Idealization and Abstraction

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Let me start by saying thanks to everybody who came out and participated in last week’s event – it was an extremely interesting session led by Dr. Anjan Chakravartty who focused on what it means to represent things. 

Looking back, there are couple points that resonated with me the most.  In his talk, Anjan emphasized the difference between “abstraction” and “idealization”. For him, abstraction is (and I hope I don’t get this wrong…!) the process of extracting certain aspects of the object in question and dealing with them in isolation, a method that is effective when studying things that have a strong underlying structure which dictates the fundamental behaviour of the object, but that also have a large amount of detail that can potentially confuse the issue. Of course, this also sets the scene perfectly for drawing incorrect conclusions due to having simplified the system beyond any degree of realism. In contrast, the notion of  “idealization” is the process of transforming the object or how the object is perceived so as to bring forward certain important aspects of the system.

Despite the somewhat abstract setting, these two concepts seem come up all the time in parametric modelling.  In in any parametric model, the overall output is controlled and generated by a collection of parameters:  does it follow then that parameters are an abstraction of the model but are chosen by how well they “idealize” it?

In any case, the result of the most lively discussion following the presentation was that the abstract notion of representation is of fundamental importance to the modelling and design community as a whole.

Thanks for coming!

One Response

  1. caseywong
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    Sounds like it was fascinating. Keep me posted on the next event.
    mr.heuristic@gmail.com

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