Week 8 Assignment 2

What do visual technologies do? (Shape visions)

Many visual technologies today have influenced the way we see the world today. From the Industrial revolution enabled by trains interfaced with cinema to the global village of electronic networking we now live in and are actively participating in, each creating one form of a visual world. In this essay I will discuss how the technology has/can influence the way we see the world and how these technologies can be used to intentionally shape our experiences.

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(No caption)

The trains which enabled the industrial revolution allowed a change in perspective and is shown through many artists examples of how they depicted the representations in the urban environments. (Lecture, 5) Not only did the railway network shape the perspectives of those travelling on it but it shaped the art, allows us to not only have our own opinions but to be influenced by their depiction of representations of the railway network. “Then one sees European culture as having a series of mini-industrial revolutions, starting in late medieval times and rapidly accelerating progress in painting, sculpture, perspective, bookmaking, goldsmithing, musical instruments, musical notation, paper-making, and many other areas.” (Tyler Cowen, 2017) An example of an image that influences the way we see the technology would be through the image of the horse running against the train. This visual image influences our thinking by showing the horses determination to keep up with the engine however the transport of a person would be more comfortable in the train where all you had to do was sit and wait in comfort for your destination. However personally this image could also contrast the idea of freedom over control. Although the train transports many in comfort, the train like the ‘global village’ today is controlled by the technology and can only travel on the set of tracks, but the horse is controlled by you.                         

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Figure 40 – still from Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train

Trains influenced the way we see the world through its interface with film. The idea of moving images lead from the idea of the train creating its own time and space just as people on the trains saw moving images from the windows of the trains.  (Mirzoeff, 2015)
The trains are used as a dolly(tool) to capture the movement and show us different perspectives. The camera influences us by introducing the audience to different perspectives. Mirzeoff analyses the idea of seeing another perspective through the lens of a camera, a still from Hitchcock’s film, (Strangers on a Train), of a train acting as the dolly for the camera, showing us its forward path of journey. x X – This particular scene would be an implication to setting impending scenes, but it intentionally shows us the perspective of the train, we explicitly become the train, “I am a train” (Mirzoeff, 2015). Mirzoeff then goes to say “The train is a closed world that must follow set tracks. Just then it changes tracks, carrying our gaze with it, showing that we are not free to look but set on a particular path.” This viewpoint of being the train shapes our experiences by allowing us to visualise a viewpoint that was now accessible through the camera view.

The era we live in now consists of many electronics which have allowed us to have more freedom due to the extension of knowledge now available. At the touch of a button or as we know today ‘the touch of a screen’ we are able to travel anywhere with the amount of available information. The level of freedom gives the impression that everywhere is your neighbourhood. (Marshall McLuhan, 2009) Without realising, our apparent freedom come under a high degree of control, despite its enlighten. (chunn, 2006) Mirzoeff explains that devices today constantly are in demand of our attention allowing our conscience to always be connected to the global village, participating 24/7 whether we realise it or not. French philosopher called such experience ‘The society of control’ in which we set limits to operate within, without discipline or rules as opposed to the previous discipled society. (Mirzoeff, 2015) Mirzoeff points out that our society is centred around controlling and defining key parameters “such as your credit score, your cholesterol level, your SAT score, your GPA, even your hits, like and retweets – anything that can be quantified defining levels of success and failure.” (Mirzoeff, 2015) Electronics have now influenced the way we see the world by defining an individual based off the their key parameters, assuming that it is a reflection of who they are. This can be a benefit to the user, but generally creates a burden on them. 

In CBC interview Marshall McLuhan discusses the idea of being ‘with it’. By this he is referring to the global village meaning the media has now transformed the world into a single unit. “Our social life are changing. We are not longer so concerned with self definition, with finding our own individual way. We are more concerned about what the group knows, the feeling of it does, of acting with it, not apart from it.” (Marshall McLuhan, 2009) Because the end of a single media narrative is often lamenated by the media themselves this gives them the ability to shape our experiences, emotions and opinions in either a positive or negative way. (Mirzoeff, 2015) A history of propaganda, gossip, news and so fourth was spread through out different forms of media to influence us in some way, often shaping our experiences and allowing us to draw conclusions or make decisions based on what we and our peers were informed on. The ‘Rashmon’ film directed by Akiro Kurosawa metaphorically describes the global village which showed four different versions of the same event, a rape and a murder. What a first seems like a murder is then slowly changed as different sides of the stories are revealed. “Although the filmed solved the mystery, its version of global media now seems prescient: whether by choice or not, we see a version of events that makes no effort to be comprehensive”  (Mirzoeff, 2015) The lack in effort to search for the real reason behind the information we are showcased through media, makes us vulnerable to those seeking to intentionally shape our experiences. 

Google Glass can be controlled using the touchpad built into the side of the device

Another prime example of how technology is able to shape our experiences is through the creation of Google glass. Google glass is allowing users to analysis your visual field. However it also gives more in depth information to google as they collect data on your interests, location, daily routines, allowing their ads to be more specific. Not only is this product obtrusive to information on your daily lives but this creates a new level of the society of control being created by the world of information on screen. “ Just as the wealthiest 1% already live in a different world to the rest of us, it now seems as if there is a world ‘they’ can see which we cannot.” (Mirzoeff, 2015) This piece of equipment would unlock another world creating a digital divide. This piece of equipment is an example of the limits digital companies are willing to go to integrate them into our lives.

In conclusion I now understand how the revolution of the electronic network is now a tool that the media now relies on to shape our priorities. The electronic network allows us to explore the world through its continuously updated information available, however this freedom comes at the cost of being controlled and not allowing us to perceive the world individually as we would’ve during the print era. In understanding how these processes work I understand from the example of the ‘Rashomon’ that it is important to not fully interpret the first side of a story or visual image that the media exposes us to, without understanding that there are more then one side to a story.



(Marshall McLuhan, 2009)


Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to see the world. London: Pelican, 2015. Print.


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