19.083 visual imagination

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 8 Jun 2005 07:08:18 +0100

                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 83.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois (66)
         Subject: Guidance and visual imagining

   [2] From: "Jean Anderson" <J.Anderson_at_arts.gla.ac.uk> (15)
         Subject: RE: 19.080 visual imagination

         Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2005 06:58:28 +0100
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Guidance and visual imagining


It is worth picking up on the diversity topos sounded by Mr.
Ramsay at the conclusion of the personal narrative he presented on the
them of a there-but-by-the-grace-of-the-hand-of-fortune-go-I.

> and non-visual material indicates to me that we are all very
> adaptive organisms who bend the world to our own peculiar way of
> thinking.

Worth picking up because with a moments reflection one begins to see or
imagine or sense that in these tales of computing humanists "adaptive
organisms" are very much like "machines". For a moment, set aside the
pecularities that differentiate human beings and contemplate how very
much alike the disabled humanist and the stupid machine are. Machines, be
they electronic or mechanical, work surprisingly and magically well when
connected together -- think of the levers and wheels of the common
bicycle. A pedal alone will not propel one far. A wheel without power may
not even spin aimlessly in the air. Adaptive organisms work and play
together not only because of their peculiar differences but also because
of the rich opportunities of conveying the life experiences that those
differences engender. The conveyance is the work of translation and
adequate information interchange.

>From the perspective of the multifocal communicative situation (a de facto
situation of the exchanges that are facilitated by information and
communication technologies), there is something puzzling to me to
encounter narratives that lend themselves to an interpretation that
stresses the cannot aspects of one's particular and peculiar sensory
apparatus. To say or imply that "I cannot visualize" is quite different
from stating the one has not learnt how or one has not been guided well in
achieving greater ease in whatever mode of apprehending the world. I am
very wary of personalizing what is freighted with a magnificent lode of
cultural superstructures and social infrastructures. It is really worth
being very precise: the rate at which one does something is not equivalent
to the condition of not being able to do it. The speed of a central
processing unit doesn't in every instance determine what can be

To imagine and to visualize are not the same activity. A guide will ask
the person struggling to imagine in visual terms questions. Often
those questions avoid all and any formulation that would use the verb
"to see." It is an application of the principles of dialogue. Some

When considering the spatality of a textual artefact, a guide might invite
the observer to note the distance between one point and another. Is it
large or small? In relation to what?

When considering the motifs or themes present in a textual artefact, a
guide might invite the observer to note what constructions cluster where.
Which are paired together? Which dance apart and return? How infrequent is
the mention or presence of a marker? Some guides will encourage the
diagraming and drawing of pictures -- an ascesis conducted with paper and
pen or with the simple generation and manipulation of lists on screen.

In short visualization, like all imagining, depends upon the exercise of
the powers of abstraction. Some of us do see the "cannots". Some of us
remain silent when we see the "cannots". Some of us remember our own
apprenticeships. Some of us remind others again of the untangling of the
moments: the communication about a mental construction from the
fabrication of a mental construction. And then again how very much the
habits of communication inform the capabilities of fabrication. Both of
which benefit enormously from the regular indulgence in counterfactuals
and the story play of kindergarten... if the verbal text were like a
giraffe where would the neck be, if the verbal text were like an elephant
where might I find its ears, would it have tusks? No need to visualize a
giant poster of typological monsters or miles of indecypherable graphics.
Apply imagination.

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
Skill may be the capacity to manipulate perceptions of knowledge.
Magic is.
         Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2005 06:58:48 +0100
         From: "Jean Anderson" <J.Anderson_at_arts.gla.ac.uk>
         Subject: RE: 19.080 visual imagination
If my (not very visual) memory serves me well, Francis Galton in the
nineteenth century found that people were divided roughly into three
categories (on a continuum, of course) of strongly visual, weakly visual and
purely conceptual in their imagination and memory. So, Stephen, you are not
I have not found the GUIs of computers in the last decade or two entirely
useful. Designers, one assumes, would usually fall into the first category
and should be educated more about the other 2/3 of us.
Jean G. Anderson
University of Glasgow
STELLA, 6 University Gardens, Glasgow G12 8QH
+44 (0)141 330 4980
Received on Wed Jun 08 2005 - 02:17:07 EDT

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