I talk a lot about the act of seeing, and the process of seeing which can be referred to philosophically as ‘the dynamics of seeing’. I have tried to capture this process in what I call the ladder of seeing:
Some of you will immediately notice that I have taken my inspiration from Peter Senge and co.’s ‘Ladder of Inference’ which can be found in the book The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. This diagram does not quite do what I need it to do, and so I created my own.
It’s interesting as someone who I follow recently wrote this tweet:
I would translate the tweet as “Whoever does not accept different thought does not accept difference. Submerged prejudice …”
I posted back my ladder of seeing, and someone else on Twitter wondered if I had not mixed up a couple of the rungs? This is a fair question, so I thought we could look at what is maybe a record-making selfie from the Oscars last night:
What do you see here? What really do you see? Do you know everyone in this picture? Are they genuinely happy, or are they just taking part in a marketing campaign for a smart phone? They are actors after all. Did you notice absolutely everyone in the picture, or do you now need to go back and look again to see if you missed anyone, maybe people who are not fully in the picture?
And what about people who are not in the photo? Are you just looking at this picture for what it is, or would you ask who you can not see in this photo? Such as Liza Minnelli:
Do you always know what you see when you see it? Or sometimes is it worth asking ourselves if what we are seeing is really what is there?
As we can see in the photo above, sometimes we really think we have seen all there is to see, but when I talk about ‘seeing’ I am doing so quite broadly. Sometimes we are incredibly fast to reach conclusions about what we are seeing, and we leave no room to ask ourselves the question “Do I really know what I am seeing?”
Now let’s look at another photo some Brazilian’s took while watching the Oscars at a party last night:
I love this selfie. There is something beautifully natural about it. Look at the smiles, the happiness. While grainy, the colours have come out warm and inviting. That is just my opinion.
What do you think of the selfie? How does it compare to the Oscars selfie?
Why am I asking?
Well I know many people have been enjoying my series on Jóia Rara, the Brazilian soap opera, but you may not have read the series yourself. The selfie above includes some of the stars of the show. Given that I have recently learnt that soap operas from Globo TV in Brazil are broadcast in something like 110 countries around the world, that makes these actors monumentally famous superstars. But not in the UK. (Just to give you an idea, in the bottom left corner is Bruno Gagliasso who has 2.7 million followers on Twitter.)
So now we need to ask ourselves if anything has changed in how we see the photos. Some of you will be Brazilian and will already have had a very different experience of the second selfie already. And some of you will already know that the first tweet was written by another of Brazil’s great actors.
I have a degree in psychology, and I think that one of the things that struck me most about the subject (cognitive and neurophysiological psychology) was just how little we know about vision, and how much less we know about seeing. It is a subject that fascinates me, since on the one hand vision seems like such a simple thing why do we need such a framework as my ridiculous ladder of seeing? But then we all know people who are either so confused they have no idea of what is going on, or they are extremely fixed in their world views and can never counter any other reality than their own. So that tells me there is something very fundamental about the act of seeing that we need to do things to help us develop a more fluid and creative way of seeing, one that is not so dominated by what we see, but our way of seeing.
In this article I have only begun to introduce the ladder. I was also asked another question about whether or not when we ascend the ladder we have to alter our views to those of others. This is the subject of another post, but the quick answer for me lies in true and authentic dialogue.
One final observation I would like you to note about the ladder is that the top rung is blank. It is not for me to say what happens here, but maybe I can think of someone who is already there. A rare jewel, a young girl called Pérola who lives in Rio de Janeiro.