Sunday, 1 July 2007

How do we see things?

I got in an discussion of opposition over La Jetée (spoiler alart!) with one of my part-time lecturers earlier in the year. She was saying she thinks a film put together with a collection of still images somehow defeats the purpose of making a film.

She must have forgotten for a moment that film is a collection of still images. La Jetée just had less then say, 12 Monkey's, and more then Blue. Anyway.

Her dislike for the film sat poorly with me. I quite enjoyed it, myself, see - because I take special satisfaction in a good story. I am a narrative driven human being, I like verbal language, I like verbal communication; and while visual/audio stories also interest me, often times I am taking away by lazy, human language stories I can hear/read and understand in a comfortably subjective way. A rose is a rose is a rose. Hur hur, jokes for nerds.

Either or; I was recently watching a great House episode where (spoiler alert!) a patient loses their ability to see objects in motion. I knew I watched that show obsessively for a reason... So I started digging around, because I couldn't find the technical definition of blindness to objects in motion. Apparently, as far as I can find, there is no technical term -- it is rare, and associated with: seizures, strokes, and structural brain defects.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Come in with the milk. Come in with the milk. Come in with the milk...) has an interesting report about a patient who suffers from motion blindness after she had a stroke, but it's not too insightful, sadly - just a nice overview of the motion-processing system in our brains.

In my memories, I don't record motion -- I record the understanding of the presence of motion, the direction and knowledge it was there, the path the objects in motion took... Of course my memory is not a hundred percent photographic - and on top of that, my memory is mediocre at best. Yet I can visualise a trajectory and suchlike if I am thinking about something moving. Hmm...

So motion awareness is, to me, a fight-or-flight kind of evolutionary trait. I don't see what evidence that processing motion has for other things, save for right-now effects. A ball is getting thrown in your direction - the mind judges its speed, distance and direction of the ball, and that motion sense allows people with adequate ability to grab it - or get out of the way. Anyway.

While I was scuttling around for motion information, I passed across an example of the optical illusion of visual disappearance, or motion induced blindness, and a great applet that demonstrates the same thing. That's from a collection of other optical illusion demonstrations which I am particularly fond of -- they aren't as good, however, as my favourite still optical illusions in the whole entire world, developed by Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a professor in the department of psychology at Ritsumeikan University in Japan.

Of course after half an hour of looking at all those, one does start to feel a little, queasy.

Regardless, I'll move back in time here... La Jetée, as a film on memory, fucked memory, and loss of sight (much like Blue...), does not need to be a film that is defined by the number of different frames per second. Memory is not motion, and fucked memory, that is the illusion of memory, false memory of events, is a lot like looking at one of Mr. Kitaoka's snake 'spirals' - we can so easily believe it's moving in one direction, when it's really standing still.

PSA on Cake Giving

Click for bigger image.

This is for Frank, who I thought might need some visual aids to distribute amongst his friends...

On Language

Dear Firefox;

I think you are really cool. Do you like me?
Please Check:
Yes No

Just, when I updated you yesterday, you told me you'd be more than you were before. So on the third time I shut a tab by mistake because of the new each-their-own tab-exiting button, I was okay with it - I'm clumsy, I should look where I point my cursor before clicking like some renegade information junkie.

Only, I notice you now check my spelling when I'm typing into field boxes. Oh. That's helpful. Just, baby, you... Know I'm in the UK.

So why are you giving me American English?

Baby, I don't roll like that.

I gotta get all up in your Help files, searching around for languages -- that doesn't give me the information I'm looking for, so I gotta cross reference over spell check options, then download a new driver and restart you up so my colours are honourable and my favourite version of English is synchronised adequately so I don't have to make any more enquiries...