy description. The forms in them do not have common names that we can use in describing them.

Here's a more recent Gaser. I photographed it on August 8, 2007, but it wasn't there the previous time I'd visited the site, August 1.

gazer red and purple.jpg

This is wild style. To be sure, the forms are compact and regular. But the letter forms are not immediately apparent. That's wild style, a very general concept that covers a great deal of stylistic territory.

How It's Done, Part 3: Project Management (GVM008)

Whatever the artist wants, the artist gets, coffee in this case:

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Checking the project plan (notice the relaxed configuration of the ocular photon filter):

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Citizen Scholars in the Digital Age

Tufts University Professor Gregory Crane, Editor in Chief of the Perseus Project, has recently drawn attention to the need for "a new culture of learning" not only for the field of classics but also more broadly. According to Crane: "We need to engage our students and fellow citizens as collaborators. We need a laboratory culture where student researchers make tangible contributions and conduct significant research." Crane argues: "The crush of data challenges us to realize higher ideals and to create a global, decentralized intellectual community where experts serve the common understanding of humanity.
Later, toward the end:
At colleges and universities across the world, for example, Wikipedia write-ins and edit-a-thons have introduced students and community members to the assumptions, biases, and absences of one of the most visited websites in existence. In a similar fashion, we might adopt strategies from the open-data and civic-hacking communities and have students evaluate institutional resources both for openness and for the variety of practical factors that can affect a user's access to information.

Librarians and others are also developing innovative campus spaces, including incubators and maker spaces. Infused with the energy of the guild and with the ethos of the commons—in other words, with collaborative, self-reflective, critical, and active "making"—such places have the potential to make visible for many users what has been invisible, including political, social, and material hierarchies.

We must insist on and enact more reciprocal, open, and community-based terms of digital engagement in higher education. The present foregrounding of abundance and connectivity has emphasized volume and scale. The danger in this view of abundance, whether of rich data or of ubiquitous access, is a false sense of completeness and equality. To a surprising degree, we have ceded control and critical perspective in response to the promised potential of volume and the large scale. At the same time, we have accepted use models that exist in a highly commercialized and politicized environment.

Kidz these days, jazz is corrupting our youth...

...and you were there


Though it's not identified as such, I think this is a clip from an old TV show called "You Were There", which purposted to re-enact historical moments. Or it's something like that. The man reading the news looks like young Walter Cronkheit, though I don't think he was associated with that program. Whatever. But TV didn't exist at the time the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was making their first recordings (the 1910s).

Graffiti Aesthetics: Five Easy Pieces

First published at The Valve in 2007.
Even as Tim Burke had been calling for explicit and focused aesthetic commentary on popular culture, I was thinking of making a few aesthetic observations about the graffiti which I've been documenting since 2006 (cf. Shrine of the Triceratops). As some of you know, this kind of graffiti is based on the name; the graffiti writer paints his or her name, sometimes simply as a tag, sometimes a bit more elaborately as a throw-up or throwie, and sometimes in an often highly elaborated form known as a piece (for “masterpiece”). When the so-called Wild Style emerged in the late seventies, the letters became elaborated in such a way that it was very difficult to read the name unless you already knew what it was. At this point the name seems to function primarily as an abstract framework upon which the writer crafts a design, much as blues musicians work endless variations on the same basic chord progression.

Let's begin with a very simple, and readable, piece by Ceaze:

Ceaze, On Coles

Note: If you want to see a larger image, you can click on the image and thus be taken to my Flickr site, where I store these images online. 
The letters are simple bold block letters with 3D extensions. The faces of the letters are lightly painted in patterns which do not follow the logic of the letter forms, but rather “cut across” it in visual counterpoint (look at the first “E” and the “a”). The letter forms are outlined in hot pink and a light blue that contrast nicely with the neutral tones of the letters themselves. Finally, notice the “sparkles” and the reference to his girlfriend Jen (at the top) and his crew, MSK, at the lower right.

This piece has been weathered for a few years, which probably has dulled the colors a bit. I don't know how it would have looked when freshly painted. A few months after I took that photo Ceaze painted over it with another piece, in a more elaborated style.

But not as elaborate as we see here:

Ceaze Green

This was painted in 2005 (look at the lower right) and seems to me an example of the kind of baroque over-elaboration to which the style is prone. If you know the name, you should have relatively little trouble making it out, otherwise you may be mystified. But that is, at best, a secondary or tertiary issue. What I find bothersome is that the image lacks an overall visual form or focus. It is just a fussy mass of detail: grey, green, red, blue, and yellow. I'm sure there's a logic to it all, that it took care and skill to work it out, but I do not find the result very compelling.

MacArthur Fellowship Update 2014: Still favoring elite institutions

Last year I wrote a series of posts on the MacArthur Fellowship Program (tagged “MacArthurFP” on New Savanna) in which I argued that they should stop giving out grants to people with university gigs. Why? Because those people have an income and can function; they don’t need MacArthur money to maintain a baseline level of functioning. MacArthur money would foster more innovation by going to people without that basic financial security.

Well, they’re at it again. They’ve just announced the 2014 fellows. There’s 21 fellows in all, of which I score 11 at university (or similar) gigs, and 10 non-university. That makes a majority of university gigs: 52%. Call that the cop-out ratio. The cop-out ratio for 2014 was 63%: 24 fellows, with 15 at university gigs. So the Foundation is moving in the right direction. Who knows, maybe next year the cop-out ratio will drop below 50%.

* * * * *

Here’s the Foundation’s page for the current class: http://www.macfound.org/fellows/class/class-2014/

Here’s the NYTimes article: MacArthur Awards Go to 21 Diverse Fellows.

Here’s how I scored the current class (phrases from the NYTimes article):

University Gigs:
  • Danielle S. Bassett, 32, a physicist at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Terrance Hayes, 42, a poet and writing professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Jennifer L. Eberhardt, 49, a social psychologist at Stanford University.
  • Sarah Deer, 41, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.
  • Tami Bond, 50, an environmental engineer at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
  • Craig Gentry, 41, a computer scientist at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
  • Mark Hersam, 39, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
  • Jacob Lurie, 36, a mathematician at Harvard.
  • Khaled Mattawa, 50, a translator and poet at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
  • Tara Zahra, 38, a historian of modern Europe at the University of Chicago.
  • Yitang Zhang, 59, a mathematician at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
Non-University Gigs:
  • Ai-jen Poo, 40, a labor organizer in Chicago.
  • John Henneberger, 59, a housing advocate in Austin, Tex.
  • Jonathan Rapping, 48, president and founder of Gideon’s Promise in Atlanta, which teaches public defenders to be more effective.
  • Mary L. Bonauto, 53, a civil rights lawyer with the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston.
  • Rick Lowe, 53, who was trained as a painter but founded Project Row Houses in Houston.
  • Steve Coleman, 57, a composer and alto saxophonist in Allentown, Pa..
  • Joshua Oppenheimer, 39, a documentary filmmaker in Copenhagen.
  • Samuel D. Hunter, 33, a New Yorker and the author of a widely produced 2012 play, “The Whale.”
  • Alison Bechdel, 54, a cartoonist and graphic memoirist in Bolton, Vt.
  • Pamela O. Long, 71, [is] a historian of science and technology in Washington.
* * * * *

I gathered last year’s posts into a working paper, The Genius Chronicles: Going Boldly Where None Have Gone Before? (download HERE). The abstract:
This is an informal evaluation of the MacArthur Fellowship Program, the so-called "genius grants." I argue that the program functions basically as a PR vehicle for the MacArthur Foundation and for the foundation world in general. I also suggest that it could achieve better results by not awarding grants to people who already have jobs at elite institutions. There are discussions of how talent is evaluated, the cultural factors in genius, accounts of three elite institutions (Johns Hopkins, RPI, and SUNY Buffalo), and discussions of Louis Armstrong, John von Neumann, and Richard Feynman.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Throw It All Away: American Heartache Sick of Society

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It started with an email to Jon Naar: Let’s meet. Naar, as you may recall, did the first book on graffiti. He took the photos back in '72, found a publisher, and his publisher coupled him with a writer, Norman Mailer. Cay 161 gave Mailer a truth, “the name is the faith of graffiti,” and from that truth a book title was born: The Faith of Graffiti. The book went on to become the “bible” of graffiti.

In his reply, Naar copied graff writer EKG. In my reply to both, I told them about American Heartache, a nice sized roller in an abandoned building in Jersey City:

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EKG says, that was by Droid907, I’ll let him know. Thus it was that I got an email from Droid907 asking for a mailing address so he could send me his latest book. A day or two ago the book arrived in the mail: Sick of Society, a collection of fisherman’s tales and doctored photographs. And with it, three stickers and a decal:

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Zines have been around at least since Plato. That’s not what they called them in ancient days, but that’s what they were, artisanal books, hand crafted and NOT hot off the presses. There were no presses back then, just scribes, writing away, one at a time. Zines aren’t scribal, but you know a human hand touched each page.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How It's Done, Part 2: Tools and Methods (GVM008)

In the middle we have aerosol cans, the traditional medium of graffiti writers and used by street artists as well. The water is for thinning bucket paint. In the back we have a roller handle:

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Touch-up with short-handled roller:

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Drawing the body with a long-handled roller:

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Versions of Little Nemo



A bit of history and comparison of Little Nemo in animation. The first pilot, after McCay's original short film, is actually directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, though Miyazaki was involved. There's also a third, unreleased pilot film by Sadao Tsukioka but it hasn't been released anywhere.

Do all evolutionary roads lead to Rome?

Emily Singer in Quanta Magazine:
In his fourth-floor lab at Harvard University, Michael Desai has created hundreds of identical worlds in order to watch evolution at work. Each of his meticulously controlled environments is home to a separate strain of baker’s yeast. Every 12 hours, Desai’s robot assistants pluck out the fastest-growing yeast in each world — selecting the fittest to live on — and discard the rest. Desai then monitors the strains as they evolve over the course of 500 generations. His experiment, which other scientists say is unprecedented in scale, seeks to gain insight into a question that has long bedeviled biologists: If we could start the world over again, would life evolve the same way?

Michael Desai, a biologist at Harvard University, uses statistical methods to study basic questions in evolution. Many biologists argue that it would not, that chance mutations early in the evolutionary journey of a species will profoundly influence its fate. “If you replay the tape of life, you might have one initial mutation that takes you in a totally different direction,” Desai said, paraphrasing an idea first put forth by the biologist Stephen Jay Gould in the 1980s.

Desai’s yeast cells call this belief into question. According to results published in Science in June, all of Desai’s yeast varieties arrived at roughly the same evolutionary endpoint (as measured by their ability to grow under specific lab conditions) regardless of which precise genetic path each strain took. It’s as if 100 New York City taxis agreed to take separate highways in a race to the Pacific Ocean, and 50 hours later they all converged at the Santa Monica pier.

The findings also suggest a disconnect between evolution at the genetic level and at the level of the whole organism. Genetic mutations occur mostly at random, yet the sum of these aimless changes somehow creates a predictable pattern. The distinction could prove valuable, as much genetics research has focused on the impact of mutations in individual genes. For example, researchers often ask how a single mutation might affect a microbe’s tolerance for toxins, or a human’s risk for a disease. But if Desai’s findings hold true in other organisms, they could suggest that it’s equally important to examine how large numbers of individual genetic changes work in concert over time.

Does Evolution Have a Direction?

Of course.
In press, corrected proof.

John E. Stewart, The direction of evolution: The rise of cooperative organization, Biosystems, June 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2014.05.006
Abstract. Two great trends are evident in the evolution of life on Earth: towards increasing diversification and towards increasing integration. Diversification has spread living processes across the planet, progressively increasing the range of environments and free energy sources exploited by life. Integration has proceeded through a stepwise process in which living entities at one level are integrated into cooperative groups that become larger-scale entities at the next level, and so on, producing cooperative organizations of increasing scale (for example, cooperative groups of simple cells gave rise to the more complex eukaryote cells, groups of these gave rise to multi-cellular organisms, and cooperative groups of these organisms produced animal societies). The trend towards increasing integration has continued during human evolution with the progressive increase in the scale of human groups and societies. The trends towards increasing diversification and integration are both driven by selection. An understanding of the trajectory and causal drivers of the trends suggests that they are likely to culminate in the emergence of a global entity. This entity would emerge from the integration of the living processes, matter, energy and technology of the planet into a global cooperative organization. Such an integration of the results of previous diversifications would enable the global entity to exploit the widest possible range of resources across the varied circumstances of the planet. This paper demonstrates that it's case for directionality meets the tests and criticisms that have proven fatal to previous claims for directionality in evolution.