Saturday, May 29, 2010

a few words

I imagine that the few people who stumble on this site are puzzled by its purpose. In brief, it is about my personal explorations of forms and spacial relationships. Over the years I have engaged with this subject primarily through the medium of photography. Recently, I have begun to attempt achieving some proficiency with Google SketchUp, a 3D modeling program. My interest in these pursuits surely exceeds my talents, but I enjoy them nevertheless.

Part of my interest in all of the above is focused on an effort to revisit my own visual and perceptual development, including some mis-steps and misapprehensions about possibilities. I recall that somewhere in my elementary schooling I was subjected to a battery of IQ tests. One of those involved completing shapes by inferring a line from an incomplete shape, possibly representing a 3D figure. The test made little sense to me, and I was graded poorly for this aptitude.

Some years later, as a requirement in a basic psych course, I participated as a subject in a grad student's experiment involving similar processes to the elementary school exercise. I was a flop that time too, and I accepted the verdict of an abyssal hole in my perceptual faculties. Looking back now on those experiences and resulting self-assessments, I think I was a bit hard on myself. The tests may have measured something real, but I think that reality may occupy a rather small place in the perspective of life's complexities.

I eventually discovered for myself that, whatever my limitations, I was not consigned to an illiterate, a-visual life. I decided also that the psychologists who devised those tests may themselves had quite a limited vision of perceptual development, and certainly the bureaucrat educators who employed them stand guilty of that as charged. I was encouraged recently to further consider this line of thought by an article I found by the neurologist,Oliver Sacks, about people who gained sight after many years of blindness.

What Sacks found in interviewing people who had acquired vision only in adulthood was that, at least at first, they could make no sense of the visual images their eyes transmitted to the brain. It seemed clear that opportunities to associate images with forms with the help of tactile experience was vital to achieving perceptual competence. So one must, it seems, learn to see the world.

Another thing Sacks found was that learning to understand visual signals was a very difficult task if undertaken beyond the formative childhood years, much as is language learning. The verdict is still out on whether one can significantly alter one's perceptual skills late in life. That suggests to me that it is probably a good idea for parents and educators to focus on providing opportunities for young children to explore the visual world and make sense of it in a variety of ways to help them make the most of whatever inborn potential they might have. I'm also going to take the optimistic view of possibilities for corrective exercises later in the life cycle, and continue my own explorations. So, that is what this is about.

1 comment:

Julio F said...

"So one must, it seems, learn to see the world"