Thursday, December 04, 2008
My student Sarah Geis used a provocative word today in a discussion: de-image. We are choked by images that hide realities. How might we de-image our lives to regain reality?
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A forum for discussing matters of moment, from a curmudgeonly perspective. (The ideas posted here do not necessarily represent those of any organization with which I am a part). Rude and insulting remarks will not be published, but civil disagreement is welcome.
Turn off images and Flash when browsing the Web. This is my preferred way to use the Internet. Depending on what browser one uses you need to find the option to turn off image loading (look in preferences or settings).
Also, Flash animated ads disgust me, so in the Firefox browser I use an add-on called Flashblock to de-image them.
These tips, by the way, also help pages load much faster in addition to getting rid of distracting images that often humiliate the word.
Speaking for myself, I would like to de-image those whose worldview is uncomfortably different from my own. Then I would like to re-image their images in my own image. Imagine that! How about you?
How to de-image?
Make all broadcast television scrolling text only! Courier typeface, white text on black screen. The only control viewers have is the rate of scrolling.
That is way too deep a topic to start pondering at midnight!
I'll have to sleep on that one.
In all seriousness, I experienced and became acutely aware of how powerful images can be in observing myself and the influence of images to which I was exposed. While watching television several years ago, prior to and perhaps early on in the US invasion of Afghanistan all of the images I saw created an extremely dark view of an impoverished, delapidated, "wasteland". For a long time I never saw an image that would give me any reason to believe that anything but rocks could grow and thrive anywhere in Afghanistan. I never saw the image of a building that did not show horrible devastation or decay. I was not really cognizant or aware of how willingly I accepted what I was being shown as being complete or fair representations of Reality until I saw a series of news stories showing different images. In those stories the films were of new construction, lovely gardens, intact older buildings and fields that were lush. I realized how powerful imagery is and how we can be manipulated to see and believe what someone wants to portray. Usually that is not a balanced or honest attempt to show the whole picture or story. I have become much more aware of the power of visual rhetoric as a result of this experience. I think I am a little more mindful that there is often much more to the story than meets the eye.
Read old books, preferably physical copies held in your hands. Keep a pencil handy and make neat marginal notes if and where they are likely to help you re-enter the book the next time you work through that passage. I have frittered away hours doing various needless things -- clicking around on the internet following up news stories beyond the point where I really needed the information, inter alia -- but I have never regretted the time I have spent reading great old books.
There are some wonderful resources online that bring otherwise inaccessible old books within the reach of everyone. But even in those cases, I have sometimes actually gone to the trouble of printing out and spiral-binding a particularly valuable work just to have it in my hands. (If you whip up cardstock covers and do the printing yourself, you can get it cut, the covers laminated, and the whole thing spiral bound at Kinko's for about $15 per book.)
To de-image is a prescription for cultural myopia!
As much as possible, avoid mediums that use visual advertisements. The attractive flashiness that has been carefully, scientifically tailored to the human mind only serves to speed us up, dumb us down, and cultivate within us a strong, false sense of need. Besides, advertising agencies draw heavily upon and immerse the viewer in the mile wide and inch deep world of pop culture.
I don't think images are necessarily a bad thing, but they can be used negatively. On the other hand, so can sound bites and even words for that matter. So in this way, whether in the form of pictures, sound, or text, reality can be misconstrued. The best way to not be decieved is to use critical thinking and be discerning.
We would have to cash out what is meant by image. Is it a beautiful painting? Probably not. Most likely the word is being used in the sense of annoying advertisements and the like. In that case, what I wrote above about using critical thinking applies.
Also, what Tim said about reading books is good advice. Even then, we are painting pictures with our mind, using our...imag(!)inations.
No one said images are necessarily bad, but this is what always happens when I challenge the reign of images today.
Read Jacques Ellul, The Humiliation of the Word.
Following up on Tim's remarks, I usually opt for the hard copy of any material that is available electronically. In seminary, I would buy the book versions of the commentaries instead of buying the whole collection in an electronic form (despite the fact that two or three books would usually equal the price of the software). Now, despite the fact that most of the philosophical journals are available as pdf.s, I still print them out (and bind them as Tim suggested).
That said, I still think I want a Kindle. I saw one a while ago. The screen isn't back-lit, so it looks like you're reading off a piece of paper. Fantastic! Too, more and more scholarly philosophical works are being added to the Kindle's list. If Santa's listening, I'd like one for Christmas.
Thanks for the book recommendation.
De-image Obama. There is nothing (good) left.
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