Dave Matthews‘ father was a physicist who worked for IBM in the 1970s. Matthews explores The Space Between with an emotional depth likely influenced by the loss of his father to cancer, and the subsequent loss of his sister in a murder/suicide at the hand of her husband. The emptiness in that space is a palpable void.
Palpable space that emerges by emptiness filling in binocularly is more rapturous though no less emotional, the substance of which Sue Barry has elevated to public awareness. Sue begins her TEDx talk with the following observation: “When I was 48 years old, I learned to see in a whole new way. And in fact, in a way that most doctors and scientists said I could not possibly learn.”
At about the same time that Sue’s book Fixing My Gaze shot to #4 among Amazon’s best-selling science books of 2009, a research workshop on Cognitive and Developmental Factors in Perceptual Constancy was being held at the University of Pennsylvania. Invited participants, including psychologists and philosophers, were asked to examine how we tease apart cognitive and phenomenal factors in people’s responses to a variety of spatial properties. The essence of that workshop was published in a volume from Oxford University Press in 2012, titled Visual Experience: Sensation, Cognition, and Constancy.
Chapter 4 is a remarkable one, titled Constant Enough: On the Kinds of Perceptual Constancy Worth Having. I say remarkable, because its authors have a section within it they call “One depth doesn’t fit all” in which they cite the case of Stereo Sue and discuss it in sufficient detail so that one gains the sense that Sue has engendered lively discussion within their corner of the vision research community. Consider this quote (p. 89): “Her case is already highly controversial, because of the widespread belief that unused stereo channels atrophy completely.”
Call me shallow, but I enjoy plumbing the depths of such controversies. They open up new insights into the space between.