restricted access How Patterns Meet: Tracing the Isomorphic Imagination in Contemporary Neuroculture


This essay argues that contemporary neuroculture is characterized by a disposition to detect and construct meaningful similarities between the brain and the extracerebral world on the basis of principles of analogy and morphological congruity. It analyzes several examples of this phenomenon, for which the term "the isomorphic imagination" is proposed. The essay focuses on the trope of "patterns" as a medium of such cross-mappings in William Gibson's novel Pattern Recognition (2003), art historian Barbara M. Stafford's study Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images (2007), and recent work in the field of cultural neuroscience; it identifies discourses on affect and plasticity as two important conditions of possibility for the current isomorphic imagination. It is concluded that the study of the isomorphic imagination as a broad material-discursive dispositive can help to understand better the various ways in which the brain is currently related to its worldly and cultural contexts and vice versa.