02 July 2007

Training Oneself to Notice

The Spinning Silhouette is an fascinating optical illusion:
Which way is the silhouette spinning? Now focus your attention on the shadow beneath her. (Hint: watch the shadow of the foot.) Do you see the silhouette changing direction? With some practice, you can see her performing half-pirouettes, back and forth, at will.

Very cool - because the user completes the image. One of the issues with doing any sort of critical work - that is, analysis and praxis involving issues of power relations, control, discipline, voice (and lack or suppression thereof), privilege - in any field is that there are those who cannot, or refuse, to see the criticality. People who are used to engaging with their world in a hot way - fragmenting, categorizing, separating, applying linear, deductive reasoning - in other words, those who have been trained to be chronically literate, have a great deal of difficulty seeing the world "spin" in any other way.

There are lots of methods to help see the world turn in different ways. But each of them takes practice - practice to learn and master the techniques, and practice in learning how not to be distracted by our previous training and socialization. Not so coincidentally, a lot of what I've been doing lately - the Generation Gap, and How Do We Know talks, my thesis research on Valence Theory (plus another small summer research project on marketing), the playing around with cyber-education that I'm doing are all connected by seeking to notice what we haven't noticed lately, and thereby understanding our world in a new, expanded way.

As it turns out, I'll be doing an Applied McLuhan for Managers playshop in Ottawa on September 25 that is open to the public. Details (location, cost) are being arranged by a team in Ottawa, but if you're interested, write me and I'll connect you with the necessarily information. There are lots of ways to train yourself to notice, but this way promises to be fun.

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Anonymous said...

I think I must have some kind of visual aberration. I can't see this at all. To me, she is spinning endlessly in the same (totally wrong for dance) backward direction. Then again, I have never even once been able to make those hidden 3-D pictures resolve into anything at all.

I am fine with 2-D images that require a slight shift in perspective to see something totally different, but 3-d has me beat!

Walt said...

To Karyn Romeis, The interesting thing about this illusion is that even if you were to get her to spin in the opposite direction she would still be going in the "(totally wrong for dance) backward direction".

When spinning one way her right leg is the leg up when spinning in the other direction her left leg is the one that is up.

I'm with you I can't see those hidden 3d "Magic eye" images either.

Mark Federman said...

The trick to have the direction change is with the outstretched foot. If you imagine that the outstretched foot passes behind the straight leg, she appears to go in a clockwise direction. If you imagine the foot passing in front of the straight leg, she appears to go in a counter-clockwise direction. This illusion is directly related to Eric McLuhan's piece on Egyptian animation.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Mark, I found the trick was a long blink and to stare at the foot that touches the ground.

I suppose the good news is that there are many ways to give up what we think we know, and get closer to what is.

I'm also interested in Karyn's comment. Because to me this is a 2d image, and it's because it's a silhouette that it works this way. If it was a 3d representation(think video of a dancer) I suspect the optical illusion wouldn't work. Maybe the difference is animated v still? BTW I struggle like crazy with those magic eye pics.

And maybe there's another message here. That it's not a dancer at all, but an animated representation of one on a flat computer screen...

John Goodridge

Anonymous said...

Great magic illusion for our magic eyes:) That's really amazing!