This blog has moved:

In addition to my current writing, all the old posts are collected on the new page.
(You can use your browser's "find" function to find what you're interested in there.)
Your browser does not support Javascript.
This site requires Javascript.
You can see where this becomes a problem.
Without Javascript,
Many posts will look wrong
Comments are inaccessible
Interactive dialogues won't function
Hidden text will never be revealed
The sidebars will not open

If you choose to continue, be warned
That you are missing crucial elements
Of I Am Not's design.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Seven Levels of Experience










"Inspiration" is when something fits in with your personal worldview, and reinforces and/or subtly changes it. "Offense" is when something clashes with your personal worldview, and reinforces and/or subtly changes your defense of it.

I've been trying to justify this post's existence to myself, but I really can't. The idea is that these are the "atoms" that make up all experiences. But I can't think of any reason why I should want to break down experiences that far. (Other than general silliness, of course.)

What I was trying to get at with "perception" is that it's only perception, and nothing else. Since that's not so obvious, it's probably not the best word I could have picked. It's all I could think of, though. Suggestions for a replacement word are more than welcome!

Anyway, that's (as its placement indicated) the "zero" of the bunch. Everything above it is positive, everything below it is negative, and the absolute distance from simple perception stands for how fully the work is appreciated.

An illustration:

There's a modernist painting hanging on the wall in an art museum. It's got squares and circles and lines.

One person looks at it and sees a bunch of squares, circles and lines. It makes no impact on him whatsoever. Even if he stands there for a while and tries to take it in better (and we'll say he does), it won't have any effect on him at all. He sees the shapes, and that's all there is to it. That's perception, the "zero" condition.

Another person looks at it and is in awe at the beauty of the placement of its shapes. Already that person's brain is being subtly rewired to reinforce that such-and-such shapes go well in such-and-such arrangements, which while not a perceivable change is still certainly a real one. This person is inspired.

A third person looks at it and is slightly offended. "This random assortment of shapes, with no perceivable meaning, is placed like a work of art?!" This is a very negative reaction, but it is a strong reaction. Already he is talking to himself, rewording and reinforcing his personal philosophy of art to explain to himself why he should dislike that painting. And because it's having this subtle impact on his worldview, I say he's having a more meaningful experience than the first person (who only saw the shapes), and more or less an equally meaningful experience to the second person (though in the opposite direction).

Person four looks at it and is also slightly shocked by the simplicity, but in a positive way. "Heh, lines." It appeals to his sense of humor. He is amused. This is a positive reaction, but it'll be forgotten almost as soon as he walks away. He's appreciating the painting to a very small degree. (Of course, this is not to say that there's anything wrong with his reaction at all.)

The last person doesn't care about this painting at all. He wants to get to the painting next to it, and this crowd of four people is blocking his way. It can be said that the painting is a hindrance. Now, this might seem a little bit strange, but I'm saying his (negative) appreciation of the painting is greater than the first or fourth person, despite barely seeing the painting at all! Why? Because it fits a practical position in his life while he's there, that position being "the thing that's preventing me from getting where I want". This is what I refer to as hindrance.

To sum up: If you see something, even if you are focusing on it very intently, but only see it exactly as it is (perception), the experience is neither positive nor negative and is a very small appreciation of the object. If it creates a momentary emotion, positive (amusement) or negative (irritation), that's a little bit stronger because as you see it it changes your mood. If it serves a practical function, either helping you (utility) or preventing you from doing something else (hindrance), it becomes part of the environment around it -which is a stronger appreciation for it. And finally, if it gets you to rewire your head a little (even very little) to deal with it (inspiration or offense), that's the strongest level of experience.

The only other thing I have to say about all this (at least, that I can think of) is that there are different degrees of experience even within one level, which depend on how compatible (or incompatible) the person is with the object and how much the person is focusing on the object. Oh, and one other thing (I lied.): these levels apply not just to works of art but also to absolutely everything (and everyone and everywhere) else, and it applies not just to complete objects but even the smallest elements that make up those objects.

Okay, now I'm done.


Post a Comment