The relativity of life: cinema as time microscope

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    Organisms can be distinguished by their perceptual orientation and implicit understanding of time and space in addition to their structural and physical characteristics. In Jakob von Uexküll’s notion of Umwelten, various organisms might occupy the same location, but each projects a distinctive perceptual bubble constituting a unique conception of place. 1 The senses impose a particular rhythm, underscored by variations in speed, on the lived environment, in a way that gestures towards the variability of frames of reference most keenly articulated by Albert Einstein in his 1905 Special Theory of Relativity (Einstein 1961). In relativity theory, differences in speed result in the expansion and contraction of objects as well as the dilation and expansion of time. It is also possible to contemplate this temporal variability through living systems and environments comprising complex perceptual rhythms and speeds that differ across species and kingdoms. Some of these rhythms are immanent to biological processes, such as the times of gestation and growth, whereas others derive from perception and differences in the Umwelten. For Uexküll, the needs of the organism underpin the speed of perception, and organisms see what they are biologically driven to see, differing from relativity theory, where speed itself occasions the perception of difference.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDistributed Perception
    Subtitle of host publicationResonances and Axiologies
    EditorsNatasha Lushetich , Iain Campbell
    Place of PublicationAbingdon UK
    Number of pages13
    ISBN (Electronic)9781003157021
    ISBN (Print)9780367743017, 9780367743000
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Publication series

    NameRoutledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society


    • Process Philosophy
    • Jakob von Uexküll
    • cinema
    • biology
    • Visuality

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