April 15th: Blind spots and technical media

In our last chat-session we talked about blind spots as an entry point to Pedagogical Media Theory. The main task was to be on the ‘lookout’ for cultural blind spots (this maybe a paradox?) that would translate into individual blind spots; and possible ways to challenge or support potentially irritating new perceptions; or turn them ‘visible’ – or ‘tangible’, ‘confrontative’, ‘irritating’, ‘exciting’, etc. Some examples for such blind spots and their ‘turning’-problem would be:

  • How can we show a Himba the difference between green and cyan?
  • How can we show non-disabled people, how a physically challenged person – with e.g. no vision, no hearing, or no legs – perceives their environment?
  • How can we show the global impact of our consumerist western everyday lifestyle on the earth, other people and our future selves?
  • How can we show the impact of deeply ingrained concepts like money, property, competition, national states etc. on our interpretation of and acting in the world?

Classic PMT-questions would be:

  • How can we show ‘digital natives’ or ‘immigrants’ the respective worldviews of the other group, worldviews they are not accustomed to?
  • How can we show the cultural influence of a digital-networked medium permeating our culture, both in space (communication) and in time (transmission)? It is always easier to do this in hindsight, but how about the here and now?
  • What are the blind spots of established technical media like TV, radio, newspapers, books – and did they just vanished in their current digital-networked reincarnation?
  • How can we turn individual insight of blind spots into long lasting or far reaching cultural change?

Besides the technical problems of rendering a blind spot visible, and doing this in a non-threatening way, there’s always the ethical problem, too:
First, do we have the right or the obligation to do so with specific, “well-running” blind spots, e.g. why does a Himba need to know the different color concepts?
Second, what do we show instead of the blind spot? We are, in a way, exchanging one blind spot with another, as the examples of the shift from logosphere to the graphosphere, mentioned by e.g. Christina Schwalbe (see her text in the dropbox), show.

In fact, most designer’s task is to shift new inventions or new media as fast as possible into a zone of comfort, of ignorance (as “lacking knowledge”) and non-perception without consequences – so we can concentrate on the forms in the medium, not on the medium itself:

Above image is part of a comic, Scott McCloud explains Google Chrome (2008). Did you noticed your browser lately? The web? Your cell phone? The text you are reading at this moment?
Can you ‘see’ the established or developing medial blind spot here…? ;)

Jenny mentioned in her Chat:
“I [f]ound out that if everybody could expand their mind without the cultural boundaries of society, probably we would have a personal and deeper experience about anything we see.”

That is, as Noora noticed, a tricky thing, because we need a common vocabulary, grammar, cultural norms etc. to communicate and conceptualise, to turn our everyday life into something expectable, manageable and safe.
I dare say that no participant of the Ayahuasca-ceremenony is always in this state of open consciousness, it is a temporary ritual for taking an outside-view from the personal and cultural medium one is usually bound to; but after the experience one is supposed to come back and change the ‘real’ world, and being aware of this latent space of mind. Failing to come back, losing one’s culture is a risk.

Jenny again:
“I feel you just need to think how can you transform what you wanna do and how people will experience something different and how can you construct something that will leave a teaching, a message, a feeling.”

Does our culture has anything comparable to an Ayahuasca ceremony, to offer a external point of view?

Arts and artists, as shaper and creators of medial forms and their contents, seem to fulfill this function in our society. Maybe you have heard of Bertolt Brechts “distancing effect”, or his idea of turning radio into something… else. Maybe you have heard of Orson Welles radio broadcast about an alien invasion, that provoked panic on the east coast.
These are just some examples, where artists changed what an audience could expect from media. These were contemporary blind spots of media that turned visible – with educational and/or nearly disastrous effects.

  • Bertolt Brecht (1927-1932): “Radio Theory” (media theory)  [XXX]
  • Orson Welles (1938): “War of the worlds” (theatrical radio play) [X]; you can listen to the original 1938 broadcast as MP3, if you’re interested.
  • Dan Laughey (2007), “Cantril: The Invasion from Mars”, in “Key Themes in Media Theory”, pp. 6-19 (can be found in our Dropbox) [XXX]

Please take a look at these texts. The task from last time still stands:

  • Where are our culture’s blind spots? How can we utilise media to turn them visible, and therefore shiftable? And what do we want to achieve by this?


Avatar photo

About Wey

My name's Wey-Han Tan, I graduated 2007 as Diplompädagoge (educational scientist) in Hamburg, and 2009 as M.A. in ePedagogy Design. Currently I work at the project "Universitätskolleg" as scientific assistant at the Faculty for Educational Sciences, Psychology and Human Movement at the University of Hamburg. My research interests are game based learning, second order gaming, media theory and (radical) constructivist approaches. I like pen-and-paper-roleplaying, especially in contemporary horror settings like "KULT" or "Call of Cthulhu".
This entry was posted in culture, education and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply