A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

A mix of posts on gesture, HCI, perception or robots and some personal information.

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Plants gesture: You may profit if you boil me

Once more let us dream a while
Once more let us consider plant gestures

I wrote previously about the intentions of moving plants, and about their ability to communicate. Do plants gesture? I remain unconvinced. Sure, they move for various practical reasons but not to communicate.

They do appear to provide information to their environment in response to events through chemical signals. When under attack from a bug, they send up smoke signals calling in allied killer bugs. However, this signaling appears limited to a single message, it is not a semiotic system. There may also be no killer bugs to pick it up. It is also not under cognitive control. Yet I can see how it is useful to call it communication. But not through movement or appearance. And I do not call my own chemical signals from my armpits gesture either. So, no gesture sofar.

A seductive gesture? (News in Science)

But the internet is a jungle rife with diversity, and I stumbled upon another case for your consideration: A review of a book on Bach Flower Remedies. The basic idea concerns the healing power of flowers, or their essences. But they also mention the soul gestures of plants (which need to be studied in relation to their essence qualities).

If I understand correctly: The way the flower grows and lives has its analogy in human development. And so the “beautiful Water Violet, which floats so freely on the surface of our clearest streams, will help you…to stand absolutely alone in the world, gaining the intense joy of complete freedom” (source). One could argue that the Water Violet communicates its specific flower-power through the way it grows and lives. Growing and living can be considered movement. Ergo, the plant gestures.

Why would this Water Violet share its secret and tell us what it will do for us if we boil it into an essence?

However, if we complete the analogy, then what do we communicate with the way we grow as a species? We grow from crying babies in cots to screaming toddlers, unruly kids, troublesome teenagers on to neurotic adults. What would be the quality of our essence? Will our perfume help other organisms, like their essence may help us?

There appears to be a problem with the analogy. All of nature revolves around humans, and not vice versa. If we but listen carefully each plant has its own message for us. We are challenged: “to open our eyes to the wonder of the natural world as a living script, a soul-imbued life that can speak intimately to the human soul”. Any takers?

2 Responses to “Plants gesture: You may profit if you boil me”

  1. 1
    Corrie:

    Interesting blog. I’ll pass the link to the ASL faculty where I work (students can take ASL as a “foreign language” just like French or Italian).

    Not so sure about the plant communication stuff, though - that seems a bit far out. Interesting stuff on gestures, though. I’m a guitarist, too, and I recenty came across the notion of describing chords and scales and gestures. Food for thought.

    Can’t stomach Chomsky, I’m afraid. He may be bright, but his radical politics kill his credibility with me.

  2. 2
    Jeroen Arendsen:

    Thanks for the PR.
    Any nice links on how one goes about describing guitar gestures?
    Sorry to hear that a man’s loyalty to the truth rather than to his government discredits his scientific stature. I would argue the opposite.

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