The Software of Seing

Did you know that your brain can fool you? How do you know you see what you think you see? To see or not to see? These are the questions that resonate in me after reading W. J. Mitchell’s article “There is no visual media”.


Image from the movie “The clockwork orange” (Stanley Kubrick, 1962)

The author questions the term “visual media” since it involves other senses, such as sound, and more because in this so called “visual culture”, the way we perceive information is being conditioned by our brain.

Visual Culture is a colloquial expression that is why our perception towards different media, changes. For example, McLuhan explains that media is not only a sensory function, but also includes a semiotic and symbolic operation. Having said that, our vision ratio is shortened and therefore, hygienized (Mc Luhan) because according to neuroscience studies, our brain learns how to see. In other words, I believe that being part of a culture implies that we unconsciously accept social norms that often times are broadcasted by mass media.  This includes a terminology through which we learn to see, process information an order it to create a vision. That is how, we learn to categorize in order to build ourselves.

Personally, as one more individual in the world’s crowd, I believe that this generates confusion, but I am not sure what percentage of my “vision” is being conditioned on purpose. I agree with Mc Luhan about the fact that the content of the medium is the medium, and our senses are braided with similar functions such as sound and semiotics.

Overall, as a future educator, I am convinced that it is very important to understand that what we called visual culture is a field of study that refuses to take vision for granted. In the same way author Mitchell explains we ought to review our cultural expressions and I believe we need to teach our students about different points of view in relation to this theme. Perhaps a good lesson will be to open discussions about what do we see and how do we perceive things. Artist Luis Camnitzer stated that art is education, and I think that perhaps in our art class, analyzing the multiple expressions and dissecting what we call “visual media” can be an interesting lesson to widen students’ horizons. Visual Media can be an important theme to be used as a mean to help them grow as individuals because they can be more conscious and less blind about the society they are living in.

-Letizia Balzi

Source:  “There Are No Visual Media” W. J. T. Mitchell


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