Visualization Skills vs Modern Media – Who’s Winning?


Do you see it?
I see a herd of beautiful wild ponies.
Thanks, Daria.

Visualization is the process of creating your own visions. It’s complex. It’s also hard to learn if you don’t read and don’t have to turn things in to actual thoughts to visualize. Modern media, rather annoyingly, isn’t helping much.

No, this isn’t going to be a series of easy cheap shots at media imagery.  The very obvious doesn’t need elaboration. The stories might be crap, but some of the visual stuff is pretty good, particularly in gaming media.

The problem is that the stories are trying to be visual, not stories. If you remember being read kid’s stories, and having to fill in the gaps when there were no pictures to look at, trying to follow the storyline, it’s as basic as that.

It’s one of the most valuable skills any human being can have, and it’s being suffocated by this damn spoon feeding media. You don’t have to visualize, to the point you lose the skill.

Visualization – The “advertising effect”

Arguably worse is the “advertising effect”. This is the bit where the brain ignores most of what it sees as irrelevant. The absurd overload of imagery drowns out personal visualization. People don’t even get enough time to really take in an image before it’s replaced with another, or more likely a lot of other images.

This is the epitome of unfocused. While your brain is rummaging around in this visual confetti, exactly how much visualization can you do?

The “illiteracy effect” on visualization

What do you see, what don’t you see? What do you WANT to see, or not see? Is visualization sometimes more than visual?

Since most people don’t read anything which requires visualization, the ability to associate ideas, even in the same sentence (Ahem? I hope not) is pretty lousy. The famous, and dull, “What are we talking about now?” is the illiteracy effect in full swing. They aren’t stupid; they literally can’t make the mental associations between two statements put together.

Literature makes readers make associations, of actions, ideas, mental images, and, well, everything involved in what you’re reading. It’s a unique effect. Only music really goes as far in to “figure it out yourself” as literature.

Good visual art creates associations, even the really advanced type of associations, but how much current visual art is really much more than a “Postcard from Whatever” or “Another Endless Pic of Me, This Second in Time” ? The fantastic things that visual art can do are crowded out by the truly banal, most of the time.

So it’s no wonder that people’s visualization skills are pretty shaky. Ask them to visualize a better world, and you’re going to get a rather uncertain response. Ask them to visualize a better life for themselves, which is what they’re supposed to be doing, aspirations and all, and the response will actually get lost in trying to picture itself as anything more than a shopping list, if that. How good would you say people are likely to be in visualizing issues, given this total incompetence in very basic visualizations?’

Visualization? What visualization?

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

Isn’t creativity all about visualization? Has to be.

The inability to visualize mentally is as handicapping as blindness. If you can’t even visualize your own existence, maybe it’s even worse. On a global scale, it’s catastrophic.

If the entire human race doesn’t even have the skills to visualize a sane society, how likely is a sane society? How mindless is mindless enough? Living in a junk shop of a world, being sold crap and crime every 5 seconds, and why would you want a mind? What possible use could it be?

The problem, of course, is that if you can’t visualize a solution to a problem, you’re going to be stuck with that problem for a very long time. Just think how many problems there are in everyone’s lives.

So maybe being mindless isn’t such a good idea. Maybe not being able to visualize is dangerous. The one place people never look for answers is in their own minds. The place is usually a mess, cluttered with “life’s little packaging”. Usually hasn’t been dusted much, either, this place, and there’s often a distinct impression of mouldiness.

The pity of it is that somewhere in that mess is a way to visualize, or at least the remains of the nearly forgotten skills. People may never have visualized at all after childhood. After all, to “live”, all you need to do is recycle whatever you’ve been taught or told, right?

This book is called humor. Humor IS logic. Logic is used for visualization, in many ways. Coincidence?

No thinking at all required. No use of intelligence, either. Any idiot can simply recite information and agree with anything. You could be totally stagnant by 22, and a fossil by 30, and it would make no difference at all in that undemanding little mindset. Life is one big set of quotes from other people.

Of course, you wouldn’t be able to solve problems, either. You can’t visualize solutions outside the information you’re given. Nor can you have the choice or (even the right) to distrust anything you’re told, but that’s OK, too, isn’t it? So the solution is always going to be based on what you’re told, whether it’s right or wrong. You have no options.

So what’s the solution? As an author, saying “read” seems a bit self-serving, but you could do worse. You could try doing something for yourself, too, like doing your own thinking, if only to see if you really can escape from the no options mode.

There is one possible out. Visualization is based on some sort of need, in many cases. You may not even know why you need whatever it is, but it’s a sort of visualization. That pesky need to see clearly is more useful than it looks. If the mind can see, it can think about what it sees. Better option? Better than lost forever in an ocean of bullshit, for sure.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

The writing game – Where there’s no compromise at all


democracy, sydney media jam blogThe writing profession is weird. I’ve been writing for many years. What I see online is the product of bureaucracy, not inspiration, opinion, or actual thought.

Some of these guys can actually write.  It’s not that they’re bad writers, at all. The trouble is that they don’t. They’re writing recipes, not content. They’re writing “the way you’re supposed to write”, which is a surefire recipe for being ignored by readers, if not publishers.

The mere theory of writing doesn’t create great reading. It creates good structures, good technical writing, but not stories, ideas, or the sort of fantastic experience reading can be.

There’s a theory that “modern readers”, the poor, truly starved bastards, are different. They want sex, action, character models, and, well, everything. Well, thanks for the mouthwash, clowns. If that was the case, nobody would read the news, non-fiction, or anything else.

The media theory of writing

My books, oddly, are about endless different realities. No wonder they don't sell.

My books, oddly, are about endless different realities. No wonder they don’t sell.

The compensating theory for that situation is the interestingly futile theory, promoted by publishers these days that they don’t read at all – They watch media. That’s partly true. The visualization is done by media, meaning the audience doesn’t get a chance to do any visualizing of their own. It’s grade school again. That’s one of the reasons that so much you see is instantly forgotten. The brain didn’t have any role in seeing it, so the memory is vague at best.

It’s also a big step towards genuine illiteracy. Literacy means understanding what you read, and the meanings of ideas. Literacy isn’t a parroting exercise.

However – Even the reality TV trash factories use writing. They don’t really recognize ideas; they just tell a story. Girl meets boy in a ridiculous environment, then guess what happens. It’s trivializing human experience on a colossal scale, but that’s OK if you’re a real idiot.

For writers, however, writing trash gets on your nerves. I made a decision, decades ago – I won’t write for morons. I don’t. I write for people who at least have the balls to do their own visualization. I know a lot of people don’t even have the guts to be themselves, but to hide from a book? That’s getting way down there.

The very first line of my very first book is “The fungoid looked pleased with itself”. Now visualize – What does a pleased fungus look like? I thought it was a pretty simple joke.

You see where this is going in terms of writing preferences. I can describe a pleased looking fungus, do a graphic and call it a pleased fungus, or let the readers think for themselves. Also to the point – I have to look at descriptions like that, if I write them.

All of which is leading up to this – Some things aren’t simple. Some story ideas aren’t simple. You need to be able to visualize. It makes reading a lot more fun, too, but try finding that in writing theory.

Catch 22Some books are real world shakers. Catch 22 was one. Nobody had ever seen anything like it, and back then people had enough vocabulary to discuss it. They even knew how to enjoy a book. A movie was made, bravely enough, and the visual media couldn’t deliver the same effect as the book.

If writing doesn’t get inside your head and make you visualize, it’s missing the target, or the target is missing the point. Visualization is a critical part of life and of human history. Fire and the wheel were the result of visualizations. So is every other design ever made. Anything you’ve ever used or worn was made by visualization in some form.

Case in point – Horror – Horror stories are scary because of a type of visualization. The unknown is scary enough, but if you happen to have a Thing/Blob around, it’s a lot scarier before you see it, because of that type of visualization.

What’s a compromise, and how soon can I shoot it?

If I can’t write stuff for readers to visualize, I can write the easy way and make it look difficult – This pathetic arse wipe of a culture wouldn’t know the difference. The pity of it is that I’m not lazy enough to do it that way.

Industry standard takes less than 10% of the effort of top quality work. A chimp could write to the usual Grade 7 level if it could stay awake. Even these “Heil Everything” publishers could do it.

But writing like that would be compromising with something I truly despise. I want to write something worth writing, and not just for the money. There can be no compromise. I’m currently thinking about something right out of the ball park for “modern” media (it’s a macro from circa 1950) which might work on my terms.

… But if I see any compromise with We Heart Crap, it’s shootin’ time.

LOGO with Sydney Media Jam edit 300PPI