Data Soliloquies Hardcover – 1 Jan 2010
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...Despite "belonging"; to the field of art and humanities, neither Hamblyn nor Callanan are strangers to science and technology. Richard Hamblyn is an environmental writer and historian who has developed a particular interest in clouds, and Martin John Callanan is an artist whose remarkably conceptual work merges art and different types of media. This may be the cause that Data Soliloquies is by no means a shy penetration into a foreign field of knowledge but a solid discourse which presents a richly documented critique of the apparently ineffective ways in which scientists have made society aware of such a crucial problem as that of climate change. The title of the book has been borrowed for a term that Jon Adams, researcher at the London School of Economics, coined to refer to Michael Crichton's novels, who uses "scientific"; facts to give his imaginative plots an aura of credibility. With this reference, the authors state that the way scientific data is presented actually constitutes a narrative, an uncontested monologue: ";...scientific graphs and images have powerful stories to tell, carrying much in the way of overt and implied narrative content (...) these stories are rarely interrupted or interrogated."... (extract), Pau Waelder, Furtherfield, February 2010 --http://www.furtherfield.org/displayreview.php?review_id=377
About the Author
Richard Hamblyn is an environmental writer and historian; his books include Terra: Tales of the Earth, a study of natural disasters; The Invention of Clouds, which won the 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; The Cloud Book and Extraordinary Clouds (both in association with the Met Office). He is currently editing The Picador Book of Science, and researching a book about man-made landscapes. <P>Martin John Callanan is an artist whose work spans numerous media and engages both emerging and commonplace technology. His work includes translating active communication data into music; freezing in time the earth's water system; writing thousands of letters; capturing newspapers from around the world as they are published; taming wind onto the Internet and broadcasting his precise physical location live for over two years. Martin is currently Teaching Fellow in Fine Art Media at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. <P>The UCL Environment Institute was established in November 2003 as a focus for interdisciplinary environmental research across UCL, as well as to improve links between those who carry out environmental research, and those with need of its findings, notably policy makers and other public and private sector interests.
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Whilst this is interesting I would personally say that the book didn't become immediately engaging for me until the second chapter; "Of Exactitude in Science" where Hamblyn begins his "story" on climate change and its associated data by introducing the keeling curve (1958). From here on in Hamblyn lathers the history behind climate change data into the attention of the reader in an interesting manner whilst simultaneously nestling concise and accurate accounts of opinions from other essays which highlight the then growing political interest into this data at the turn of the mid-twentieth century right up to modern day - of which readers may be more familiar. This sets the theme for the next two chapters to come as discussion is brought to a political bias in "Whistleblowers" - The third Chapter. The book finishes with Hamblyn talking about cloud formations and the implications these have on our environment in an equally interesting way. This makes for a great literary pedestal for a crescendo of images and notes produced by Martin John Callanan (The Artist) which wraps up the book nicely with the final chapter; "Text Trends".
It is clear that alot of care went into this book and the finished article makes for a terrific read.
My only slight gripe with the book is that it was too interesting for its length (112); as a result I will be looking into further books written by Hamblyn in the near future.
NB - I'll finish by saying that I'm a 19 year old second year undergrad studying Maths and Physics. I would say that the science content of this book will not be beyond the understanding of people without a scientific background.
Overall - A Great read, highly recommended and will be giving it to my Geography housemate who perhaps appreciates clouds more than me.