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Why do we often trust pictures more than sound? A short answer to a
complicated problem in two parts: first of all our eyes / vision is
regarded as the most trustworthy modality in the western world over the
last few hundred years, even though our ears / hearing used to be on top of
the sensory hiarchy here also, and still is regarded this way in many less
industrialized / mediatized cultures (cf. J.C Carothers 1959, M. McLuhan
1962 or R. M Scafer 1980).
 
Secondly: there are differences between our sensory modalities and physical
characteristics of sound and light, that also account for our 'blind trust'
in the images. Edward Branigan writes about this in his 1989 article "Sound
and Epistemology in film" (being re-written as we speak). Writing about the
different physical and sensory characteristics of sound/hearing and
light/vision Braigan says: "Lightness and color appear to reside in an
object - to be a quality of the object - rather than to emanate from an
object. By contrast, we think of sound as coming from a source, from an
object: a radio, a door, a boot. [...] our hightened sense of the movement
of sound waves [...] account for our impression that sound is created and
contigent - mediated - while light is directly posessed by distant objects
and permanent."
 
In sum: our hierarchy of the sensory modalities, and our trust in them, is
related to both top-down culturally learned perception and to bottom-up
data driven perception. The culturally learned part of this, makes it
interesting for media scholars to focus on the way codes and conventions
play a part in convincing us to trust or doubt images or sound... Which -
by the way - I'll be spending the next 4 years studying in relation to
sound in television.
 
Arnt Maaso
 
________________________________
Arnt Maas=F8
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Institutt for medier og kommunikasjon
Telefon: +47-22 85 04 19
Telefax: +47-22 85 04 01
http://macimk44.uio.no/ansatte/arnt.maaso/
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