Most of us take vision for granted. We seem to do it so effortlessly. Yet preceiving images, objects, color and motion is a very complicated process. The study of optical illuions (see lecture below) will prove beyond a doubt that the human eye is not a camera. We see selectively.
Artists have long been trying to understand how we preceive, and much of our understanding of vision comes from learning how artists manipulate images into meaningful and realistic scenes. Artists have always created illusions. That's their business. This seems especially true of media artists.
So what's the big deal? Everyone knows that artists have special "gifts", that their visual sensibilities are somehow sharper that those of the orginary Joe.
Its easy to pass quickly over the realm of human vision because -- to repeat -- we take it so completely for granted. We take vision for granted because it is paradoxically quite "invisible" to us. To understand the paradox, let me introduce my fish friend. He is a mud-skipper.
The Canadian media theorist, Marshall McLuhan, was quite interested in the fellow above -- or whatever creature it was that first lifted its buggy eyes out of the primoriial ocean. A hero if there ever was one. The mud-skipper was not only the first to use try out his vision in the atmosphere, but he used those front fins to venture onto the Earth's first land forms. An odd progenitor to millions of species that followed.
Marshall McLuhan was the first to spot that the media forms we shape, shape us. In 1961 he worte: "Media effects are new environments as imperceptible as water to a fish." McLuhan loved turning a phrase and finding an irony in the everyday world. I met McLuhan a few times and can imagine him observing that even as it emeged to discover a world dry land, the fish's greater achievement might be that it was also the first creature with awareness of the very sea that had been its environment for millions of years.
I like the term "Visual Thinking" as a catch-all for the distinct branch of human intelligence that lives at the fulcurm of art and design. Visual thinking pervades all human activity. Astronomers, nurses, football coaches, carpenters, surgeons, TV schedulers -- workers of all kinds regularily engage in thinking by visual images. It turns out this is not the realm of artists and their special gifts.
Drawing deeply on the work of Robert H. McKim, the video taped lecture makes the argument that visual thinking also operates subconsciously in two additional Operations: Dreaming and Fantasy.
According to Professor McKim, visual thinking is carried on by three broad kinds of visual imagery: images we see (not the things themselves we are seeing); images we imagine (and dream); and images we draw. At the end of this chapter, under Techniques, you can find a virtual studio session in drawing.
Filmmakers, Web Designers, TV Directors and others who create media utilize seeing, imagining and drawing in a fluid and dynamic way, moving easily from one kind of image to another. This involves what McKim calls "Ambidextrous Thinking" -- a merging of the different thinking modes employed by the left and right hemisphere's of the human brain. McKim observes, "Computers cannot see or dream, nor can they create: computers are language-bound. Similarily, thinkers who cannot escape the structure of language, who are unaware that thinking can occur in ways having little to do with language, are often utilizing only that small portion of their brain that is indeed like a computer."