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  • The Gestalt Principles of Time.

    Posted on March 21st, 2012 halliedominick No comments

    “Will There Be Condominiums in Data Space?” by Bill Viola left me with a whole new perspective on time (not unusual for this course). We all understand that time is continuous. However, there are certain situations when we do not perceive time as continuous. For example, when we recall memories. As Bill Viola says, “it is memories, and to some extent sleep, that gives us the impression of a life of discrete parts, periods, or sections, of certain times or ‘highlights.'”

    I believe that Bill Viola intentionally drew a parallel between the gestalt principles and time. Rather than our eyes attempting to make sense of a photo, our minds are attempting to make sense of the concept of time. “Gestalt is a psychology term which means “unified whole”. It refers to theories of visual perception developed by German psychologists in the 1920s. These theories attempt to describe how people tend to organize visual elements into unified wholes when certain principles are applied.” In short, the gestalt principles attempt to describe why we as humans tend to view the whole and then view the sum of the wholes parts. We first view time and then we view the discrete parts, periods, or sections of time. I find this extremely interesting because it applies to everyday life. When we tell a story to a friend we do not simple tell the story from beginning to end with every mundane detail in between but rather skip around and tell the parts that apply. The sum of these parts make up the whole story. As Bill Viola states “life without editing, it seems, is just not that interesting.”


    7 responses to “The Gestalt Principles of Time.” RSS icon

    • Hallie – I liked that you dove more into the links between Gestalt and time. It made me think of the Gestalt principle of closure and then the McCloud circular comic. We interpreted an entire story out of those distinct “highlights” just as we might (mis)interpret a unified whole out of merely parts. Interesting stuff when you think about how video, or most any media, can leverage our natural wiring to provide closure to lead us or trick us or teach us or… 🙂

    • Do you perceive time as continuous throughout your day? Or do you group things into different segments as it is going?

      This question has been in my mind since reading and I was interested in your transition from the word perceive (which seems to be referring to the present) and recall (which seems to be referring to the past. Without mentioning whether or not we group time into discrete sections as we experience them…the more I think about it the more that I think we do…i.e. “I am in class right now.”

    • Jordan Jacobson

      I really liked this post. It made me think of one of my BIT classes that I’m currently taking with mathematical modeling. We look at the entire structure of the model, and then our professor breaks it down part by part. The interesting thing that I thought of during class was when the professor asked for a connection to be made from one side to the other, everyone immediately pointed out the most straightforward LINEAR paths. This makes sense to us and doesn’t seem strange because that’s how our brain works, we have concluded that we enjoy linear vs. nonlinear even if it isn’t the shortest route. We also definitely work better when we can see the bigger picture. I so often hear people with a problem and they ask, but what does this really mean in the grand scheme of things? Very interesting to think about, and I was glad that Viola brought it up. It seemed like a perfect progression of readings to move in to this kind of thought after McCloud.

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