ON Quintilian’s lack of interest in ‘artificial memory’: “Has Roman society moved on into greater sophistication in which some intense, archaic, almost magical, immediate association of memory with images has been lost? Or is the difference a temperamental one? Would the artificial memory not work for Quintilian because he lacked the acute visual perceptions necessary for visual memorisation?” (Francis Yates, The Art of Memory, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. 26)
“There were inert or lazy or unskilled people in Cicero’s time who took the common sense view, to which, personally, I heartily subscribe-as explained earlier I am a historian only of the art, not a practitioner of it-that all these places and images would only bury under a heap of rubble whatever little one does remember naturally. Cicero is a believer and a defender. He evidently had by nature a fantastically acute visual memory.” (Francis Yates, The Art of Memory, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.19)
On classical memory theater: “the astonishing visual precision which they imply.” (Francis Yates, The Art of Memory, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.8)
“Around 1800, J.M. Jacquard invented a loom which was automatically controlled by punched paper cards. The loom was used to weave intricate figurative images, including Jacquard’s portrait. This specialized graphics computer, so to speak, inspired Babbage in his work on the Analytical Engine, a general computer for numerical calculations.” (Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, available at http://www.manovich.net/LNM/Manovich.pdf. 45)
“Extending the parallels with visual culture, information culture also includes historical methods for organizing and retrieving information (analogs of iconography) as well as patterns of user interaction with information objects and displays.” (Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, available at http://www.manovich.net/LNM/Manovich.pdf. 39)
“Whose vision is it? It is the vision of a computer, a cyborg, a automatic missile. It is a realistic representation of human vision in the future when it will be augmented by computer graphics and cleansed from noise. It is the vision of a digital grid. Synthetic computer-generated image is not an inferior representation of our reality, but a realistic representation of a different reality.” (Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, available at http://www.manovich.net/LNM/Manovich.pdf. 183)
the Metzger experiment: a dimly lit white wall offers no perceptual information.
James J. Gibson, The Perception of the the Visual World (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950)
—-, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Erlbaum Associates, 1986)
coined the term “affordances” - extremely influential in design and ergonomics
“Gibson’s concept of natural vision takes the human body and its environment as its starting point; it ‘depends on the eyes in the head on a body supported by the ground’ . Moreover, Gibson’s model assumes a moving perceiver, afoot not in three-dimensional Cartesian space, but in a medium with vertical polarity that corresponds to our experience of the pull of gravity. And unlike the geometrically defined world of classical optics—in opposition to which Gibson framed his theories—the world of ecological optics is rich and nuanced, full of surfaces and clutter that afford the moving perceiver the visual information necessary to make sense of her surroundings .” (Simon Niedenthal, “Learning from the Cornell Box,” Leonardo 35 (3): 2002, 249-254. 252)
In Cornell University Box creative light-rendering algorithms: “The thresholds of the visual system inform the parameters of the algorithm.” (Simon Niedenthal, “Learning from the Cornell Box,” Leonardo 35 (3): 2002, 249-254. 251) Thus the limitations of the system are encoded by the facilities of the human sensory apparatus. This is an argument from the reverse of Benjamin and McLuhan, who see the technological system as informing (programming) the sensibilities of the human. A perspective painting, McLuhan would say, teaches us how to see in three dimensions at least as much as it transparently remediates our immediate perceptive apparatus.
The needs of the human eye are also at work in our attention to the rendering of print in digital space. One of the great benefits of high-resolution einks (like those in the Kindle Reader) over backlit LCD is that it is “softer on the eyes”.