Academic journal article et Cetera

The Ambiguity of Perception

Academic journal article et Cetera

The Ambiguity of Perception

Article excerpt

We depend on concepts of time and space in order to function in and interpret reality. Here and there, now and then, what was and what will be-all are percepts which guide us through the world. Without these operational frames life would be absolutely chaotic. Fantasy could not be distinguished from reality, tomorrow would be today, and history would never have occurred. We assume that all "normal" individuals operate in a universe essentially agreeing on basic definitions of time and space; for all, there is a yesterday and a tomorrow. But the world is changing and today is repeatable, yesterday can be preserved, and we can be here and there simultaneously. The development of modern media technology is altering the perceptual frames through which individuals operate in their daily lives.

In most circumstances the frame of reality is quite evident. We believe we are aware of where and when we are. The writer is aware of words being typed. Fingers are in contact with typewriter keys in an attempt to convey thoughts through individual signs and symbols. Through auditory, tactile, and visual senses the writer knows and is aware of what is happening "now." "Now" is momentary, fleeting, a transition between past and future, defined by what has happened and what will occur. We are bound to the present because of a belief that it is controllable, that the manipulate "now" determines the undetermined future. The author's "now" is transformed into the reader's "now" as these past thoughts are read.

An awareness of time and space is taken for granted in the process of communication. We know where we are when we communicate. The conventions are not generally articulated. On a simplistic level, if in the course of this essay the author addresses you in the present tense, you play a game with him: you pretend that the author is uttering the words as you are reading them, although you know that this is certainly not the case. This process involves both a physical and psychological dimension, but the awareness of process and convention is central to the manipulation of time and space in communication. As the technology of communications media grows more complex, as we absorb that technology into our lives, we become less aware of process and this signals the potential alteration or perhaps obliteration of time and space conventions. This in turn determines our perception of reality. Two facets of our changing perceptions of reality will be examined in this essay: What is "now," and what is "perfection?"

The Perception of Now

The increasing use of videotape recording provides an intriguing example of technological effect upon psychological process. The President of the United States addresses the American people through the means of a live televised broadcast. Time has not been altered, while space is bridged by the medium of television. Distance is dissolved through electronic connection. The viewer can be several hundred or several thousand miles away from the White House. The event is concurrent with its perception. The President is speaking at the very moment that individuals are watching and listening to him. The speech exists in time. Ideas through words, tone, and gesture have been developed, are developing, and will develop. Theoretically, no linguistic or environmental possibilities are locked out from potential occurrence. The viewer does not know what will happen as the President speaks to the nation. Indeed, the President himself, while having developed a plan or strategy, can never be totally sure of what will happen during the next few minutes. He might make a mistake; a stranger conceivably might wander in front of the cameras thereby distracting him. An illness might suddenly surface. Perhaps a new idea may suddenly occur which the President might insert into his prepared text. The possibilities are infinite. The tension of unpredictability always hovers over the moment.

This dramatic aspect of viewer-speaker confrontation is quite different when a news-clip portion of the speech is included in the late evening television news coverage. …

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