Thursday, October 23, 2014

The quack in the grass

A friend recently sent me some photos of the landscape near her home in Missouri. I recognized those photos. I had never been there, to that specific location, but I immediately identified with that Midwestern landscape. I knew the shapes of the trees, I could feel myself walking through the lush grass, and I could smell and feel the damp air. I knew that place and it felt like home. And then I thought about ducks. Baby ducks, to be specific. And, briefly, I thought about the baby duck I had as a pet. But more importantly, I thought about how ducks, and some other birds, will follow and become attached to the first moving object they encounter, usually, but not always, their mother.

I grew up in the Midwest. The shapes, the colors, and the space resonate with me. I know my early visual experiences shaped how I experience the landscape. The fields, rolling hills, lush green trees and moist, humid air are as familiar to me as the faces of my family. I call this the land of foreground and middle ground. The land I live in now is a land of distance only – a land with no beginning and no end. There are never enough visual clues to accurately judge distance or elevation. But this is land of challenge and change. It is continually fascinating, but never comforting.

Visual experience is more than our eyes sending signals of contrast and color to our brains.  What we see in front of us is a combination of what we know and what we expect to see. It is our past and our present, our memories and our sense of space and place. It is time itself. In the book “Basic Vision”, the authors wrote, “We see the world in a particular way, not because that is the way the world is, but because that’s the way we are.”

In a study done on human-computer interaction, it was found there is a tendency for computer users to imprint on the first system they learned and then judge other systems by their similarity to that first system. This is called “baby duck syndrome.”


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