Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations

Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations

Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations

Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerations


Blending unconventional film theory with nontraditional psychology to provide a radically different set of critical methods and propositions about cinema,Moving Image Theory: Ecological Considerationslooks at film through its communication properties rather than its social or political implications. Drawing on the tenets of James J. Gibson's ecological theory of visual perception, the fifteen essays and forty-one illustrations gathered here by editors Joseph D. Anderson and Barbara Fisher Anderson offer a new understanding of how moving images are seen and understood. Focusing on a more straightforward perception of the world and cinema in an attempt to move film theory closer to reality,Moving Image Theoryproposes that we should first understand how cinema communicates information about the representation of the three-dimensional world through properties of image and sound.


Robert E. Shaw

William M. Mace

SCIENTISTS AND ARTISTS share the same environmental habitat (roughly, where they live) but occupy distinct, somewhat intersecting econiches (roughly, how they live). Although evolving within the same natural frame, their arenas of life are so dramatically different—the former tending toward the rational and the latter toward the expressive—that no easy comparison can be made of their methods or content. Yet, they have much in common. For instance, they have both made major contributions to the broadening of our culture of shared experiences. Such experiences are of two kinds: first, those that arise from direct perception of the environment, something all animals have in common; and, second, those that arise vicariously, as second-hand experiences, through indirect perception, or the use of substitutes for the real thing.

Historically, humankind has distinguished itself from other species by its attempt to produce a vision of nature—to produce records of that vision, with various degrees of fidelity and stylistic expression, to be shared and appreciated by others. Where art has pioneered our expressive side through poetry, dramaturgy, painting, sculpture, and music, among other things, science has advanced our rational side through basic research, theory, and technology. Milestones for both science and art were the discovery of various means for reproducing objects and events of general social interest vis à vis drawing, sculpting, painting, writing, printing, the telegraph, the telephone, photography, the phonograph, radio, movies, television, and computers. Drawings or paintings of people, landscapes, seascapes, or social events, such as sports, dance, travels, and trials, when framed and hung in a public place, become sources that capture some of the information contained in artists' once-personal experiences but which can now be shared publicly by many. Let's consider more carefully what this act of reproducing might entail.

We are so familiar with various forms of reproduction that we scarcely recognize what marvels they really are. Why do they work? There are two fundamental reasons: one having to do with intentionality, the other with causality. First, the very nature of one object, the object of intention, being in some way a reproduction of another object, the object of reference, is that the first refers beyond itself to the second. This is what is meant by the intention of the first being to refer to the second. To refer entails, at least, that when we perceive the first object, something about it formally resembles the reference object, and that thus in our experiencing the first, there is some part that would agree with our experiencing the second if such experiencing should occur. Second, there must be a causal basis for such intentional reference. But the nature of the referential relationship between the two objects is such that the absence of information about their causal connection does not mean absence of information about their intentional con-

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