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From Observant Eye to Non-Attentive “I”

From Observant Eye to Non-Attentive “I”

The Camera as Cognitive Device

(p.179) 13 From Observant Eye to Non-Attentive “I”
Ribbon of Darkness
Barbara Maria Stafford
University of Chicago Press

This is a moment when, for millenials, nothing is hidden, little is sheltering. Offices are wide-open, lined with cubicles that have no wall or back. Building facades are Instagramable abstractions remote from often cold interiors and algorithm-driven digital platforms running behind supposedly personal and secure computer interfaces. In this paradoxical environment of radical exposure, clandestine profiling, and creeping surveillance a “personal” image is, more often than not, a self-flaunting or wishfully disguising selfie. This essay asks whether the research on perception coming out of the brain sciences might suggest ways of rethinking the ways in which we design and employ the available means of representation in the twenty-first century. Today, with the advent of increasingly small digital devices and PDAs, the embedded lightweight camera produces a parade of seemingly self-generated images. Think of the familiar sight of a tablet or cell phone held high over a tourist’s head, automatically snapping away. Paradoxically, given the amount of neuroscientific and cognitive science research devoted to issues of attention, photography in contemporary IT culture could be offered as evidence, not of our perceptual acuity, but of our perceptual pathologies: of clicking not observing.

Keywords:   Attention, Brain Sciences, Camera, Exposure, Millenials, Observation, Perception, Personal Digital Devices [PDAs], Photography, Selfie

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