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Visual obsessions

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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In my world there is social media you enjoy using and social media you feel you have got use to push things out there (ahem… Google+). I have to confess similar feelings to academic and technology journalist Aleks Krotski when she writes in the Guardian that:

“For some time now, I’ve been struggling with what I call “social network emotional anaemia”. The online world – rich with the communities that I once loved and learned from, the connections I forged, the old schoolmates I rediscovered, the relationships that I cultivated and maintained – has become increasingly empty as a space to perform “friendship”. I’m no longer receiving the same degree of closeness I feel I need from the network; well, not from the people who matter most to me, at least.”

Whether my own struggle is especially to do with social media alienation or with anxiety over how to ‘curate’ myself on Twitter or Facebook, I don’t know (see cyborg anthropologist Amber Case’s brilliant TED talk on curating our online identities, below). I have become a lot more aware of being professional online, and that takes the edge of it, just a little. No more drunk tweeting or sweary updates when potential employers are following you. Am I taking this too seriously?

One thing I am not taking seriously is the pinboard site Pinterest. Although a tad controversial from the copyright point of view, it is a corner of the web that is simply fun to hang out in and share stuff in. I’m obsessed. If I don’t check in to Pinterest every day for my fix of smart design ideas, DIY crafty goodness and creative inspiration something is badly awry. It gives me the same kind of thrill as I initially felt with Twitter (and I really only like using fun and easy technology). I have no fear of judgement on Pinterest.

Although I started my Pinterest account with the idea of making virtual moodboards for my wedding next year, I am getting hooked on the whole idea of geek crafters and design freaks taking different spins on objects and lifestyles. Beautiful images sell ideas or stories in an attention-grabbing way. I’m inspired by pictures of infinity tattoos instead of wedding rings, ways to recycle rubbish into plant growers, and I appear to have a design fetish for clouds. The same ability to enthrall is true for gorgeous Tumblr blogs that showcase stunning images of nature, space, or biology.

Your visual cortex is located at the back of the brain

Of course it makes total sense that the visual should fascinate us so. The visual cortex is the largest part of the human brain. The best way to let this piece of information really sink in, and put it in perspective is to see it. Check out the below TEd talk of David McCandless at 9.19:

Christine Ottery About the Author: Christine Ottery is a freelance journalist with a lust for the arts and a love for science. Follow her @christineottery Follow on Twitter @creatologyblog.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






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  1. 1. Glendon Mellow 11:24 pm 10/2/2011

    Don’t know how I missed this post Christine! Lots to think about.

    I agree, I’ve felt increasingly like there’s a spotlight on, and I have to remain professional – though some of that is a type of casual confidence even when I don’t feel it, just like starting a new job.

    The future of visuals is also going to be interesting the ease of sharing lends itself to only one business model for the future I can think of: people wanting originals for themselves, not repros. In a world where everyone can save their favourite art on their phone or just access it on a blog, creatives have one thing left to sell, and that’s original hand-made work. Probably why Etsy still chugs along.

    Okay, now I gotta watch these videos.

    Link to this
  2. 2. christineottery 5:00 am 11/24/2011

    Thanks for your comment Glendon!

    Link to this

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