Tag Archives: perception

questions on the loo, issue #3: Visual culture

the-eye

(image via my professor’s powerpoint)

I was reading about the advent of electricity, when i came across an interesting idea:  that lighting is a “powerful symbolic medium”.  It never ceases to amaze me how powerful lighting is in the media and art.  Lighting is the lifeline of everything from store signs to the interior and exterior of any kind of venue.  The backbone of photography is the use of light, both natural and artificial.  Light pervades the media, art, technology.  Light allows us to see.  But why is sight so valued?  Why aren’t we equally preoccupied with sound or smell or anything else we can sense?  For some reason, we focus so much on visuals and not enough on everything else.  You say “art,” and the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is some kind of visual art, most likely a painting, but that’s certainly not the only type of art there is.  Although a lot of recent technology and art has been pushing the limits of our senses, especially sight, we’re still very much a visual culture.  The question is, why?  Here are some of my thoughts:

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Nonverbal communication

So here’s the deal.  For our first field assignment in Nonverbal Communication class, everyone lined up against a wall and introduced themselves.  The professor taped us one by one from the chest up.  In the next class session, we watched the entire video with the audio off.  She (the professor) instructed us to write down the first thing we noticed in the denotative data column.  Just one thing, and use descriptive language.  

Now that the situation is set up, i’ll just paste a message i sent in frustration to a fellow classmate:

i think a lot of us (including you and me), took “write down the first thing you notice” as “write down the first thing that you pick up on when you watch the screen, whether the person has started talking or not, whether it’s a visual detail or a behavioral trait, whether it says anything about the person or not.” at least that’s how i interpreted it. so almost all of my observations had to do with appearance, not behavior. how can you extrapolate connotative data from an observation like, “mouth” (which only means that that particular person’s mouth was prominent in some way) or hair (which i noticed 5 times). everyone’s cheeks are raised when they smile, but some people’s left more of an impression, whether they moved differently or were placed a little lower or higher on their face. how can i use that kind of info to make a personality judgement? HOW?! (jake), i am going to explode right now!!! i talked to professor (steinberg) until 2:30 (god, she wouldn’t let me go; i eventually had to just get up cos my feet went to sleep from sitting uncomfortably on the floor), but she just didn’t get what i meant and i was growing more and more irritated that i had such a hard time controlling the tone of my voice. and (claire) was there too, but she didn’t help my case either. the professor kept trying to convince me to jump to irrational conclusions like long and dark hair means mysterious instead of considering that MAYBE I CAN’T THINK THAT WAY. that maybe i just can’t make judgements based on people’s appearances, especially over things they have no control over. sure, i can say what a particular kind of feature means to other people, but i can’t say what it means to me. GOD. i mean, one of the features i noted was how one guy’s glasses lenses were tinged with grey, which probably means that they were transition lenses. what the hell am i supposed to say about him as a person, using only that piece of data?

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Any thoughts?  How much of nonverbal communication is intentional, and if it is unintentional, is it still communication?

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