19.098 visualization and narrative

From: Humanist Discussion List (D. Gants for W. McCarty) <dgants_at_rogers.com>
Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2005 15:12:39 -0300

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 98.
      Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                    Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

    From: Jan Christoph Meister <jan-c-meister_at_uni-hamburg.de>
    Date: Sun, 12 Jun 2005 15:25:55 +0200

It seems to me that the discussion on visual imagination (19.091) /
visualization and narrative (19.095) concerns a more basic conceptual
distinction - that between symbolic / iconic / magic modes of representation
and information.

Personally, I tend to agree with the sentiment expressed by Gerda and Eric:
a word says more than thousand pictures. 'More' meaning that the successful
use of a word - be it as a command uttered, be it as an instruction or
information received - demands conceptual clarity and explicitness (in an
ideal world, admitted ...). By contrast, visual and spatial metaphors tend
to obscure complexity and disguise their philosophical frame of reference
because we perceive them as an absolute given and seldomly for what they
are: ana-logical constructs.

One might say that our modern GUI-laden machines and applications promote
the renaissance of what Cassirer termed 'Mythisches Bewusstsein' (mythical
consciousness) where the icon or graphical object, by way of a
subconsciously enforced 'pars-pro-toto' relationship, no longer 'stands for'
(represents) something, but hypostatically 'is' the object or action. For
example, sending off this message 'is' clicking on the respective icon in my
mail client. Day in, day out, the omnipresence of this and other visual
metaphors invite us to regress from a symbolic to an iconic to a mythical
modus operandi: we're getting dumber by the click. (Of course, you can also
look at it the other way: we're foregoing the ideological absolutism of a
specific symbolic convention with every click... the choice remains ours!)

As for narrative and action: there 'is' no action; it's a 'Self'-serving
relational construct by definition, whatever the cultural context. I guess
that's why its metaphorical representation via icons tends to come so easy.


PS: I am writing the above a day after once again having gone through the
fascinating experience of introducing a group of students raised in
the post-DOS-command line era to TACT ...


Jan Christoph Meister
Forschergruppe Narratologie
Universit=E4t Hamburg

Mail: jan-c-meister_at_uni-hamburg.de
Office: +49 - 40 - 42838 4994
Cell: +49 - 0172 40 865 41
Web: www.jcmeister.de
Received on Wed Jun 15 2005 - 14:12:41 EDT

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