Kick-Watch: Ottaviani and Nourigat cover consciousness

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Not to get all trippy on you, but Wisconsin Public Radio is producing a six-part radio series and a comic book on understanding understanding. It’s called Meet Your Mind: A User’s Guide to the Science of Consciousness. The comic is by Jim Ottaviani and Natalie Nourigat. Ottaviani is well-known for his comics unpacking science, so this sounds like a winner. To pay for the comic, WPR is using, what else, Kickstarter. Since Kickstarter is really one big pledge drive, it all makes sense. The book has a few grand and days to go so get cracking!

The questions of consciousness are so big – and often so mind-boggling – that the To the Best of Our Knowledge decided a comic book would be a great way to make the subject more accessible. Wisconsin Public radio is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to cover the costs of the book.
 
According to Steve Paulson, Executive Producer for To The Best of Our Knowledge, the production team wanted to try something entirely new.  “A comic book about consciousness?  The idea seemed so crazy… so intriguing… so perfect,” said Steve Paulson “Not just a comic book as a clever gimmick, but as an imaginative story using illustrations to explore some of the deepest questions in science.” A web version of the comic book will be featured on the show’s website and a limited number of copies will be printed.

Paulson and his team are interviewing some of the most respected names in neuroscience, including Oliver Sacks and UW-Madison’s Dr. Richard Davidson, for the radio series.  Although the Peabody Award-winning producers were used to creating compelling radio, they had no experience with comic books.  “We’re very exacting when we produce our radio program,” noted Paulson, “but for the comic book, we needed outside help.” 

 
Jim Ottaviani has developed a reputation for creative and educational works like “Two-Fisted Science:  Stories About Scientists,” agreed to pen the story with artist Natalie Nourigat (A Boy and a Girl) providing illustrations.  “We are really thrilled to be working with such gifted artists,” added Paulson.  “They bring their own perspective to our shared goal of making the science of consciousness both fun and compelling.”
 
As the group thought about ways to fund the project, crowd-funding website Kickstarter.com seemed like a natural fit.  The site helps start-ups and creative projects raise funds through online videos and promotion.  The catch is that the funds must be raised in 30 days or less. WPR, which has nearly a third of its $15,000 project budget, has until 7:00 AM on Saturday September 1 to meet its goal.
 
“This is an exciting experiment for us,” noted WPR Development Director Mary Kay Dadisman.  “We’ve had a great response so far and we’re learning a lot about both the benefits and challenges of using a service like Kickstarter.” Like most groups on the site, WPR produced a short pitch video about their project and is offering incentives for project investors. 
 
According to Paulson, the decision to support the comic book through Kickstarter just made sense.  “As public radio producers, we feel a real sense of connection and responsibility toward our listeners, members and donors,” he said.  “Turning to the internet to fund this comic book felt like a natural extension of that relationship – a chance to make the public a partner in this one-of-a-kind creative endeavor.”  

Comments

  1. Just a non comic-al observation:

    There is really now no mystery about consciousness whatsoever.

    The mystical notions that have arisen in the past ( and often still do!) are purely illusory, an inevitable result of approaching the question by introspection. This, of course, was the only option available to earlier philosophers and many still have trouble escaping from that trap with its inevitable recursive loops.

    Today, although the details of nervous system function of ourselves or other animals is very far from complete, we have sufficient information to have a rough idea of the gross workings of these systems.

    From evolutionary considerations we can also now see how the essentially navigational function we like to call “consciousness”, “self-awareness” “sense of agency” and so forth is bound to arise.

    Furthermore, from another discipline, we now have an excellent understanding of functionally analogous computational systems.

    With these new tools at our disposal we can now view the phenomenon in a truly objective way. And then the hocus-pocus surrounding this issue vanishes!

    This topic is part of the broad evolutionary model very informal outlined in “The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?” (free download in e-book formats from the “Unusual Perspectives” website)

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