“Let us proceed to the exposition. Spiritual Europe has a birthplace. By this I mean not a geographical birthplace, in one land, though this is also true, but rather a spiritual birthplace in a nation or in individual men and human groups of this nation. It is the ancient Greek nation in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. Here there arises a new sort of attitude of individuals toward their surrounding world. And its consequences is the breakthrough of a completely new sort of spiritual structure, rapidly growing into a systematically self-enclosed cultural form; the Greek called it philosophy. Correctly translated, in the original sense, that means nothing other than universal science, science of the universe, of the all-encompassing unity of all that is. Soon the interest in the All, and thus the question of the all-encompassing becoming and being in becoming, begins to particularize itself according to the general forms and regions of being, and thus philosophy, the one science branches out into many particular sciences.”
Edmund Husserl: “The Crisis of European Sciences and the Transcendental Phenomenology”, Northers University Press, 1970, page 276. Translated by David Carr.
The barebones visualisation of this quote from Husserl it right here. You have seen it many times already.
The central notion in phenomenology is “intentionality”.
Intentionality suggest that whenever there is consciousness, then consciousness is always consciousness of something. In other words, there is always something there for consciousness. Consciousness can not be empty.
This something can have different shapes and forms. Could be a physical, as well as a mental, object. Could be a logical, or could be emotional, object. There will always be something there for consciousness.
Take a look at the picture below: Consciousness is conscious of the picture, when you engage in it. Zoom in on the book in the background of the picture, and the book is that something for consciousness. Engage the person in the frame, or the pocket watch sharp in the foreground, then the frame, the person or the clock is that something for consciousness.
These are very simple examples, but there are much more to intentionality than this. Pick up the next posts, in this new barebones theme, and you will learn more about intentionality along the way. Just let me mention one important implication already in this post. I am sure you are aware of the dualism that Western thought have been locked up in for last several hundred years? The dualism saying that there basically are two worlds. the mental world, and the rest of it. But since the mental world is something going on inside people’s heads, the main question for many centuries has been: how does the human mind ever get outside a persons head to pick up objects of different kinds? (Ridiculous set-up, I know).
Phenomenology deals with this problem in an elegant way through intentionality. Since consciousness is always consciousness of something, the outer and the inner world are bound together from the very start. The question of how the mind get out into the world, should never have been posed. It is not a real issue. The mind, and the outer world are one coherent unit. They can’t be taken apart.
One more thing: Be clear that you understand “intentionality” right from the very start. You already know the word intention from everyday life. You intend something. You intend for, instance, to go to the movies tomorrow, to grab a bite to eat later, or you intend to go on holiday next summer. This “intentionality”, if you chose to call it that, is not the same as the intentionality used and intended in phenomenology.
In phenomenology you don’t have to be deliberate about your intent as you normally are in situations from everyday life. Intentionality understood within phenomenology is already there for you. You can’t avoid it.
So the pledge here is only this: don’t mix the two contents of intentionality.
What’s in it?
What’s in it? Knowing about intentionality, what use could it have for communicators? If will try to state a few lines about that every time, that I post in this theme. But I will limit the scope of this tailing. I will bullet only 3 things, even if there are many more, that could be said. Easy for me, and good for you. So, here we go:
1. You need to know that consciousness is always consciousness of something. If you don’t know, you will not be able to act on it.
2. Even if you write a text, make a drawing, speak out load, take a photograph, but keep all of it in your drawer, these acts of communication will not, phenomenologically speaking, exist for others. The range of communication will be limited.
3. The character, and the content, of the potential response from people, with other minds that your own, will act and react on the message, or the none message, based on the totality of their former, present, and future intentionalities.
Pretty banal, I know, but it will be more precise as this theme unfolds.
Looking for the right direction to take in 2009?
At barebones communication, that is not a big deal since it has been advertised along the way. So, like the beach man, in the picture below, we are slightly turning our head, but keeping our body steadfast. Eyes wide open.
1. The first year, barebones communication, has concentrated on cutting through the soft tissues of communication, and has tried to lay bare the bones that effects every real life acts of communication. There are still missing links in this work, and I will continue to fill in what is missing. Roughly this work will add to the themes that are already well established on the blog; semiology, phenomenology, gestalt psychology, naturalistic human sciences and types of experiential resources. These themes are the barebones pillars, and they will continue to play a crucial part of what is going to come on this blog.
3. The turning of the head, however, means that I, to a larger extent, will put these things to practical use. Elaborating more on specific real life communication. You already find a hint of this direction reading some of the recent posts published. I am referring to the post on a Danish commercial, and the post on Canon and their black dots.
4. Last, but not least, I will continue using photographs to illustrate.
What you will see in 2009, then, is a mix of the above mentioned with eyes wide open particularly towards what I call real life communication. As a consequence you will see more of the newly introduced theme Barebones Orchid Scale (BOS).
I have been told, off blog, that the barebones communication blog is difficult. So, I am going to deal with that in this post.
Do I agree that this blog is difficult? Yes, in certain respects I do. I takes a portion of work to grasp the content of the terms used on the blog. For instance terms like denotation, connotation, phenomenology, gestalt psychology, and the like. None of these are self explaining, and my task is only to point to the “headlines” of these areas. You need to do the real hard work here by following the links suggested and elaborate and expand on the “headlines”.
But is it well worth the effort, in my humble opinion. That is if you have any intention at all of understanding the basic stuff about how communication works, and how pretty simple tools, in a short time, can make you a better analyst of acts of communication e.g pictures, other images, texts, et cetera, and constructer of such acts – writing a text, taking a picture, composing an add, et cetera.
That said, I will also argue that the understanding of the content of the this blog it not at all difficult once you grab the structure of the blog and the reasons why for this structure. But you have work with it, and do your training as we all do. This is the reason why one of the themes on the blog is simple notebook post: I set the stage and you are asked to act it out.
The blog project is not very different from what you find in other areas of serious work within an area. Within any area, in fact, if you want to do it right or at least try do to it right. Take the surgeon that are to operate on living persons. Could be on your own body. Or mine. I would very much appreciate, thank you, that he had the proper education, and clinical training, before he started swinging his knife on my tissue. It does not really bother me that part of his training has been digging into dead meat of human bodies to acquire that expertise. He knows (or some do at least) beforehand where the heart is, and how it works; he know how my lungs function, and how they work; he are able to distinguish one leg from the other. In other words; I expect him to know his craft and do the right thing when I am laying there flat out on the table.
It is not very different from you you should expect from a communication craftsman: he should know what he is doing.
So here is what my intentions are in this post.
1. I will list some reasons why this blog probably could be considered difficult.
2. I will, once more, explain the structure of the blog, and the reasons why.
3. I will argue why this blog, then, is not at all difficult to follow or to grasp.
4. I will argue that you need to do your homework, PARTICULARLY, if you are in the communication business.
Here we go then:
1. Reasons why this blog probably could be considered difficult.
The reasons are obvious:
1.1 The blog uses uncommon words.
I am sure that many find terms like denotation, connotation, gestalt factors, phenomenology, semiology rather uncommon in a blog on operational communication. The reasons for this is that these terms mostly are know from academic circles and seldom are used for operational purposes. I don’t understand why, but this seems to the way it is.
It is my opinion that “terms terminate”. By this I mean, that if you don’t know the term and are able to use it you will not understand the “problem” that it suggests or describes. I would, for instance, have a hard time explaining, and even look for connotations in a photograph, a text or a speech without knowing the word “connotation”. So, without the “right” words my consciousness and horizon of understanding are limited.
And so are yours.
Terms terminate, but they also expand. That is the crucial point here. More differentiated words, more opportunities for interpretation and understanding. And in communication you are better off the more you have. You simply get new ways of looking at, and grasping things.
1.2 The blog uses scientific resources that are not among the most common.
Yes it does. Some of the resources that this blogs draws on, are simply originally written in such a language that you will find it a nightmare. This particularly goes for the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. So, if you are not really interested, and have a lifetime to invest it is a good thing to stick to clever interpretations. You can uses Husserl for more special research if that it what you aim at.
Besides, did some of his writing are still unpublished, you you will have a hard time knowing what Husserl “really meant”. And there are schools of interpretations, as well. The good thing is that Husserl urges you do do you own phenomenological investigations, and that is really what phenomenology is all about: Doing your own thing bases on a/the phenomenological method, which of course require that you know the basics.
1.3 The blog combines there words and resources in a way that is new and original.
It does not make it easier that barebones communications tries to combine resources from quite different quarters, does it? There is, you might think, a long way from Ogilvy to Barthes, but they both have that in common that they seriously try to master parts of communication. They do even better doing so hand in hand. Ogilvy tries to master the art of advertising, Barthes tries to master the art of photographs.
It just so happens that photographs constitute a large part of most advertising, so Ogilvy benefits from Barthes. And the other way around. Who was it, by the way, who said about creative advertising people, that we have a lot of knowledge about what work and do not work in advertising? That was David Ogilvy many years ago, and his statement still stands. More so than ever. And he continued: creative people must learn to use that knowledge.
Good communication walk on three legs: creativity, experience and science. Pity so often this seems to be forgotten.
1.4 The blog combines resources with themes.
It is important that you distinguish resources from themes. Resources are where the things come from, themes are how they are treated in this blog. Resources are pretty fixed, but themes can change. I can e.g. chose to have resources materialise in more themes later on. For the moment, however, resources and themes are pretty congruent apart from the fact the notebook, and pitstop posts are not connected to any resources in particular.
I realise, that this does not exactly make the intuitive reading and the understanding of the blog more easy. But now you know, and once you have adapted to it, it should not be too burdensome.
1.5 The blog used open ended techniques.
Yes, definitely, it would be nice if every question had a fixed answer, and every challenge had the same solution? (Un)fortunately not so. If you work with the human sciences, or with human issues like communication, you need to get to terms with ambiguity. Therefore, barebones communication, often uses an open ended structure. Questions are asked, issues indicated, but you will not necessarily find an answer to the question, or a closure to the indication.
If you have looking for definite answers, you are probably reading the wrong blog. Bare bones are more than one.
Handling an area with this kind of human uncertainty can pose a severe problem for many. On the other hand, being able to ask the right questions takes you more than half way to a reasonable answer. Think about.
I am sorry about this, but this uncertainty is part of the human predicament.. But, of course, some answers are better than others, but you need to bring the answer yourself. You need to get used to open ended processes. Troublesome, eh? Only make sure, that you join the process coming forward with the best and most reasonable “answers” . Science, experience and brilliant ideas are good pals in this process. Getting you closer to the truth.
Is there any reason, you think, that this blog should not reflect this human predicament?
1.6 The blog uses an indirect language.
There is a gap between how good, efficient advertising work and the way of this blog. Reason why? This blog is not an add and you don’t want to value it on the same principles.
I use a good portion of indirect language, for instance in the heading of this post. Could this have been done otherwise, to promote a quicker understanding of the points in question? Yes, I think it could.
I could definitely, have used a more direct language, but that would have eliminated what for me is one of the more interesting parts of communication: the human predicament (once more), and the excitement of not knowing exactly where you end up when you go out for a walk There is also the teasing part of indirect language, that I enjoy. Sorry, my human predicament. Add to that a general fascination with what you can do with language.
Combine these things, and it definitely does not make thing easier. I admit.
1.7 The unfolding of themes, and resources do not come in a chronological order.
The posts belonging to specific themes are not presented in a chronological order. First of all this a matter of convenience for me writing them. I don’t have to stick to a theme, but can load posts from different themes along the way. Hoping that I can glue posts to a specific theme by tagging them properly. Using this style I am able to “multitask” several themes at the same time.
I am well aware that this process is demanding for the reader, who have to pull in some extra weight to find our what is going on the barebones blog.
And besides this is a blog and not a book. The former is a lot more flexible than the latter. It also gives me the opportunity to go back and correct language as well as to make adjustments to whole posts, or series of posts, which for me is a good thing, as I sometimes post drafts later to be corrected.
The are plenty of places where you can pick up the themes if you want to read theme posts in continuity. Use the tag cloud, or one of the shortcuts to themes that the blog offers. Here is one window that you can use.
1.8 You, as a blog reader, are asked to take part in the unfolding of the blog.
It is, of course, deliberately that I ask the blog reader to do some thinking of their own. Who knows, it might come in handy some day .
Two of the themes are barebones notebook, and barebones pitstops. The notebook themes simply asks the reader to participate in more or less simple exercises bases on one or more blog posts. The pitstops are much more tricky since they simply bring you a quote and you have, as a reader, to elaborate on that on your own. The first one is pretty easy, the latter rather difficult if you are not used to abstract thinking.
Is simply ask you to find your own way. A challenge not unknown from the real world.
You’ll find examples on both notebook exercises, and pistops by hitting the proper tags in the tag cloud. Go for it.
1.9 The blog is thematically unfolding as it goes along.
Yes, this is true, and I am not unaware that this might be an issue of some disturbance too.
From the start I had no clear idea of how this blog was going to develop. Let me rephrase this: maybe I had a more or less clear idea where I wanted to end up with the barebones blog, but not in such a way that I beforehand had a plan for what stones I has to step along the way. I still am not able to map future stepping stones.
Why is this? Well, having a precise agenda for each post would be asking me to complete the book before I ventured on the blog. I could have done that, but given such a task I am quite sure that we would not even have a blog on barebones communication today. And certainly not a book. Working with an open end like this, means that we at least have a barebones communication blog under construction. For what that is worth.
The blog format suits me well. I can do bits and pieces whenever I want to or feel like it. And the order of theme posts could be “random” as long as I string themes together by tagging each post properly. For me this a a grand way of publishing.
So then, I am very exited to see where this blog ends up. Who knows, there might even be a book . Some day.
2.0 The blog uses photographs to illustrate themes, resources and arguments.
At first I had picture in the posts simply because I have pictures. Lots of them. And to escape the monotony of the mere written word, I thoughts I could put them to some use here.
Along the way it ocurred to me that I could use the photographs in a more clever way than as mere illustrations to break the monotony of the text (and the blog visuals). As a picture speaks a thousand words I thought I could use them more intelligently and even cut down on some of the words. So, that us what I tried to do. I see now that this blog could hardly have been done without the pictures. Particularly in the posts that talks about visuals. I hope I succeeded with this.
On the other hand, I know that some people simply don’t have the ability to read pictures. They don’t intuitively see a composition, the don’t see colours or colour casts, and they have basically no idea if a picture is a well composed and precise message, or not. For people that are not good readers of pictures, the use of pictures in this blog might come as an obstacle for understanding.
I am sorry if this is the case for some, but there is really not much I can do about it.
(This post is to be continued … The title may even change along the way . In the mean time please take a good look at the picture below, and try to figure out how it works in terms of barebones themes and/or resources. Elaborate on what the two people really are checking in this picture? Using the barebones toolbox, I would look for connotations in the shot, and gestalt closure. You could also elaborate on how well the shot communicate in terms of One Unified Impression. Just as a starter).
CheckPoint Charlie, Berlin 2006. Copyright Knut Skjærven.
Basically, I was never a Mac fan. This obscure little company, Apple, run by Steve Jobs that seemed to go in and out of business for so many years. The gear might be good for designer and other hippies, but not for more regular people using their desktops or portables for normal business. Windows was good enough. More than good enough. So where the boxes it came in.
But that was last year. My company came with an offer for an employee lease/buy that, for the first time, included some Mac options. Three packages based on PC’s, and three packages of Mac’s as well: the IMac, the Macbook, and the Macbook Pro. Six different solutions to chose from, and six set of expectations to be met.
It did not take me long to decide and I basically did so on aesthetic criteria. The new IMac is a beauty. In fact, there are lots of barebones connotations over it. And it work, and that is a good thing. It has been with me since November last year.
Since then I am the regular visitor on the Apple Site. And I was there October 14th this year (2008) for the Apple Special Event and Steve Jobs introducing another round of groundbreaking software and hardware. You need to go see his keynote speech, because it is a good introduction to what I am going to target in this barebones post: product or consumer.
Sales numbers displayed at the keynote meeting are impressive, and so are briefs into the Apple production technology. Normally you would not, from a selling point of view, want to dwell to long a time on production techniques because lots of user would not take an interest. My reaction was quite the opposite since the idea of carving out the frame structure of the new MacBooks from one single bloc of aluminium is good thinking. It’s brilliant. Unibody Apple calls it.
(This post is to be continued, so you need to come back later).
Other posts in this section.
You’ll find the other posts in this series on advertising fundamentals, below. If the post title is linked, it means that the posts has been submitted, and that you will get to it if you follow the link. If the fundamental is not yet linked, it means that that the post is not there yet. So you need for have a little patience.
First Fundamental: One Unified Impression.
Third Fundamental: Visual and Verbal.
Fourth Fundamental: The Simple Truth.
Fifth Fundamental: Product of Consumer.
Sixth Fundamental: The Right Consumer.
Seventh Fundamental: Thoughts Worth Entertaining.
For an overview of the whole section please go here.
If you want to go for the book making your learning curve steeper and faster, here is the Library Thing information on it. You’ll get the full information here as well: Persuasion in Marketing, The Dynamics of Marketing’s Great Untapped Resource, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1981.
It is really good that I have all these pictures, right . Since they all speak more than a thousands words.
Well I enjoy it, and if you too participate in the initial stages of the barebones community building, you will as well .
So here is another notebook brief for you. The white bus in Berlin. Shot this August.
I could ask you how this fit will a couple of gestalt factors, but that would be too easy. Obviously both proximity and similarity are at work here, as the two most dominant factors. Nearness and similarity of objects have me perceive this picture as a picture of two groups of people (not six individuals): one group upstairs and another group downstairs.
Let’s however make this notebook brief a bit more interesting by pointing to two levels of closure potent in the image. Do you remember, that I talked about a physical closure and a mental closure in the post on gestalt closure.
Closure is, in a quick word, the human capacity to perceive a bit more than you actually get. The whole is more than the sum of its physically given parts. This is the gestalt basic.
Now, the picture that you find in this post is a pretty complete one. There are no blank spots or areas. Things that you need to fill in to comprehend them. You should be able to recognize, at first glance, what the picture is all about.
On the other hand, there are still things “missing” in the picture. Let me point to a few: you don’t see the bodies of the talking heads on the bus, and you don’t see the whole bus. Yet, that is what you perceive; people with intact bodies, and a bus that will certainly drive away if the driver tends to it. Your are not in doubt about these things.
So for reason that will be clear in future posts, I will introduce two additional layers within the closure concept. These are layers 2 and 3 below.
1) Closure, as the capacity to mentally close figures where visual information is actually lacking (as in the example with the dog in the blog post on closure). This is the gestalt original.
Then, let me add some layers to this:
2) Closure, as the capacity to mentally close figures where the visual information is actually hidden or cropped away (as the bodies of the talking heads or the parts of the bus that are not actually there).
3) Closure, as the capacity to mentally elaborate on the context of the actual visual stimuli. You clearly have a notion of what these people are doing on that bus, don’t you? And you have an idea of how they are going to spend the next hours, haven’t you? You even may have an idea of why these guys are in Berlin in the first place? How will you close this open context and continue the story?
It does not really matter how you close it. The important thing is that you have the ability to close it. Any way you want . Remember the last pitstop. I do .
So much for the nostalgische rundfahrt, apart from that tiny, but important thing, that what I just did was to link a gestalt factor to that popular idea of telling a story, as a communication means. That passport to success, would you believe it? I think they call it storytelling, right? .
I also introduced another gestalt factor: the factor of experience or habit.
More on this later, so stay tuned to a barebones blog near you.
And, sorry for taking all the notes myself. I will make up for it .
I would suggest, that this image would probably be perceived as two groups of two people. Not as four separate people. What is your opinion?
What other gestalt “tricks” have been engaged here? If any? I am sure you have an answer.
Good luck with it .
Gosh, I must have been preparing for the barebones blog for many years already. Since I have all these pictures that seem to fit the theme.
I just loaded a post on gestalt direction, and while writing it I had this picture in my mind all the time. But I left it for you even if it would have been much easier for me to comment on, than the two pictures I included in the post.
So, it is your turn. Take a crack at it, and tell yourself how this picture illustrates The Factor of Direction. Don’t post a comment for everybody to read unless your are absolutely sure that you want to mingle with the rest of the world. Must easier to stay Web 1.0. Right?
One photograph coming up. Max Wertheimer would have loved it.
Good luck with it .
Time for another step into the interesting world of gestalt factors.
This is the fourth factor we are dealing with: The Factor of Direction.
Wertheimer says: ” As Figs. (…) also show we are dealing now with a new principle which we may call The Factor of Direction”.
The figures, that he is referring to are simple figures consisting of a straight line or curve (A & C) hit by one, or more, shorter lines or curves e.g. line/curve B.
Visual Figures: Main and secondary lines.
The two figures above are similar to some of the simplest figures Wertheimer used in his experiments, hereby indicated that some figures can be more complicated than the ones shown. However they all illustrate the same idea about directionality.
The main line structure is along the longer line A/C. He talks about “good continuation”, “inner coherence” and suggests that some linear structures show good gestalt simply “by its own inner necessity”.
The shorter lines, B, in both cases above will tend to have secondary role in perceiving visual figures as these.
Wertheimer talks about the unequivocally of such patterns. They are unambiguous, and have a clear direction that is based on what is perceived as the main line structure of a figure.
This is not only the case when straight lines are involves, but it is also valid in curved lines when the longer curves is perceives more dominant than shorter, tangential curves. It seems to be a general phenomenon at work here, thus a gestalt factor.
When talking about more complex units than those Wertheimer points to, like for instance photographs or pictures, it seems relevant to talk about perceived lines and perceived direction of a second level. Let’s call this second level directions for impressions. So, let me illustrate this with some pictures.
Second Level Direction: Impression of coherency.
The coherent line in this image is, in my opinion, the diagonal line from the left hand low corner – the beach line. The horizontal line, which is the other main line in the image, cannot visually compete with the strength of the beach line. The placement of the woman in the continuation of the beach line gives a relaxed, coherent impression. Her facing the horizontal line helps lock up the line structures in the image.
Second Level Direction: Impression of collision.
The main line in this image is perceived to be the line going vertically from the bottom of the picture to the other end of the tunnel, where the crowd of people are gathered – the tunnel line. The perceived horizontal line, where the three people move, is the secondary line – the crossing line. The inner coherence will be constituted along the tunnel line. As the crossing line is quite strong in thus picture it creates a kind a tension, a conflict in the image. However, as in the former picture, it helps to lock up the picture, that two of the crossing people face the main line and thereby link into that.
The main point with The Factor of Direction is that certain line structures seems to lend themselves to some sort of unambiguity, that ease the perception of them.
Adding more lines, and thereby introducing a more complex visual picture, can stress that ease of perception. Using Wertheimer’s visual figures it is pretty easy to agree on this, but these simple figures rarely exist in our life-world. As seen in the two photographs above, the visual deconstruction of real-life situation will be much more complex and demanding.
Real-life communication, of course, is in terms of complexity closer to the two photographs than to Wertheimer’s clinical experiments. And more demanding. Nothing to do about that, I am afraid .
How to use:
As indicated in the pictures above, you can use the factor of direction in two ways: use it coherently and built on the good continuation, or skip the good continuation to set things, objects, logos, whatever, apart.
Doing the first thing, you can expect perceptions that are less troublesum for the reader/viewer, than if you go for the second. Dependent on what your aim, or for that matter, what your target or target group is, you will pick your choise.
Does it work for other areas of communication than mere visuals? Well, you consider e.g. storytelling where you could have one major theme, and more minor themes. Or music? And other areas?
I would say yes, definitely.