Seed Shape Essay

The concept of the fractal “seed shape,” as explained by Ron Eglash in “African Fractals,” serves as a foundational pillar in understanding the intricate and interconnected nature of African design and culture. Eglash opens chapter one with this explanation of fractal geometry, “Fractal geometry has emerged as one of the most exciting frontiers in the fusion between mathematics and information technology.” (Eglash, 3). In Eglash’s exploration, the term “seed shape” refers to the initial motif or pattern that undergoes self-similar transformations, giving rise to complex and visually stunning fractal patterns. Eglash’s research reveals that African fractals are not just aesthetically pleasing designs but also embodiments of mathematical concepts such as recursion, symmetry, and self-organization. Moreover, his work sheds light on the cultural significance of fractals in African societies, where they are used to convey complex ideas and cultural values through visual representations.

The fractal “seed shape” thus becomes a metaphor for the way in which simple, iterative processes can lead to the emergence of complex and diverse forms, mirroring the organic growth and development seen in nature and human societies. Simply put, a fractal is a shape which is infinite, and is very often seen in nature, and recursively meaning it repeats forever. In this essay, we will focus deeper into the concept of the fractal “seed shape” and explore its implications for our understanding of African design, culture, and mathematics, while also focusing on the specific triangular “seed shape” out of the plethora of ones which exist, and comparing it to our course. 

In regards to the triangular “seed shape”, I believe that our class is, in a way, comparable to the upside down triangle “seed shape”. It starts big and scary, meaning in my case, I have never taken a class like this. Us jumping right in was thrilling and a bit scary for me (but I needed this change). I say “In a way” because I truly do not think we will ever come to the ‘point’ of this triangle, which I see as an end to our learning. Our course could even be compared to the very intricate star Koch curve seed shape, on page 11 of Eglash’s African Fractals. I was overwhelmed with anxiety and happiness to see, first, the in depth module one posted. Not only were we provided a full syllabus and course calendar, but we were given breakdowns of each section which went more into depth. While this is not content based, I wanted to include this observation being that it truly did give off the best first impression which thoroughly continues to shape my interest for this class and the content that comes with it. I also believe that as the class progresses, and we are to encounter more and newer material, we will obviously retain the knowledge in which we have previously acquired. This can be compared to individuals who find it challenging to maintain their cultural identity while assimilating into societal norms. 

There are five components of fractal geometry: Recursion, scaling, self-similarity, infinity, and fractal dimension. The one that I would like to pay explicit attention to is recursion. Recursion is defined as a repetitive process. Eglash states, “We have seen that fractals are generated by a circular process, a loop in which the output at one stage becomes the input for the next. Results are repeatedly returned, so that the same operation can be carried out again. This is often referred to as “recursion,” a very powerful concept.” (Eglash 17). I chose to pull this quote out of the whole paragraph regarding recursion because again, this quote and recursion can be comparable to our course. To any outsiders reading this our Professor, Beth McCoy, for example in our first module on Brightspace states “You’ll be constantly looping back to previous modules and concepts even as the course moves forward.” In addition to this, she also verbally tells us at least once a class to refer back to for example within the past few days, Frederick Douglass’ and Harriet Jacobs’ respective slave narratives, and how Jacobs’ was ‘less believable’ because she was a woman. 

Another text in which we see recursion in, and that we refer back to ourselves is Bernice Johnson Reagon “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See”. In this text, Reagan discusses the plagiarism allegations about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We spoke of it being dangerous to put people who hold a high standing in the eyes of the public in a sort of heroic view, as its hard to see humans as perfect. This concept itself is recursion, the simple speaking back on Dr King Jr. We looped back to Reagons’ text a multitude of times, where we compared her piece to James Snead’s “On Repetition in Black Culture”.

Through the rest of this semester, my goal is to hopefully have a better idea of which seed shape I associate with this class, because as of right now I see it in two different ways. The concept of a “seed shape” as introduced in Ron Eglash’s “African Fractals” is a metaphor for growth and development in a plethora of ways, but for the sake of this paper, growth in our class. Just like my indecisiveness on where to place this class as a seed shape, it is ever changing.

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