How do we perceive and send visual messages?

The following text is partly written with a book about visual means in graphic designs as a source.

We see it

– as a representation – understood as a picture of something familiar from our surroundings or experience or both – concrete pictures of something.

– more or less “abstract” – everything from a drawing of a man to the primary forms (circle, line etc ) and everything inbetween.

– symbolic, through the world of symbols

Edvard and May-Britt Moser, who got the Nobel prize in medicine in 2014, found brain cells whose function it was to orientate us in our
surroundings. What those cells do is to make a kind of map over the place we are, based on certain concrete points, kind of a simple trigonometry, if I got it right, which makes us recognise whatever is around, also as some kind of abstraction. A map is also a kind of abstraction. We get a perception of the place we are, we can move around and get anywhere.

And what about the computer screen? If we intuitively perceive it as reality, not representation, we may get confused. Some think very simply on this point and do not easily or readily distinguish the two things.

I am used to getting carried away by a film very much, I am there, because the story is exciting, of course, but also because the pictures gives me the feeling of being all the places that the film shows us. We are so used to the film medium and the film language that we don’t have to think to do this. We can normally leave the cinema or start looking somewhere else than the film screen and immediately discuss what we have seen without very much confusion.

The problem with the computer is that it is not just a film screen, it is not just a typewriter, it is not just a calculator or a newspaper or a book – it’s all those things and more, functioning not only as a moveable film, which it also does, but interactivity is also there, meaning I can do things with some of it, change it, and the machine “responds” the way it is programmed and made to do.

It may happen that what used to be fixed, stable, a text, suddenly changes, because the man or woman in the other end does something with the website.

And if this wasn’t enough, automatic functions make any of this happen whenever the maker of the little thing we watch want it to happen, whether it is a question of a particular time of the day, a particular day, whenever the program is programmed to do it, or as a response to something you do.


And all this is, this is my claim, organised in an overall concept of visuality.

And it is also, as I have been saying, moving and moveable in several different ways.

All the old media are more stable, things on paper the most, of course, and the further you go back the simpler the layout, and TV…although it is definitely moving, mostly one-way, from them to us. Text-TV, does that still exist? And even in an action film, there is in a way less commotion than on a computer screen.

How do I see – and remember – the world around me? How do I orient myself? I think there is more than one answer to that question, but we can still generalize a little.

I have a notion of three physical dimensions, which means depth, the location of me in connection to the surroundings, the surroundings related to me.

The other senses are also there, of course, not just eyesight.

Normally my picture of what’s around me is fairly stable, especially if I’m in a room, and I am usually inside, in a familiar place, when I work. I know where things are, basically, and they don’t move very much unless I move them. Things may occasionally fall down from a shelf, but that’s about it. If something happens I notice. The impression can be messy or tidy, and confusion of course exists, where are the bloody keys, but still I know more or less what’s around me. (If I work in a café there are more people and more noise, but that’s a matter of habit…)

I also have a notion of time, but if I sit quietly in a chair reading, the concrete time will perhaps be less interesting. I may experience things in the text, which also relate to time.

A printed text on a piece of paper is a stable thing from a visual point of view, and the things I deal with, what I actually read, are not always very interesting if you try to see it from a visual viewpoint, understand it with a visual understanding etc.

Books full of pictures are different, but very often the pictures and the text are chosen and put together to make a whole, to fit together aesthetically or according to subject or both. The picture, the place your eyes live while you
read, doesn’t change much as they move across a text, the content does.

It is then also a physically stable world. As I say, the variation goes on in the pictures, in the text. If they are good, there is always something new to find there, as the cliché goes, sometimes endlessly, food for thought for a lifetime.

It is a common thing to listen to music which you haven’t heard for a long time, to find music from your childhood etc. One thing is the change in fashion and style, if you consider this isolated, but the mood and what you considered to be the content back then can be interesting to think about in another life, your life of today.

I rarely do it, but the same thing is of course possible with books and films.

Physically nothing happens with your book. It is originally a world of handicraft. Technically it is not an interesting world.

The world of computers is an engineering world.

The picture of Internet can be expected to change anytime, at least this is a feeling that is hard to avoid.

There are also so many elements, probably billions of pictures, websites and parts of websites, so getting an overview even of what you do costs you energy, losing it is easy.

The picture changes, but not like a movie changes, unless you watch a movie on the screen, the whole thing moves more in sudden moves, or at least more in stages than a film traditionally does.

The layout in a physical newspaper is a little more messy than a book normally is, but we’re used to that, and it doesn’t move
either. Ads and editorial content were made different on purpose. I should try to analyse the whole thing better, because there are certainly trends on the Internet as well, which directs the development in this or that direction. But there are anyway many more types of information present, and forms of layout and presentation, than in any printed or broadcasted medium.

The Internet also has the problem of infinite moveability, meaning you can go on clicking into new things endlessly. This is an addictive element for me, and annoying, but I am not sure that this is the case for everyone.

If you analyse the whole thing as art, which I have tried to do elsewhere, here on the blog, it is normal to find infinity in places in I think any piece of art, music etc.

If you’re an engineering talent or have other, basically practical talents or ways of thinking, maybe this is unproblematic or even a source of creativity.

I don’t really know, but I see discussions about addiction that to me seem one-sided, because if you are addicted to something, it can sometimes be utilised both creatively and even professionally, or destructively.

I believe it depends on many things, but with uncontrolled or unreflected attitudes or behaviour you take chances. If you don’t know what you do, quite simply.

This property, the addiction bit is also utilised or exploited, however you see it, I guess to the full in computer games, but I think you can find this technique used many other places, at least things work like that in practice. Just looking into a newspaper can be a problem because there are so many articles. Getting an overview over the morning newspaper used to be easier.

This endlessness also has in it the possibility of domination over other means of expression, because it is massive, repetitive and almost physical in itself.

Memory, our memory, is filled from the screen with impressions which can easily be interpreted as impressions from the real world, if you are not conscious enough about where you actually are. Confusion easily comes next, because what you see on a screen is actually not real in the sense that one easily thinks.

Some actually say that what you can see is more real, more direct, than other ways of connecting to the world, the most basic way to see things.

This is definitely an illusion if you believe that it is the only way to see the world. You can probably build philosophy around it, but there are other ways.

Many subjects, the world seen with professional eyes, maybe all, may function as your philosophy on a certain level. A biologist will easily see phenomenons and things happening in the world through biology- or at least natural science-goggles, a musician may see the world as music or at least art, a carpenter has more practical views on the world. To move from one such world to another can be demanding.

Humans as a study object, an object for research, forms maybe the biggest problem in understanding the world, because we have everything – we are chemistry, biology, art, body, spirit, matter, nature, culture, practice, theory. We are and we become almost everything. To say unambiguously
what a human is must be more or less impossible. We exist in many professional worlds.

In principle, everything can be made into art, and a lot of things can be seen through the biologist’s glasses, but what we see and talk about, the different issues and subjects, will never be exhausted, never finished, the thinking will always go on, also if we see all this as a common project. The neighbour may always have something new to say to you.

The world lets itself mould into all kinds of thinking, and if you see it isolated, in valid ways. You could even claim that everyone has a point of some kind, is right in something.

Everything is food, or taste, everything is philosophy (well, this is a special case, but still…) everything is architecture, chemistry. Everything in life is science. Everything is practical actions. Money.

Fine, it is possible to see the world through your professional or personal glasses, but don’t put your views at work to a too great extent, especially not the last two points of view, which I feel is crushingly established knowledge right now. They are also necessary, but not exhausting, not covering everything and ruling out everything else.

Be careful.

And no matter how good you are in understanding the world – especially if you are actually good at it and have a lot to say – remember that your neighbour may have a view which also have validity and relevance,
which you may not know, you may not understand, or which doesn’t fit into your view on the world. It depends, both what we are talking about – our very lives may be vastly different and with necessary priorities that you don’t know about – and of course how we see things matter.

You carry always only one aspect or a choice of aspects with you into a personal philosophy, no matter how much you say or how broad your views are.

No one can think as everyone.

On the Internet, and in real life.


After having written a long series of articles with the intention of understanding and more or less isolating the subject of the Internet and the computer world in my mind, I can see that they may work as and feel like a rejection of the whole thing.

Even if I have been thoroughly annoyed by the computer, my intention is not to stay there – I just want to use it for my purposes, so that it doesn’t use me for its own purposes. Or even more relevant, it seems, so that others don’t do it, consciously or unconsciously.