Breaking Down the Senses Part I: VISUAL PERCEPTION

Check out this Museum devoted to the 5 Senses


How does our VISUAL PERCEPTION help and hinder our pursuit of knowledge?

Be prepared to TWEET throughout the videos we watch today- the Tweet stream will be archived. Be professional and thoughtful. #tokkailua

Per. 6 Sight Vid Tweets

Per. R3 Sight Vid Tweets

Dejeuner TOK Sight Vid Tweets

(Interview related to above video)

BBC Science of Attraction





***We’ll be using THIS GOOGLE SLIDESHOW for an activity

Here’s a profile pic compilation in video form:

How are our Senses MANIPULATED by the MEDIA?


Symbolic Codes: Color, Objects, Animals

Written Codes: You & Only You; Buzzwords, Catch Phrases

Technical Codes Jr.: Camera Angles, Framing, Lighting

TED ED LESSON (created by Mrs. B)


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How can we use AUGMENTED REALITY APPS to enhance our visual sense perception?

Augmented Reality, or AR is fast becoming integrated into our lives. One of my favorite apps is Acrossair, which allows you to find your car, get additional info about a particular place, AND (my favorite) see what people near you have recently tweeted.

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Here are 40 more (often free) AR apps to check out (some are games!)

Article: 5 Reasons to Get Excited about AR in 2013

Did you always want to graffiti something and not get in trouble Try STREET TAG (see video)

I recently purchased SketchWiz, which allows you to create different types of sketchy photos or film from what your camera sees.

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Optical Illusions May Help Arthritis

Are V-shaped Facial Features Threatening?

Drug Hallucinations Look Real in the Brain

Visual Media: It’s All about the Images (Infographic)

Women Recognize Living Things Better Than Guys

The Art of the Profile Picture

4D Artwork Challenges Our Brain (great images!)

Check out AUGMENTED REALITY advertisement

or this one (Angels fall to the Sky)

Related to the HALO EFFECT VIDEO (80’s dating vids- funny!)


When something is augmented, it is added to – usually to enhance its value. Digital tools make it easy to add hypertextual elements to our writing and even video. We will be using 3 platforms- WordPress, YouTube Video Editor, and Mozilla Popcornmaker (HTML5)

After watching all the videos and tweeting in class (Storified Twitter Archives will be posted at the top ), peruse some or all of the accompanying articles within this blog post. **Be sure to read the questions in the TED ED lesson I created – you can easily incorporate them in your blog or vlog.

You are asked to complete 2 tasks:

I. A personal reflection of the issues addressed in the articles you read and the videos (use the tweetchat to help). Try to include questions about knowledge itself, and how our sense of sight both hinders and helps our pursuit of knowledge. Ask good questions (open-ended). You can compose your reflection in 2 ways:

a. a VLOG posted to YouTube then to your WordPress blog. This vlog must include hypertextual elements. That means that after you upload your vlog (5-10 minutes) to YouTube, go into Video Editor and start adding pop up text (called Annotations) or even links to other videos.  (You can do more in Popcornmaker so once you get familiar with that you are welcome to use that instead). Your hypertextual elements should enhance what you are trying to say. Here’s a video to help you.


b. a regular BLOG POST on your WordPress that includes hyperlinks to other sites, articles, and/or videos to further illustrate your points. For example, if you are discussing the BBC Science of Attraction video about profile photos, you could hyperlink to several examples.


II. A REMIXED, AUGMENTED VIDEO based on Ben Beaton’s video: “The Key to Media’s Hidden Codes”. For this we’ll be using Mozilla Popcornmaker. Watch and do the interactive tutorial, then import the Beaton video in and start going.

A great example of an augmented video in Popcornmaker is Beau Lotto’s other talk.

For this I’d like you to try to find Symbolic Codes, Written Codes, and Tech Codes Jr. – you might even create your own (i.e. camera angles). Use all resources possible, as Popcornmaker pulls all types of media from all over the web.

Specs: Shoot for at least 10 augmentations of any sort..more is fine.

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period 6: Friday Feb. 1

periods R3 and Dejeuner: Monday Feb. 4




Sense Perception as a WOK: Intro

(as adapted from Richard van de Lagemaat, Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma)

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” – Henry David Thoreau

“Two-thirds of what we see is behind our eyes” – Chinese proverb

“Things do not seem the same to those who love and those who hate, nor to those who are angry and those who are calm” – Aristotle

“You can’t depend on eyes when your imagination is out of focus” – Mark Twain

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is – infinite” – William Blake


THE ARTS– To what extent to the arts help us to see the world with new eyes?

ETHICS – Do “good” people see the world differently from “bad” people? 

HISTORY – Should we trust eye-witness accounts?

HUMAN SCIENCES– How does the act of observation influence what is observed?

EMOTION – How does your mood affect your perception of things?

NATURAL SCIENCES– How far do expectations influence observations?

LANGUAGE– How does the way we describe something affect the way we see it?

REASON – Which is a more reliable source of knowledge – perception or reason?

What is Perception?

Perception = the awareness of things through our 5 senses, or the “gates and windows” of the mind, the channels of communication between ourselves and the outside world.

5 senses = sight, sound, touch, taste, smell

If you had to sacrifice ONE of your senses, which would you be most willing to lose and which least willing to lose?

MOST people answer that they’d least be willing to lose sight, and most willing to lose smell. Smell is sometimes referred to as the “mute sense”. Think about it – we have thousands of terms for colors but not much other than “smells good/bad”. In reality, we can distinguish more than 10,000 distinct odours. Moreover, smells can trigger powerful emotional responses in the brain, as this sense has a more direct route than then other four.


What is Empiricism?

Empiricism is a major school of philosophy that states ALL knowledge is ultimately based on perceptual experience, and that, in essence, one cannot be born with knowledge or obtain it without perceiving it. Some famous empiricists are David Hume, George Berkeley (UC Berkeley named after him), John Locke, and to some extent, Leonardo da Vinci, who said “All our knowledge has its roots in our perceptions”

Caution- some adult language in the above vids!

What is Common-Sense Realism?

This suggests that perception is passive and straightforward – that our senses are more or less reliable and give us an accurate picture of the world…HOWEVER, we all know that our senses can fool us sometimes, and that our experience of the world is affected by our unique sense organs and minds as well.

What are the 2 Main Factors in Perception?

Sensation– which is provided by the world

Interpretation – which is provided by our minds

***First have fun with the BBC challenge

VISUAL ILLUSIONS can illustrate how these 2 factors come into play. Keep in mind the following:

CONTEXT: (title is linked for more) the way we see something depends partly on the context in which we see it. For example, we understand perspective so seeing a larger figure in the foreground does not necessarily mean it is in reality larger than the figure in the background, which is further away.



FIGURE AND GROUND: (title is linked for more) When we look at something we tend to highlight  certain aspects of what we see (“figure”) and treat other parts as background (“ground”)


VISUAL GROUPING: We have a tendency to look for meaning in what we see and group our perceptual understanding into shapes and patterns. Even with little sensory information, we can construct meaning out of an object by “filling in” the gaps. This is also called GESTALT (geh-shtalt), a (German) psychology term meaning “unified whole”.

Click HERE to see how Gestalt principles are used in logo design.



How long did it take you to figure out what is in the image above?

Links to Illusions

Collection of Categorized Illusions

Spanish Castle Illusion

Dragon Illusion (with video)

The Stroop Effect

94 Optical Illusions



Why is it so hard to proof-read a paper for typos? Our expectations definitely play a huge role in how we see things. 


Our mind (our unconscious) does a great job of making sense of what we take in with our senses. Consider this- your image in the bathroom mirror is actually about half the size of your head- but when you’re checking yourself out you never think you’ve shrunk – it always appears to be the right size.

Unfortunately, some people suffer from a condition called visual agnosia, in which their damaged brain makes them lose the ability to interpret what they see.

Visual Agnosia (story)

Here is a great story by Hilary Lawson on that experience


One reason for being cautious about what are senses tell us is that perception is by nature selective. Our minds have to pick and choose what to notice since there is a constant deluge of sensory information coming at us at all times. Like a figure/ground illusion, certain aspects of all situations “Stand out” and others fade into the background.

What makes things “stand out”? One is INTENSITY- something strong or loud, pungent or colorful, for example. The other is CONTRAST– like that coffee spill on your white tee shirt! Another is MOVEMENT – evolutionary speaking, we need to be startled by movement in order to protect ourselves.

But of course there are other factors that play in – such as personal interest and mood. Photographers are really great at captalizing on what catches their eye as aesthetically pleasing or able to tell a story.

How would a TREE be seen by: a: a logger  b: an environmentalist  c: a biologist  d: a native American ?

When our interests shift, so do our perceptions, which explains the phenomena that pregnant women suddenly notice scores of other pregnant women wherever she goes.

MOOD explains the glass half full/glass half empty differences between optimists and pessimists. When you begin a romantic relationship, you notice everything you have in common; when it dissolves, you point out all the things that made you different and incompatible. The “Fear Factor” greatly alters our perceptions, which is why after telling ghost stories around a camp fire even the rustle of leaves scares the pants off you!

Finally CULTURE can affect our perceptions – how does it affect yours?

It can be said that we often see only what we want to see – how do your beliefs affect the way you see things?

Imagine you’ve witnessed a violent crime and get a brief but clear glimpse of the assailant. What confidence would you have that you could correctly identify one of the following men?


Eye-witness accounts have traditionally been trusted, but recent DNA tests have proved that they are not infallible. The eye is not a camera – everytime we “remember” something, we actually reconstruct it.

Think back to an early childhood memory. Are you sure about the SOURCE of this memory? Do you recall experiencing it, or did your parents tell you so many stories about it you think you remember it?

Even though we might misremember, misinterpret, or fail to notice something, it would be impractical to be overly skeptic about everthing we take in through our senses.

How can we effectively distinguish between appearance and reality?

1. Confirmation by another sense – does it look like and apple AND taste like one? Can you see the wall AND bang your head against it?

2. Coherence – does it “fit in” with your overall experience of the world?

3. Independent Testimony – what do other people say? do they “confirm” your perceptions?



Galieo once quipped: “The tickle is not in the feather”. If you burned your hand on the stove, you know enough about biology to agree that the pain is in your hand, not some thing in the stove coils independent of your experience with it. If you drink a soda it tastes sweet – does the sweetness exist in the soda itself, or only in your mouth? Is the “Sweetness” a subjective experience resulting form the interaction of your taste buds and your mouth.

But what about things like colors? Surely snow is white(ish) and grass is green. BUT if we apply the same reasoning as the soda/stove then the green is no more in the grass as the sweetness was in the soda. So….the “green-ness” is merely a result of the ways our eyes are sensitive to light wavelengths and the physical structure of the grass. Does this mean, in effect, the world is colorless?


You’ve probably heard the well-known saying “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it does it make a sound?” If you think that the sound of a tree falling is nothing more than the effect of air vibrations on our ears, and if there were no ears in the region, then the tree does NOT make a sound. But can we make a distinction between the kinds of “sound”?

Physical Sound = vibrations in the air caused by things like falling trees

Experienced Sound = the actual crash or whatever we hear when trees hit the ground

Given these definitions, we can say in our puzzle that there IS “Sound #1” but NO “Sound #2”

Does this mean that in the early days of Earth’s formation the planet was silent, or if we removed all ears and other hearing devices from all creatures our planet would again be totally hush? Extending that to color…if no one had eyes or the ability to see would roses not be red and grass not green (at least in the “experiential” sense)?

This reasoning leads us to wonder whether anything can be said to exist independent of our experience of it.


After everyone leaves campus for the day, how do you know the tables/ desks are still in the classroom? It’s like “How do you know the light goes off when you close the fridge door?”

Perhaps tables on behave when someone is watching them, but as soon as no one’s around they dance around and create havoc. Even if you filmed the room you could still ask: “how do you know the images of the obviously static tables stay on the film when you are not watching it?”

Perhaps right now you might be skeptical of philosophers who ponder these seemingly inane questions and are saying to yourself WHO REALLY CARES??!!  Perhaps you are thinking we shouldn’t worry about what tables do on their own time…all that matters is how they act when we’re around.


There are 3 major theories about the relationship between perception and reality:

1. COMMON SENSE REALISM (Slogan: What you see is what is there)

The way we perceive the world basically mirrors the way the world really is. BUT…since we’ve explored how what we perceive is determined (at least in part) by our own unique sense organs, there migth be some good reasons for rejecting this theory

2. SCIENTIFIC REALISM (Slogan: Atoms in the Void!)

The world exists as an independent reality, but is very different from the way we perceive it. Just think about all the electric charges, atoms and other miniscule moving parts that comprise a seemingly static, solid object like a chair. According to this theory, the world is a colorless, soundless, odourless realm of atoms whizzing around in space.

***most scientists are intuitive realists and believe they are making discoveries about an existing independent reality.

3. PHENOMENALISM (Slogan: To be is to be perceived)

This is radical empiricism (all knowledge is based on experience). Phenomenalism says that matter is simply the permanent possibility of sensation, and the world is not independent of our experience of it. I bet you can think of some Hollywood movies that use this philosophy. It emphasizes we see the world from a human perspective and shouldn’t really be philosophizing about the nature of reality!

Some Perception plots in films:

ChinatownDonnie DarkoMementoThe Truman ShowFight ClubInceptionThe MatrixVanilla Sky; Mulholland Drive; Shutter Island; The Sixth SenseEternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindThe Crying Game; The Manchurian Candidate; Pleasantville; The MachinistBrazil

A Sixth Sense?

Here’s an intriguing article about the 5 WEIRDEST “Sixth Senses” Humans have:

The Future: Post-Digital Humans

What happens when the line between the digital and physical worlds becomes blurred? How will our senses be augmented by technology? Can they be replaced by it? What does “The Internet of Things” mean?  What is the future of Interactive Design and User Experience?


Practically speaking, it probably only makes sense (no pun intended) to doubt our senses only if there are good reasons for doing so – after all, evolutionarily speaking they got us this far. And if knowledge is defined as something a bit less than certainty, that works! ***If the perceptual evidence is consistent with other Ways of Knowing, such as Reason and Intuition, then it is probably a reliable source of Knowledge.


Fractally Breathing

Moving Illusions

BellaDonna Effect (with Video)

Escher-esque impossible drawings

Shifting Objects Illusion

Now you see it – now you don’t (with video)

A New Kind of Color Blind (with video)

Checkerboard Illusion and the Munker-White Illusion

Sillhouette Illusion (with video)

TASKS TO DO: (also found on Managebac)

1. READ this entire post thoroughly and EXPLORE all the links (we will go over most in class)

2. CURATE an optical illusion (or more than 1)  you find particularly interesting and post to your blog so we can share them. If you can explain how it works that would be great.

3. CHOOSE 1 sense (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell). Choose 1 hour of your day and keep track of absolutely EVERYTHING you experience through that sense ONLY and record it on your blog.

4. RESPOND with a paragraph regarding your reading of Hilary Lawson’s story about visual agnosia

5. Which of the 3 “Theories of Reality” do you most adhere to? EXPLAIN.

6. We are all very good at seeing only what we want to see. Can you give some EXAMPLES of the way in which our BELIEFS, CULTURE, or MOOD affects the way we see things?

7. Regarding Patty Maes’ TED talk on technology and a “Sixth Sense”, as well as the “Connecting” documentary film, what IMPLICATIONS do you foresee for such knowledge/ perception enhancers?

8. Find an example of a logo or advertisement using the design principles of GESTALT. Identify if it involves Similarity, Dissimilarity, Continuation, Closure, Proximity, or Figure and Ground.

9. CURATE an article or video regarding ANY of the senses and sense perception. Try to find at least 2 knowledge issues /questions and post all to blog (for example, here is an article discussing eye-tracking patterns for reading)

Sense Perception: Field Activity

Welcome back to school!

holiday 2013

We are now embarking on our trip through Sense Perception as a Way of Knowing. To get us back into the groove of being at school, I thought it would be interesting to do a few activities to get our creative juices flowing and force us to be more aware of how our senses contribute to our knowledge, as well as interact with other Ways of Knowing such as Language, Emotion, and Reasoning.

Part I (10 min)

Use this Google Spreadsheet to brainstorm the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings (touch, not emotion) of the Holiday Break. The challenge is to think of as many as we can and to be specific and detailed – maybe even poetic!

Part II (35 min MAX)

By yourself or with a group of up to 4, walk around campus on a scavenger-hunt of sorts for sensory data we normally overlook.

You can focus on one or 2 senses, or all 5 if you like.

Your theme can be something like : “Hidden Sights of LJA” or “Overheard at LJA” OR perhaps something more abstract like: “Growth”, or “Solitude”.

Task: As you walk around, take photos AND/OR video with your device. It should be something you can easily and quickly upload to YouTube. Stick to your theme or just do a random archive of everything you sense.

Part III (rest of period)

Make a short film. (key: quickly produced)

1. Upload footage and/or stills directly to your YouTube acct. (choose one member)

2. Edit using the built-in Editing tools in YouTube. (called “Video Editor”) OR WeVideo in YouTube Create (images below) OR Stupeflix (I have an account and can invite students individually to join it on a temp basis)

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WeVideo can be found:, and then

Stupeflix (let me know)

3. the key is to make your editing artistic but fast – you should be pretty much finished by the end of class.

4. Don’t forget a title – it should set the tone.

5. Publish to YouTube (all members should post to blogs)