Monday, November 30, 2009

Paul Chilton, University of Lancaster, UK - Point of view and perspective: From cognition to critique

Paul Chilton's background is in cognitive linguistic. The science of seeing and science of linguistics. Visual perception/cognition. What and where visual pathways (Milner, A. D. and Goodale, M.A. (1996) The Visual Brain in Action).
Where: locates object relative to the individual.
What: Object recognition and classification, uses knowledge in cognitive frames, stereotypes (racial gender etc) and iconography (turbans, swastikas etc). cognitive blending and inferences
Other relevant visual systems in the brain. Direction: front-backing, facing, bodily movement, and gaze. Distance: peripersonal space, depth vision, face recognition and emotional expressions, gestures. Mirror neurons: simulation of actions etc.

WHAT in relation to pictures: Identification of the "literal" object (size, colour, shape). Identification of the significance requires cultural knowledge, stereotypes, function of objects, roles of people, types of activity, and locations (street, domestic interior, etc).
Cognitive operations on the WHAT aspect i.e. on identified objects: Metonymic operations (handbag, scalpel) associated with whole cognitive frames about (people, social roles, activity types). Blending, conceptual merging (Fauconnier and Turner, et al) e.g. of different roles activity types etc.

WHERE in relation to pictures: Viewer in relation to location of the picture, e.g. standing in front of a picture in a gallery, billboard; Viewer in relation to the scene depicted in the picture viewer in relation to scene and figures/objects in it; Figures/objects in picture in relation to one another type of location of pictured scene in viewer's world, i.e. "subject positioning" in wider sense.
Cognitive operations on the WHERE aspect: Metaphor, i.e. conceptual mapping (Lakoff & Johnson, et al.) Spatial cognitions map onto abstract domains (e.g. society), in both language and visual experience. Is the viewer higher than, same level as, lower than the viewed object? Distance (he is close to his mother)? Personal axis orientation: is viewer facing a figure, or to L or R? Behind them or ahead of them? Direction of gaze: Who is looking at whom and what does it mean?

A reminder about perspective...
One, two and three-point-perspective depending on how you see a perspective. Looking up or looking down. High and low eye-level lines. Where is the viewer position? The converging lines mark the eye level line. Mixing two scenes: Joey, Katie, and Todd are children but in the image they are also dressed as surgeons. This creates a fusion of the now and the future in our mind. The children are looking down on the viewer. The scalpel held by Katie is located at the centre, on the vanishing line. "Scary!" says Chilton.

Street scenes as propaganda. Panoramic view. Power and authority? Being God? Or just displaying street life? Direction of gaze of the viewers in the painting. The people in the painting are boxed in and the viewer does not have access to them.

Points of view of the viewer is determined by spatial perspective interpreted by the visual system of the human mind. It can then be interpreted for its social significance, sometimes on a metaphorical basis. The same for dor direction of gaze and direction of movement. Objects and human figures are identified by using social knowledge, including social and racial stereotypes. Cognitive operations involved: metonymy (shopping bag), blending of different domains of social knowledge. Activation of emotions - fear, pity, solidarity, etc.

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