Images have a profound effect on the way we perceive our world – but not in the ways someone would usually think. I’m pretty sure the majority of the population don’t turn into mass murderers from watching or interacting with violent material. Most of us are vaguely aware that media affects us though. But how so, and by how much? The lecture really made me think in new ways about this subject.
In the lecture, Andrew began with dissecting what an image is. They act as ‘motivated signs’, where they actually represent what they are talking about. For example, a foreigner may not understand what is referred to with the word ‘cat’, but they do when presented with an image of one. Because of this, they sort of capture reality.
Because of the image’s capacity to convey reality, it is manipulated and presented in so many ways that our perceptions of reality change.
Visual technologies frame our perspectives by dictating how and what we see.The cinema is a good example. Its physical arrangement (seating, no lights, massive screen) allows for maximised immersion. For a couple of hours, the film’s world is our world. Everything is heightened. Add onto that devices such as 3D glasses. It has turned us into a society of spectacle, something also discussed in the lecture. But with the coming of smaller, portable screens, this again changes the way we interact and experience reality.
This has been discussed heaps but I think it is noteworthy to think of google glass and the new reality that emerges from the hybridisation of different other realities (by that I mean different spaces, images, texts, people, your own) into one platform.
Andrew discussed the presence of ‘anti-ocularism’, a mistrust in images. Guy Debord, in The Society of Spectacle, talks about the saturation of images so much so that we lose our critical thinking, that real life is being replaced by manufactured images such as ads, films, etc. We are turned into consumers because they encourage commodity. Plato also expressed a mistrust. To him, images were just ideal copies of reality, making our normal world imperfect and undesirable in comparison.
The Australian film and TV industry is a good starting point to explore how Debord’s and Plato’s theories can be true. You only need to take one look at the industry to see amount of artificial and money driven images that are being produced. There is a lack of diversity in the ideals it presents. Gary Parmanathan, of Peril, sums it up perfectly in a blog post:
“We are the invisible identity in Australia’s imagining of this century. We are identified and profiled when it comes to crime, migration, border security issues, and when we speak too loud on the train but when it comes to our ability to contribute our personal stories, our culture and diasporic identities, we are completely invisible.”
I struggle to think of more than one Australian produced film or TV with an east asian or indian in a main role. I cannot list one that has been in a lead role. Yet, when I walk around, I see plenty of different cultures.
That brings us back to Debord’s theory that images in society are consumerist. Parmanathan identifies the lack of culturally diverse decision makers in the media – board members of networks and producers. Perhaps they are driven by what works commercially, that broadening their horizons too much will deter audiences.
And because there is a different reality being presented to us, our own realities change as a result. Because people see that their own ethnicities, their own identities, are not being portrayed as important, what does that do to them? The results are apparent in this video.
There is a phenomena called ‘internalised racism’, where one dislikes or hates their own race. An experiment was conduced where most asian children, when asked to choose which doll looks better, chose the Caucasian doll over the Asian one. To be honest, as a child, I would have done the same.
However one must consider that mainstream media is not the be all and end all. There are other streams of thought that are presented through independent productions, blogs, freelance journalists and other outlets. But can they challenge the hegemonic ideals, and are they enough?
It’s not all bad news though. There is another theory which argues that our own reality can actually become clearer too. Andrew discussed Heidigger’s ‘Age of the World Picture’, which I think (although I’m not too sure) means that world becomes more comprehensible through instruments and technologies. They reveal the unknown. Medical imaging allows us to more accurately examine the body. Microscopes reveal cell structures. Telescopes illuminate the location of stars, planets, universes.
secret word – ‘real time’
Parmanathan, Gary, ‘Are we there yet? Multicultural media at a crossroads’ http://www.peril.com.au/peril/2013/03/04/are-we-there-yet-multicultural-media-at-a-crossroads/
Google Glass, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4
Asian white doll experiment, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAWbbzHEY6E