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.

1 comment:

michael said...
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