An epiphanic insight into ourselves

Written by David McConville on Wednesday, 24 June 2009. Posted in Overview Effect

Our world view - literally how we see the world with our senses - shapes our perception of reality and profoundly effects how we relate to ourselves, each other, and the Earth. The Earthrise photograph was transmitted around the globe after it being shot by the Apollo 8 crew before I was borne, but many alive at the time have claimed that this novel photographic view of the "whole Earth" intuitively communicated the fragility and isolation of our home planet.

Today, the need to both intellectually and emotionally understand the Earth as a interconnected system has never been greater. But the famous photographs from outer space that capture our planet in the visible spectrum tell only part of the story. To get a more comprehensive view of "whole Earth," we can now visualize flows and relationships beyond the scales of everyday perception of space and time. While astronauts have the rare opportunity the experience one version of the "Overview Effect," it immersive environments are beginning to further expand the overview experience to include insights into even more previously unseen phenomena. We are the first generation of humans to have the capabilities to visualize our impact as a global superorganism. Harnessed properly, these remarkable capabilities can serve to cultivate epiphanies of a different sort, helping us more fully appreciate the that we are not just (in the words of Buckminster Fuller) astronauts aboard Spaceship Earth, but a self-conscious species that is integral to a dynamic, living biosphere. This is a unique evolutionary capability, and the extent to which it is used to expand our collective imagination by reflecting on the interdependence of life on Earth will in large part determine the prospects of humanity's success. 

About the Author


David McConville is a media artist who designed immersive visualization experiences to provide new perspectives on humanity’s home in the cosmos. He is President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, a non-profit organizationfacilitating convergences across design, art, science, and technology to identify and cultivate whole systems strategies for addressing complex global challenges. He is also co-founder of The Elumenati, a full service design and engineering firm specializing in the development and deployment of immersive projection environments for clients ranging from art festivals to space agencies, and creative director of the Worldviews Network, a collaboration of artists, scientists, and educators using storytelling and visualization to facilitate dialogues about community resilience in science centers across the United States. David is based in West Asheville, NC, where he is concluding independent research as a PhD candidate in the Planetary Collegium.


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