Perception in the city. What is reality in your city?

In Theme 1 Jose empowered us to ‘make’ our city with technology (Empowerment Technologies). In Theme 2 I encouraged everyone to ‘make’ our city with people (Dynamic Connections – dynamic transportation and community connections). Yesterday Corinne Rose launched Theme 3 Urban Micro Lens.

Yesterday’s topic was the “Basics of Perception”. Our whole life experience is based on how we perceive the reality around us. How does perception actually happen? How do our eyes tell our brain to react to the urban environment?

Visitors to the Lab were able to use a “Virtual World Pack’; special glasses, headphones and two screen worn front and back. Guided by a Gallery Guide who could see the ‘real world’ the participant was able to explore the ‘Virtual World’ around them. This was fun and a great way to experience and learn about another city before – or without – travelling.

A series of three lectures focused on the basics of perception—the anatomy of the eye, visual phenomena, and illusion—as well as perception’s philosophical interpretation.

  1. Professor Elke Lütjen-Drecoll gave us an introduction to the anatomy of the eye, the lens, and the basics of the visual system. We all scan for different things. We scan for what we know and what we are interested in. For example, for someone of us, me included, when we first go to an art gallery we see very little but after we’ve had an explanation from a tour guide or read interpretation board so we see more and more! We learn to interpret what we see in order to give it meaning. We all see different things in every thing around us and we focus on what is important to us. This would explain why when we lie on the beach or in a park and ‘cloud watch’ everyone turns the simple cloud shapes into many different things!
  2. Professor Michael Bach immersed us in the field of visual phenomena and illusion. We often think our brain is tricking us into seeing something completely different. In fact this ‘trick’ is simply our brain calculating dimension and space and turning the 2D world our eyes see into the 3D world we understand. The best example of this is anamorphose images that appear ‘stretched out of proportion’ until viewed from the correct angle. The most commonly used and recognised is the bicycle symbol painted on roads
  3. Professor Michael Pauen looked at the larger theory of perception from a philosophical standpoint. Michael explained that the human brain is able to perceive and environment and understand the risk that is associated with it. Simple organisms by contrast have to experience a dangerous environment to understand that it is in fact dangerous.

These talks were fascinating and raises some interesting questions about human interactions including:

  • Is this why people from rural and suburban areas perceive the inner city to be dangerous?
  • Should we spend more time looking and interpreting our urban places in order to understand them?
  • How can we enable people to ‘interpret’ their urban environment?
  • How do we involve ‘everyone’, especially people with sensory impediments, in perceiving their city?
  • How do we use the different interpretation and perceptions to make better cities in the future?