Horton's Cosmic Zoom: A Discussion with Zachary Horton


Today Recall this Book welcomes Zachary Horton, Associate Professor of Literature and director of the Vibrant Media Lab at University of Pittsburgh; game designer, filmmaker and camera designer. Out of all these endeavors, he came to talk about his book The Cosmic Zoom Scale, Knowledge, and Mediation (University of Chicago Press, 2021)

This dizzying book begins with a bravura description of a movie we both loved as kids: The Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames. It's a view of two people enjoying a picnic zooms up and away to show their surroundings, all the way up into space then zooms back in for a close-up of the hand of the picnicker, ending top at the atomic level . The book, uses the cosmic zoom as a starting point to develop a cross-disciplinary theory of scale as mediated difference.

Zach shares his worries about scale literacy, and what happens when we diverge from the "meso-scale of the human sensorium." John approaches scale by way of Naturalism and SF in the late 19th century, both of which refuse the meso-scale aesthetic realism of their day in order to anchor it at a different scale. Elizabeth asks about temporal scales and geology's activation of human sense of humans' scalar insignificance.

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Read transcript here.

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Elizabeth Ferry and John Plotz

Free-ranging discussion of books from the past that cast a sideways light on today's world. Recall This Book is hosted by Elizabeth Ferry, Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University and John Plotz, Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative.

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