Monthly Archives: October 2013

Rabbit or Duck? That’s the Million Dollar Question.

Rabbit or Duck? That's the Million Dollar Question.

Herbert Zettl states one of the six main forces of the spatial field on the screen is the figure and ground. He goes on to explain how we assign a figure and group depending on what we see. How I Met Your Mother had a bit about this where some of the cast argued it was a duck and some argued it was a rabbit. The bit then goes into what is right or better, the duck or the rabbit, and relates it to Robin’s love life.

To view the whole scene click on the photo and go about 6 minutes and 30 seconds into the clip. Then just laugh.


20 Blocks to the Left: Our Ability to see horizontal planes accurately

Herbert Zettl brings up the idea that people innately have the ability to judge horizontal and vertical planes. Here we can “eyeball” a picture and just know if it is straight or not. In this Friends episode, Rachel is in the process of packing to move out. When Rachel and Monica get into a fight Rachel decides she is not moving and starts to unpack her belongings from the boxes. Rachel then takes a picture, throws it on the wall and asks, “Is that picture straight?” Monica replies “It needs to go about 20 blocks to the left!”

Here Monica demonstrates that we do have a fairly accurate sense of horizontal and vertical planes like Zettl states in his book, Sight, Sound, and Motion.

Forces of the Screen

In his novel Sight, Sound, and Motion, Herbert Zettl brings up the six main concepts of field forces on the screen.  Like this podcast discusses, today we are surrounded by screens.  Rather that be on a phone, television, or computer, it has come natural to us to perceive a world through a screen.  We may be so numb to the perception of a screen that we fail to notice the needed direction to satisfy the viewer.  Zettl states the six main forces of the screen are:

  1. main directions
  2. magnetism of the frame and attraction of mass
  3. asymmetry of the frame
  4. figure and ground
  5. psychological closure
  6. vectors

These six forces allow our minds to stabilize or accept the motion on the screen to be realistic.  Main directions is broken down into two categories: horizontal (suggesting calmness and normalcy) and vertical (suggesting power, formality, and strength).  A combination of horizontal and vertical comprise our normal world.  Magnetism of the frame and the attraction of mass refers to the borders of the screen and how certain objects can have a stronger pull on the frame.  A diagonal going from the bottom of the screen to the top depict an uphill slant, reversing that a diagonal from the top left to the bottom left depicts a downhill slant.  Furthermore, the asymmetry of the frame lends credence to the fact that we place a stronger emphasis on objects in the right side of the screen, and objects on the left are less dominant.  In terms of figure and ground, it is our human instinct to organize a picture field into a stable ground against which less stable figures operate.  Along the same lines of our instincts, we tend to conceptualize geometrical figures and mentally fill in the missing portions of recognizable patterns.  Therefore, we arrive at psychological closure where we assume the completion of an object.  A vector is a force with a direction and magnitude and are broken down into three categories: graphic, index, and motion.  The six main forces help tame space on the screen aesthetically so we have a frame of reference with the events that are occurring on the screen.

Rolling Stone: Sexting, Shame & Suicide

Rolling Stone: Sexting, Shame & Suicide

The following link is from a September issue of the Rolling Stone and profiles four girls who had a sexting scandal that lead to their decision to commit suicide.  Paul Virillo touches upon the concept of cyber sex in the third section of his book, Open Sky, to state the sexting furthers the gap between a person and the world.  Virillio argues the disconnect we feel to the world is largely stemmed from technology and cyber sex is a variable in that gap. However, if cyber sex is considered to distant us from the world then why did these four girls take their life as a result of the instance? Following Virillio’s logic, shouldn’t the girls feel less of a connection because the nature of sexting adds to the wedge? Further, as Virillio puts it, if we are becoming automatic sex machines, why did they even care? This article justifies the argument that sexting, cyber sex, and sex in general still holds meaning to some.

Suga Suga: Paul Virillio’s Take on Sex & Technology

Paul Virilio concludes the third section of his book, Open Sky, by honing in on the idea that technology is influencing our very existence regardless of our efforts to try and stop it. Virilio strongly focuses on technology’s effect on personal relationships we have and how the nature of personal relationships have changed because of technology.

Virilio states that because technology makes people capable of fostering relationships with little to no physical contact, the essence of relationships is deteriorating. He continues to explain that couples no longer need physical contact because they can stimulate pleasure with the aid of technology.  Summarizing Virilio’s points with a broad stroke, he is arguing that there has come a wedge between people and the world.  And this wedge is largely due to technology and the ripple effect it has caused on society.

Now, generally speaking, has society becoming more detached from the world? Sure. People sit around in a booth at a restaurant together but remain silent while they play on their phones.  Has technology affected the way in which we live? Absolutely, you can thank tech giants like Apple and Google for that. But is there no hope for humanity? Are we now incapable of producing meaningful relationships? Are the relationships made online less legitimate because of the medium the two people met? I do not know.  Virillio has written 145 pages in response to these questions, but who is Virllio to label what is meaningful and measure meaning like flour for a cookie recipe?

From this section, Virillio’s take of sex proved to be the most interesting as he compares the evolution of sex to that of cars with the stages of beginning, instrument, and instinct. He focuses upon the idea of sexual diversion and the effect technology has and will have on our view of sex.  The bottom line is sex is human nature. It will has happened, it will happen, and it will continue to happen.  Although the nature of sex can change.  The rise of technology paved the way to alternative forms of pleasure such as pornography and cyber sex. No one can deny that, however, Virillio’s claim that society is becoming a mindless sex machine, I would argue is a sweeping generalization.  Over the decades has sex become increasingly embraced and exploited by society? Yes, but to say it has lost all meaning and we think as robots towards sex is quite the statement to make to a world with 7.13 billion people.

Therefore, if we accept Virillio’s argument in full, is the path we are on that devastating? People said it was crazy attempt to fly, now it’s the safest, quickest way of travel.  People said it was crazy to produce home computers. Now this very book was written because of the success mainstream technology has gained. So, are we doomed or are the arguments laid out exaggerated instances?

But….I NEED My phone! (Do you?)

Paul Virillio discusses extensively the discusses the consequences of technology on society. He states that there is a wedge that has been forming between us and the world since the advent of the scientific revolution. This video written by Charlene deGuzman & Miles Crawford and directed by Miles Crawford. Here it the need that we feel to be constantly “connected” to our phones is displayed, and showed exactly how stupid that is sometimes.

Eustace Conway: We Lack the Ability to Think. Period.


As mentioned previously, Furman University hosted a lecture by “The Last American Man,” Eustace Conway. Conway left his parents home in North Carolina when he was 17 to live in a teepee in the woods.  He has lived a naturalistic life ever since.  His lecture centered around his motives for rejecting mainstream society and his experience of living in the woods for 35 years.  He stated simply that he did not believe we could realize our function in society with the clutter we find ourselves amongst.  Our priorities were skewed.  We are driven by a pieces of paper that prove to be worthless on their own.  We subject ourselves to a world that is an imitation of the reality. Conway stated “When you live out in the wild and sit around for hours and hours watching the world go by for decades, you get a lot of thinking time. And that’s something that is missing in the world, and that is exceptionally sad.”  The idea of society losing our ability to think for ourselves or think of profound thoughts and theories and ideas is a concept that is constantly brought up in communication texts.  Virilio would agree.  Nicholas Carr would agree. And while Conrad is on a roll, Jay Heinrichs would agree. 

Identifying the Disconnect: Amend or Forge Onward?

In the second portions of Paul Virilio’s Open Sky, he continues to discuss technology and the rippling effect it has on our human function in society. Virilio explains a portion of this ripple through “animates” or microscopic pieces of machinery that are used to direct the body and help in disease recovery.  Virilio continues to state that given the recent advances in technology, for the first time our next revolution will not revolve around size and shape, but around compact size and efficiency.

Stemming from the idea of compact size, Virilio states that society places a strong emphasis to “miniaturize the world.”  This concept gives rise to a life that does not know space or time because it is ruled by the Internet, technology, and quick communication.  As he originally mentioned in the first portion of the book, Virilio touches upon the idea of real space vs. real time.  Relating this concept to online dating, Virilio emphasizes the full scope that technology has on our daily lives since we let it.  He questions if “miniaturizing” technology will benefit us as much as it could hurt us.  His idea of animates continues to question exactly how much we should let technology change our function of being.

On Wednesday, October 9th, Furman University hosted Eustace Conrad who is History Channel’s “Mountain Men.”  When Conrad was 17 years old, he moved out of his parents suburban home and into the forest in North Carolina. He owns 1,000 acres of land in Boone, N.C. and lives a sustainable life of hunting, gathering, and self-sufficiency. At this lecture, Conrad stated

We as people are the most disconnected.  In this time when your cell phone and advertisements say you will be more connected than ever before, I call that bull. There will always be a disconnect between the man and the world.  That’s where we have been headed for centuries now. We need to get perspective.

This quote I believe is exceptionally applicable to Virilio’s main takeaway from this portion of the book.  Virilio brings up the concern of technology’s negative consequences on our human experience because we get lost in the vast swarm of mass communication and technology.  This is the disconnect Conrad is speaking about.  We do not know a world where we can step away from all outside influences and find the purpose, meaning, or direction of our current course.

However, it goes without saying the majority of the population will not follow in Conrad’s footsteps.  Most will not be convinced to forgo modern life, but how should we attempt to remedy the disconnect that has formed between the function of our lives and technology?  On the other hand, is the direction society is headed with the progression of technology and mass communication that bad? As we examined, Socrates feared the written word stating it would degrade oral tradition.  Yet Socrates did not consider the positive results of written word.  Could this mindset be applied to Virilio? Is he simply laying down a blanket statement without considering the great things that can result from technology?

Thank You, Manti Te’o For You Have Proven Virilio Correct

Paul Virilio expresses concern for potential harm inflicted by mass media and discusses the concept of real space vs. real time. Here Virilio states with the increase in mass media and technology, real time trumps real space because technology enables us to have human interactions without being physically present. The following video explains the story of Manti Te’o and the hoax of his girlfriend. Te’o was the star running back for Notre Dame and claimed to have fallen victim of a sophisticated catfish scheme. Te’o announced in September 2012 that his year long girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, had passsed away from Leukemia. Te’o stated the two had met online and texted, talked on the phone, and visited throughout their relationship. However, in January 2013 Te’o admitted he never actually met Kekua physically in person and that it was revealed that she did not exist as a real person. This is a prime example of real time overpowering real space. Here, Te’o never even stood in the same room as Kekua because she was not a real person. Technology and media gave Te’o the illusion he was in a legitimate relationship with someone and provides legitimacy to Virlio’s concerns for the consequences of mass media.