Circles as nodes in a network
December 8th, 2009


A mob of circles connected in just the right way can create a pattern from which meaning emerges. In Vasily Kandinsky’s great 1926 painting “Several Circles” shown above there are implied connections. The small orange circles connect diagonally across the big blue ones, and to all the little orange ones. Color and size connect most of the circles to each other, at least by implication. I am implying these connections from the painting itself, which illustrates an interesting Science Times article by Natalie Angier called “The Circular Logic of the Universe.”

I recommend Ms. Angier’s article for her analysis of several aspects of circles. But I also recommend thinking about circles in art as a pathway into network theory. Networks are constructed of only two things: nodes and links. Thinking of a node as a circle makes some of the characteristics of circles described in the article quite provocative for network theory.

Connecting circles in art can cause meaning and beauty to emerge, as Kandinsky showed. A smart mob is a network. A mob of circles that are connected cause activity to emerge. I may been straining at the point, but I am convinced that networks of connectivity are how we see much of visual art — and by doing so, we get some glimmers of how all networks emerge ideas. I can sort of see Kandinsky’s painting as a smart mob: each individual circle has its own distinctive character, and the relationships among the circles is visually dynamic, emerging delight to the viewer.

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