Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Hunt for Genius, Part 4: Gestalt Version

Think of this well-known image as a visual analog for the genius hunt:

My Wife and My Mother-in-Law

Because the MacArthur Fellowship Program is both grounded in and committed to institutions and practices dating back to the 19th Century, it yields an old crone. By adopting the simple rule of not giving awards to people on staff at elite institutions they can turn the program around and orient it toward the future, the young woman.

Effecting such a gestalt switch is, alas, very difficult. Regardless of how you interpret it, that drawing consists of the same lines and shadings. Nothing that makes up the drawing changes from one interpretation to the other. So it is in the socio-cultural domain. The constituent parts and processes are the same. Thus the MacArthur Foundation thinks their program is a young woman when, in fact, it’s an old crone.

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Image by William Ely Hill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Earlier in this series:

1 comment:

  1. I sympathize with your insights. The risks that the MacArthur Fellowship Program supports are probably reiterations of former winners. With all its implications of the unknown and unknowable of risks for both the grantor and immediate recipient, there is probably also an attempt to gratify the recipient's intended audience. This is the extent of the "going forward" process. Everyone involved wants to believe they are right on the deciding edge of culture. How to bring something forward that is indeed new is part of the mystery the scholar, artist, performer must identify. That is why it is important everyday to enjoy at least one good meal.