Saturday, October 13, 2007

The View From Home Plate

I've said before that I think that JPL now has decades of brilliant digital rhetoric to its credit and that it has taken advantage of computer-generated imagery, digital video, and the web in ways that put all the other federal agencies and contractors to shame. Self-proclaimed "geekologist" Janet Vertesi has used the Mars Rover website as a "goldmine" for studying scientific practices of deliberation that now depend on the relationship of drawing to photography. She explains how those who must decide where the rover goes next, are presented with data in which green represents drivable regions and red represents the unnavigable. As they negotiate the visual field of the "lilypad," each much register approval for the consensus that emerges from their discussions of their collective markup of the planet's surface by declaring "I'm happy" one-by-one at the end of each meeting about the operation. I enjoyed learning about how the "home plate" metaphor functioned in their discourse, because a geological structure resembled that critical nexus of play. Digitally noted landmarks were named after those in the All-American Women's Baseball Team and -- during Black History Month -- the Negro Players League. Vertesi also discussed the relationship between "true color" and "false color" in many interplanetary missions.

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