Re: Photo recognition

Tue, 25 Jul 1995 12:06:03 EDT


I don't have any anthropological insights into this, but hearing
about this issue reminds me of some of the cases in Oliver Sacks' new
book *An Anthropologist on Mars*. He talks a lot about perception in
a few of the cases, both involving sight (one the loss of color
perception, the other the restoration of sight to an older man
deprived of sight for several decades). While his fieldwork is
shoddy (c'mon, he is a neurologist), his conclusions were
interesting. He sees inextricable ties between culture,
consciousness, and neurology; in the case of the colorblind painter,
he quickly began to lose his color conceptions and really began to
see in new ways. The man with restored sight, however, began to
"lose" it immediately and revert to his more comfortable "culture of
blindness." There's a lot more to these two cases than this, but my
point is that we tend to think of visual recognition as universal,
when with things like photographs we are obviously dealing with
symbolic perception (which Denise O'Brien's example exemplifies) that
is constructed by and channeled through cultural influences of
perception. The undertone of some peoples being unable to recognize
photographs has been that they are ignorant or lack sophistication,
but obviously works like Sacks' can inform us about the particularity
of perception, esp. the difference between looking and seeing, which
seems to be part of the point of this thread. Cognition, culture,
and experience all combine to construct our sight.

Do folks have other examples of this, or refs. on this issue??

Best regards,

John Stevens
Soon to be settling in the silt of the Cayuga