Notes on the chat-session from May 23rd

Some words on Noora’s project

Noora presented her project idea (she’ll post a more specific description later on), helping dysfunctional families in danger of losing their child by decree of the youth welfare service by providing them a means to photographically document and reflect themselves – photography of empowerment.

For ‘normal’ people, e.g. for students, city dwellers etc., who are integrated in their culture, it may be important to raise awareness for their blind spots, e.g. for not seeing the disabled, native customs, or allocation of power. But those blind spots work for them, enabling a smooth working of everyday life, they do not work against them as culture.

For people e.g. within a dysfunctional family, there is already psychologcal strain, they know something is not right. They may try to express it, to turn it external, workable, manageable, griefable – and maybe changable. The task would be to give them a means to express it, a fitting, unusual medium – the usual ones obviously did not work out for them. (E.g. Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the oppressed”).

“Just last week I was talking to two children who were describing their attic to me. It has a rail track and trains and their daddy spends such a lot of time there. Daddy’s track and daddy’s train although ostensibly bought for the children. They didn’t want the train but wanted to appease their parents. They would have liked a playroom with toys and beanbags to throw and lie on, not trains, which they are not allowed to touch let alone use for play. So the children play outside on their bikes or with the stones in the road while daddy sits in isolated splendour with the trains and the track.
The children are tolerant of his needs more than he is tolerant of theirs. When he is angry he says they are ungrateful. ‘Look what I’ve made for you,’ he says.”
– Ann Cattanach (2003), “Introduction to Play Therapy”, p.5

Who are the children, who is the father? Continue reading

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Notes for Noora

Creating and finding spaces

“a space for change”
– Noora

This is a nice phrasing: A ‘space for change’ may either describe a defined space where change can happen according to given rules – e.g. to put up posters on designated, rented urban areas – or to create new spaces with still undefined rules as what can happen there. Any participatory space, especially urban areas, may be seen as part of a social medium with leeway to create such unexpected, still unregulated spaces.

(photo: Continue reading

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Links from the chat-session on April 23rd

The contest between two artists, Zeuxis and Parrhasios

Two ancient artists competing against each other: Zeuxis paints grapes so realistic, that birds try to eat them. Parrhasios paints a curtain ‘hiding’ his painting, which is so realistic that the other artist is fooled: Zeuxis isn’t able to perceive Parrhasios artwork as such at all because it is too realistic.

An old question: What should be called ‘art’? Is it a subjective interpretation of reality, or an objective depiction that could be mistaken for reality? Does art, in the first place, have to be interpretable as art – before one can interpret its contents?

Engraving of Zeuxis and Parrhasios:

Trompe l’oeil

Deception of the eye: A piece of art that make use of, or trangsress the physical boundaries of its visual medium to startle or to bluff. This can be an artistic intervention to render the medium visible – by letting it flow over into reality.

A beautiful example is Pere Borell de Caso (1874), “Escapando de la crítica“, or “Escaping Criticism”, where a boy seems to step out of the painting’s frame which is also painted.

Interestingly, this painting could also be interpreted as ‘avoiding the discrimination’ between what is real and what is virtual; or a hint that the framing of a medium, a framing which usually generates safety, can be incorporated in a work of art. As with a game, we can expect that content stays within the magic circle of the medium, and behaves true to the rules of the medium: A painting does not move or change, it has no (interesting) backside or depth, it stays in one place and does not follow us around.
A murder mystery is harmless fun as long as it stays within the frame of its technical medium, e.g. a book or a movie; but it gets threatening if it steps out of its boundaries. Continue reading

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A culture’s game as a game of culture

Another snippet from our chat session from April 23rd. Cross-and-circle-games are known and played around the world, and throughout the ages: The idea of moving a token by random factors around a closed-circuit-course, hindering your opponents and trying to get to a personal end field is common, but its interpretation differs and may reflect cultural narratives.
Click on the images to get to the Wikipedia-descriptions if you’re interested.

“Yut” (A Korean version with domestic animals as tokens, and probably one of the oldest variants)

“Sorry” (Great Britain, a more tactical variant with playing cards)

Continue reading

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Reply to Jenny: Blind spots and “She who measures”

About Heinz von Foerster’s notion of a “Blind Spot”

Link to Jennys’ blogpost I refer to.

Jenny: “Somehow I feel that we are scared of thinking far beyond and making desitions upon those thoughts.”

It is a conflict between safety and freedom; between choices, that are made for us, and choices we are free to make (or think we are free to make). We are, from my point of view, never totally free to choose between safety or freedom, neither epistemologically nor culturally: We need ‘safeties’ to decide upon, and we need ‘shared safeties’ to be able to communicate. “A table is a table” is a film about a taste of this terrible, absolute freedom. Our languages, e.g., are both, restricted in grammar and vocabulary so that communication is possible; and free enough in its expression that communication is necessary (see e.g. the translated text from Niklas Luhmann in the dropbox).

In a postmodern world, where defining sociocultural systems are under constant criticism, one of main problems is: How to get orientation in a global environment of growing complexity? How do I prevent being overwhelmed by information, and how can I  distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information (e.g. how to erect a filter bubble))?
One other problem is a more pedagogical one: How can I raise and keep up curiosity and a childlike sense of wonder in face of constant uncertainty and changes (For kids, there are benevolent parents providing safety and stability after all…)? And how can I keep up communication with diverse people all over the world to exchange views without tiring?

Pedagogical Media Theory has to deal, inevitably, with both aspects. As artists, designers or educators, we want to amaze, show something that broadens the horizon and lead to personal and cultural changes; but effective cognisance will some time lead to disorientation, anger, guilt or frustration, too. This is something we have to take into account, too. Continue reading

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She who measures

I wanted to add this animation called “She who measures” where the analogy of a world where everybody sees the same feels very similar to what we face day by day.


Some questions that came to my mind while thinking in blind spots:

1. We tend to homogenize knowledge.

2. The needs of western civilization does not necessarily fulfill the ones of the rest of the world.

3. The cultural shock and rejection towards other people choices, culture and behavior is our biggest blind spot.

4. How media can be useful for people with deep social problems, how can we transform physical spaces via media?

I dont know if you could read my thoughts about blind spots and Foerster text because they are in a comment :P here is the link:

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Kaie on blind spots

Some examples that came to my mind when trying to comment on blind spots:

I read a book by brothers Arkadi and Boriss Strugatski called “The Snail on the Slope” (in Russian: Улитка на склоне). Because of the power of this novel’s attack on the existing political regime and morals, censorship prevented Russians from reading the complete novel until 1989. In the 1960’s, they read chapters about the Forest and the Forest Directorate separately, not realizing Strugatskis had conceived the plot as a single story. To be short, this novel is mostly about The Forest, which is forbidden to humans, they are afraid of it, they don´t get the trees, nature, lakes, animals, swamp…everything that is characteristic about the forest…A Russian sci-fi in its best way. It is quite hard to understand the book, I don´t know, is it because that the forest is as same natural for me as the sun or is it because forest or nature in general is very mysterious. In any case, in this book The Forest for humans is a blind spot, they don´t get it and they are afraid of it. (There are some similarities with the forest figure in James Cameron´s 2009 movie “Avatar”)

I found one work made with Processing visualizing “The Snail on the Slope” by the artist´s view. It is interesting, how here the nature is viewed and how nature has been a source of research and the outcome has developed with the help of computer program:

[vimeo][/vimeo] Continue reading

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On blind spots in our culture and creating changes

(Here is a response or a fusion of all the blogposts I read from Wey so far-still have to read more texts from drop box)

Examples of making our everyday life blind spots more conscioous to us, regarding in how to behave in social public spaces by creating positive chaos (flashmobs). These are examples of overcoming the invisible and oppressing “musts” for conformity that at the end of the day not only keeps everything in order, safe, but also limits people´s ability to feel free and to express themselves. The example below also use media creating a space for change,a t least in our minds. Here comes:

Flashmob of singing Finnish national song in the Helsinki railway station, used for promoting a presidency election candidate number 2:

[youtube][/youtube] Continue reading

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Platon’s Cave and Wells’ Country of the Blind: Culture as disability

“Before entering the Country of the Blind, Nunez thought that sight was essential to being fully cultured and that having sight in a world of people who cannot see would net him the cultural capital of a king.”
– McDermott and Varenne (1995), “Culture as Disability”, on H.G.Wells (1904), “The Country of the Blind”

There have always been didactic narratives with the topic of how to point into a direction not pointable in a specific culture, and of its restricted perception of reality. One of the best known and most quoted narrative is Platon’s “Allegory of the Cave” (around 380 B.C., from his “The Republic”; the translated text can be read here).


There are many suitors to this narrative, it may in fact constitute a whole literary genre: The traveller who brings back the (in)sights from another world to his people, who either succeds in changing his own ‘world’ as a teacher and reformer, or who gets shunned or killed by his fellows for fear of his unusual views. Continue reading

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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:

Continue reading

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Improv Everywhere: Frozen Grand Central Station

For inspiration: Frozen Grand Central Station, a flashmob intervention by “Improv Everywhere”.


There’s already a hint on ‘blind spots’ of specific media:
“Another thing we learned at the Home Depot mission is that it’s really tough to convey this idea through photographs. Everyone is frozen in place in a photo.”

Charlie Todd (2008), founder of “Improv Everywhere”

We don’t expect a photograph to move – do we?

Culture is a medium, and a medium, as any other media, will become ‘visible’ if it stops working. So, what if nearly everybody else starts acting… strange? As Voltaire stated:
“Madness we call the illness of the brain, that keeps a man necessarily from thinking and acting like the others.”

– Voltaire quoted in Foucault (1977), „Wahnsinn und Gesellschaft“, S.176, translation by Tan
“The others” – these are today encountered in new media.

“If there’s nothing wrong with me… maybe there’s something wrong with the universe!”
– Dr. Crusher (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Remember Me”)

Another nice intervention of Improv Everywhere, this time decisively dealing with a social blind spot. In the expensive vacational area of Aspen, Colorado, there are only 0.44% afroamericans…


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April 4th: Blind spots – We do not see that we do not see.

Yesterday Kaie, Noora, Jennifer and me had a videochat via Adobe Connect. Despite some minor technical problems it went quite well, and turned up some basic directions this course may take.

Probably a good starting point to approach the interdependece of medium, media, culture and education would be the concept of the “Blind Spot”, as a metaphor and scaffold to understand and tackle more complex medio-cultural problems.

The “Blind Spot”

A blind spot is, neurophysiologically, a small area on our retina where there are no photoreceptors, where we cannot “see”. The amazing thing is, we do not see a black spot in our field of vision, because the brain “stitches” this stimulus-empty hole shut: We do not see that we do not see here!
Experience this phenomenon first hand:“Hold book screen with right hand, close left eye, and fixate star of Figure 1 with right eye. Move book slowly back and forth along line of vision until at an appropriate distance (from about 12 to 14 inches) round black spot disap- pears. With star well focused, spot should remain invisible even if book screen is slowly moved parallel to itself in any direction.”
– Heinz von Foerster (2003), “Understanding Understanding”, p.213, adress from 1973, p.212; book-screen-exchange by Tan Continue reading

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