Monday, October 15, 2012

Visual Field Drawing Excercise

Students were to close one eye and depict the phenomenal content of their visual experience, including their own body (eyebrow, nose, feet, hands) and the indeterminacy of the peripheral visual field. They were to also read a short excerpt from cognitive science professor Evan Thompon's essay, "Look Again: Phenominology and Mental Imagery," where he examines Ernst Mach's famous drawing

I am so happy with their work. 

Here is the reading excerpt. Evan Thompson(William Irwin Thompson's son): 
“Let’s look at Ernst Mach’s famous attempt to portray his own visual field. Lying on a divan with his right eye shut, Mach tried to depict not his room, but the content of his visual field. We can consider this drawing on several levels. Firstly, the drawing exemplifies a certain pictorial conception of visual experience: The content of perception is like that of a realistic picture. Secondly, given this perception, it is natural to think that were Mach to close his eyes and imagine his view of the room, he would, on the basis of memory, be creating or calling up a mental image, a picture in the head (probably sketchy and indistinct by comparison with perception). Thirdly, Mach’s drawing is itself a pictorial object; it is a material entity that depicts a certain scene.  It is thus not only an object of perceptual experience, but an object of pictorial experience.  We need to look more closely at these three aspects of Mach’s drawing.

            Mach’s drawing is meant to be a depiction of what it is like for him to see his study (with one eye), a depiction of the phenomenal content of his visual experience. The drawing also invites us, the external viewer of the picture, to imagine taking up Mach’s position as the internal viewer of the represented scene, so that our visual experience would, as it were, coincide with his. There is readily available phenomenological evidence, however, that our visual experience is not like this depiction (See Noe 2004, pp 49-50, 69-72). Consider that we have poor peripheral vision. Hold a playing card at arms length just within your field of view; you will not be able to tell its color, suit, or number. Stare at a word or phrase on a page of text, and you will be able to make out only a few of the other words. These simple demonstrations show, contrary to Mach’s drawing, that we do not experience the entirety of our visual field as having the clarity and detail of what we focally attend to. [...]
            His drawing is thus a representation that abstracts and combines the contents of many attentional phases of visual experience. It is a static representation of a temporally extended, dynamic process of sensorimotor and mental exploration of the scene. It tries to present all at once visual contents that at any given moment are not present to one in the way of a detailed picture.
            Another important feature of Mach’s drawing is his attempt to depict the indeterminacy of the peripheral visual field by means of fading to white. This feature may also be an attempt to depict the field as unbounded or topologically open, in the sense that there is no boundary that is part of the field itself (Smith 1999, p. 324). Yet it seems impossible to depict these kinds of features of experience in a picture. The visual field is unbounded and indeterminate in various ways, but not by becoming white in the periphery. How to characterize these features is a difficult matter, but they do not seem to be pictorial properties. They do not seem to be qualities representable within experience, but rather structural features of experience.
            What these brief considerations indicate is that our visual experience of the world at any given moment lacks many of the properties typical of pictures, such as uniformity of detail, qualitative determinateness at every point, and geometrical completeness. Although most vision scientists would accept this statement, many would also regard it as inconsistent with how our visual experience subjectively seems to us (see Pylyshyn 2003a, pp. 4-46). It is important to notice, therefore, that the foregoing considerations have been entirely phenomenological and have not appealed to any facts beyond what is available for one to experience in ones own first-person case.[...]
Picture Viewing
Let us return to Mach’s drawing with these ideas in hand, considering it now as a picture seen by us. Following Husserl (2006), we can distinguish three types of intentional objects implicit tin the experience of picture-viewing (see Bernet, Kern, and Marbach 1993, pp. 150-152).  Firstly, there is the pictorial vehicle, in our case, Mach’s drawing on paper (the original and its reproductions). Secondly, there is the pictorial image, which also appears perceptually, but is not apprehended as a real thing like a pictorial vehicle. In our example, the pictorial image is Mach’s field of view as depicted. Whereas the pictorial vehicle is something we can touch or move, the pictorial image as such is not. It is irreal, or as Sartre more provocatively puts it, “a nothingness” (Sartre 2004, pp. 11-14, 125-136). Finally, there is the pictorial subject or referent—the person himself of herself who is the subject of the depiction (in a portrait), or the scene itself (in a landscape painting). In our example, the pictorial subject is Mach’s actual field of view. The pictorial subject is absent and may or may not exist.”


Timothy Takemoto said...

In case you should be interested (if not, please do not publish this), I tried it with both eyes open and including a couple of giant ghostly semi-transparent noses, photographically

Timothy Takemoto said...

By the way, to make this relevant to your post (and to explain the reason why I arrived here), one of your students seems to have drawn his picture from the point of view of both eyes open, but draws one nose in the centre of his field of view
this is not what I find in my field of view.

Brian Manning said...

Great stuff David. Really enjoyed your whole blog. Found it through this article from looking into Douglas Hardings stuff.

Kind regards,
Briano the Bray Brawler.

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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