Very interesting article about how the brain confuses and collapses the literal/visceral and the metaphorical, by Dr. Robert Sapolsky - who I remember speaking about curious baboon behavior on Radiolab awhile back.
Cab press yesterday: 1/2 ton of Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon for the Ohlone wine collective. A perfect Bonny Doon day and the juice tasted sublime already after only 2 weeks in the bin. Looking forward to drinking it proper in another 2+ years…
visual-literacy.org maps various methods of information graphics onto the framework of the periodic table (with rollover pop-up examples of each).
Extra Credit: which visualization method is employed here?
"Changing Education Paradigms" by RSAnimate: a fabulous - and relevant - example of graphic narrative in action.
Dinner with Bob Aubrey and Kevin Wheeler (and others) in San Leandro last night. Kevin’s entrepreneurial mission is to help bring the corporate world into the future (read: present) by strategizing more flexible (etc) models of the workplace and workforce. Lots of interesting talk across the table (the history of the UC system… what are the skills that should be taught now, with the future in mind? How does one learn how to learn? Accelerating change/niche blogging/entrenchment/leveraging technologies and on and on). One tool Wheeler uses in his seminars and consulting is graphic facilitation, ‘created’ (or perhaps leveraged) by David Sibbet, who lives in the Bay Area and also happens to be an acquaintance of my dad’s. He has a book out, “Visual Meetings,” the topics of which include “Graphics as an outgrowth of gestural communication” and “Creating a shared frame of reference.” Basically, and without more than a cursory scanning of what’s available to “Search Inside!” on Amazon, bringing the methods and benefits of graphic communication (comics and storybooks, mediums not often considered ‘legitimate’) to the corporate and institutional realms (which have heretofore privileged much more linear, traditional forms of communication and informational languages). Of course the potential benefits are not only increased efficacy or group productivity (important words in such worlds) but also increased participation of the creative, visual/symbolic brain, presumably beyond the graphically-facilitated meeting itself. Exciting stuff…
"Follow the money," suggests Bob, and apparently there is money for creative ideation and playful planning after all. I suppose it just takes more of the same to get to it.
Facebook speaks: excerpts from the comments to the previous post (why can’t people post comments here?)
People often do not consider the value of picture books in developing visual and graphic literacy. As a culture, we rely extensively on graphic communication, in addition to textual, but we rarely consider it to be an essential skill. The a bstraction of those cows teaches not only a specific representation of cow (white/black) therefore defining the characteristics of the idea of “cow”, but also established a standard for the abstraction of animals and their 2d representation. Eventually when Dante makes the connection between a real cow and the drawing, he’ll intuitively begin to develop a standard for how to graphically communicate an animal, or any other thing. Some aspects of that standard may be innate, and may describe how we actually perceive and communicate about form and shapes, while others may be cultural (for example cows might be marked their back profiles rather than their spots in places where cows with spots are less famous). Super interesting stuff. You should JSTOR the subject (or google scholar it) instead of just plain google!
Thanks, I will… I wonder if I still have JSTOR access? Never heard of google scholar… ooh, new resources! I’m especially curious about which of those standards of graphic communication (…term…) are innate and which are learned. I of ten find myself thinking about how perspective drawing was a learned skill (and still is…) that utterly reordered the way people not only depicted but - I believe - saw the world. When I was young I could never figure out why, if people have always drawn from life, the art of depicting life has changed so much since say, egyptian wall paintings or medieval manuscripts… what has changed was the lexicon, as it were, the belief in or dedication to ideas such as an observable reality or a symbolic reality. Interesting stuff. Mind if I copy your comment to the blog?
And you can always incorporate knowledge through everyday random things like, “Should we eat this red apple that is round like a circle?” Those little sponges soak that stuff up like crazy!!!!
Interesting thing I learned at some point recently: In Europe, and this probably varies by culture, they spell the noises animals make differently. So by teaching him that a cow goes MOO you’re making him American. I’m not saying buy Euro books b/c then he’d probably get teased at school, but I thought that was relevant to your post…
also, comics. Reading them as a kid taught me a ton.
oh yeah, comics, definitely. I was just thinking I should go look at my BFA dissertation - comics, word/image, fragmented narrative - again for some sources.
so i haven’t learnt much about word/symbolic developmental cognition but I’ve seen a few talks by this woman liz spelke at harvard who studies cognitive development about numbers. It’s really interesting. basically concep…ts of one two and three change at a certain point in devp’t from ‘one and one and one’ to the concept that is three. here’s her website: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu /~lds/index.html?spelke.ht ml and she has a lot of papers up there for free…. :)
And what’s funny is that while perspective drawing is great for creating the illusion of depth or depicting the view from a particular location, it sucks at conveying information about size and well, lots of stuff. There’s a reason that maps are never in perspective, and that egyptian hieroglyphs can move seamlessly between declarations and narrative about events within one awesome graphic layout (and that reason would be that everything is flattened out in an ordered manner).
The intuitive thing to do when drawing is to draw everything flat, as if laying out objects on a flat surface.
I think about this kind of stuff all the time for architectural drawings. In architecture we constantly have to develop standards of graphic communication about both events and spatial characteristics. We have to go through a whole stage in… our education where we learn all these different drawing projections and symbolic languages. We NEED flattened drawings, like this: http://www.archdaily.com/8 1726/germoplasm-pavillion- vlad-sebastian-rusu/sectio n-01-203/
because they convey actual dimensions, which perspectives suck at. Okay, I’ll stop rambling and get back to work now. Super interesting topic though, Zephyr.
jeesus h. christ this is brilliant
yes.. yes… yes!
(i think this here platform should be developed so one can comment on a particular word or phrase of someone else’s comment, not just this linear string. at least have stacked comments.)
it’s interesting to think about …visual languages - graphic communications - as responding to different, concurrent issues or pressures. to think of how tools are developed to address different needs simultaneously, and then how their use reorders social/cultural consciousness. again with perspective: as i understand it, the popularity of early perspective drawing/painting was in large part due to the church, thanks to its ability to evoke a sense of sublime (yet inaccessible!) space. it also reinforces the subjecthood of the viewer and relies on calculated observation by the creator (the artist or draftsman, that is, not capital C ‘Creator’), all of which were particularly important ideas to the time of its development. once developed and put into widespread practice, it then helped reinforce those concepts, though subtly and largely unconsciously. so - to make a theoretical and hugely unscientific leap, does the primacy of perspective drawing - which at least when i was young was taught as The Right Way to draw (nevermind that no one is even taught drawing at all anymore…….) - encourage a sense of the primacy of one’s own individual perspective, with the world receding from our sight? do other cultures that privilege other forms of graphic ordering have an entirely different conceptualization of the individual? could you instigate a subtle but foundational shift in the social narrative of self/world by teaching architectural styles of drawing instead? once again assuming there was ever any money for drawing for children ever again…. :P
Dante is very recently very interested in books (yay!!) and as i read (the same books over and over) to him I have been thinking a lot about the development of language, both verbal and visual, and particularly symbolic…
Here’s my first case study. Two cows, two prominent MOO’s, from the fabulous Sandra Boynton’s "Moo, Baa, La La La" and the happily painted “Peek-a-Who" by Nina Laden, respectively. Very different cows in a figurative sense, but characteristically - symbolically - quite similar: White with black splotches, pink udder and nose, horns… still, very reductive of the massive lowing aliveness that is Real Cow. Dante’s seen a Real Cow before - once, at the County Fair - but there isn’t really any way that he would possibly relate Live Cow (which he most likely doesn’t even remember) to Book Cows. Or reductive, symbolic book animals to live animals at all - right? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. He makes this funny cooing sound around live animals that certain stuffed animals also occasionally invoke (Rocky the Realistic Raccoon, for one) but his book noises are much different. Animal, at this point, seems to = furry, sniffy, wiggly/jumpy: not = legs, tail, face (all 2dimensional visual cues). So what is he getting? I’m pretty sure he relates Cow A to Cow B but I don’t know what his referents are beyond that. And the MOO - MOO as graphic rather than ‘word’ - what’s that illustrate? Obviously I have very little knowledge of developmental psychology to help answer these questions (I’ve barely even googled it yet!) but it’s been interesting to speculate around while reading the same (totally stimulating) books over and over again (mmoooooo).
At what point developmentally do we make the leap from living in and making sense of a 3dimensional visual world (and he is obviously still very new to this too) to understanding its 2dimensional visual equivalent, the world of pictures and signs? I’ve read a couple of articles that discussed studies done with photographs and children but I’m interested in the more abstracted visual languages, though I do understand that photographs too deal in a big lot of abstraction…
The other thing I’ve been thinking about while reading (and reading and pointing and reading and showing) these books and pictures is just how goshdarn important reading is to the development of language and the potential for abstract, creative thinking. I know that there have been a ton of studies that have basically proven this and as a member of the linguist militia I’ve never questioned them, but I do feel like I am glimpsing it in action now (primary research! So much better than reading a paper). And it seems like picture books are particularly important, at least for this stage (though I would make a case for their continued import no matter the age, visual culturite that I am), because that second level of symbolic association (or second language, whatever you want to call it) works concurrently with the first and forces a more lateral or engaged reading as the brain works to knit all the information together into a coherent narrative (what passes for narrative at 15 months?).
Our friend Marcy Whitebook, who works in childcare policy, said she read recently that parents are eschewing picture/storybooks for their young children in favor of more ‘advanced’ wordy non-fiction in their race for high scores and high achievement in the high aptitude culling grounds of preschools and charter schools (etc)… What a shame, on so many levels. Mainly because it’s so misguided and counterproductive. Gaye, the children’s book buyer at Bookshop Santa Cruz, mentioned in her meeting with us about the evolution book (watch this space!) that people tend to assume that children won’t get ‘big words’ (or big concepts) so they leave them out of children’s texts - but in fact they can easily understand them provided the context is supportive - and one such supportive context is a rhyme scheme, or rhythm, that sorta kinda carries the new word to the reader in a catchy, comfortable way. Stealth poetry!
A couple of days after reading both Hanna Rosin’s Atlantic Monthly article "The End of Men" and the Newsweek cover story that basically repeats the same findings for a somewhat larger audience with a somewhat shorter attention span I take Dante to the park around the corner and within a couple of minutes of toddling him around the wood shavings that have seemingly replaced sand in most of the city’s parks (if Santa Cruz counts as a city, which is questionable) we are joined by three different dads with their almost-two to three-year old kids. As it’s a Monday morning between 10 and 11, am I right to assume that they are watching the kids while mom works? Indeed, one of the kids (“Gracie,” 2 1/2) informs me that “mommy’s awwwük,” which is quickly translated by Dad 1 as “mommy’s at work.” In fact, other recent park jaunts (there haven’t been many yet, Dante is just beginning this exciting new phase) have also been populated with more men than women, or even both parents together. So men are participating more in child-rearing - one path to a “new masculinity” according to both articles - either by choice or by default, perhaps because women are more often than not the primary breadwinner in these days of lay-offs and what-not. Or maybe they work from home/work nights/have Mondays off/own real estate. Either way, definitely a sign of the times.
Banksy storyboards the opening sequence of the Simpsons and six-line commentators everywhere (paid, unpaid and the hoi polloi of the comments section) run wild trying to decide if it’s funny, unfunny, protest or sell-out…
"You don’t protest something by indulging in it. That’s the opposite of the point. Banksy was in part protesting Fox animation’s brutal treatment of its animators, but guess who animated the sequence? Fox animators did"
(ReelMissing on gawker)
ahh, for a little appreciation of nuance and ambiguity.
Like the syncretic dance of opponents vogueing on the runway, the creation of “wiggle room” in order to accomplish divergent goals from those espoused by the institutions one works with (and sometimes within) demands what Brazilians call joga de cintura, “a move from the waist (or hip) not forward or backward, but sideways.” This sideways movement suggests “caginess over confrontation” and acknowledges that to directly oppose those with greater (or other) powers and force isn’t so much courageous as it is foolhardy: “good sense demands creative options.” Such motion loosens the boundaries between oppositional forces and expands the realm and repertoire of each opponent: through troping, disguising, signifyin’, hoop-jumping or just talking a good game, Trickster’s tacticians “interrupt… the closure of identities and their relations, [just as] vogueing’s syncretisms propose new possibilities of struggle”– not as a battle, but a dance.
 Doris Sommer, “Introduction: Wiggle Room,” in Cultural Agency in the Americas, ed. Doris Sommer (N.C.: Duke, 2006), 5
 Marcos Becquer and Jose Gatti, “Elements of Vogue,” in The Subcultures Reader, eds. Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton (New York: Routledge, 1997) , 453
lizard skin, butterflies, feathers and wheat: Sarah Burton’s spring collection for Alexander McQueen (the brand, not the man) reinforces emergence and metamorphosis… though calling it a ‘rebirth’ would be pushing it, i think. quite funereal in the middle there and also something very roman… and i like how death and decay are implied but not explicit, are present in the decadence of such an effusion of transient materials (and the reference to rome, perhaps?). very persephone (proserpine)…