Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 5 Trans-Tasman

Peripheral Attractions
Text by Clare Firth-Smith - Video Stills from Seventeen by Julian A. Holcroft


"Last Christmas I met a twenty-seven year old man. I was seventeen. Although he really wasn’t my type, I went out with him ( probably because it was a status thing to date an older man ) but I really didn’t become interested until my folks expressed concern about his age. The more they got on my case about it, the more in love I became. It only lasted five months, but this was about four months longer than it would have lasted if my parents hadn’t said anything." 1

"The way to love anything is to realise that it might be lost". -G.K Chesterton

Very often in decision making, not all relevant information is considered; mostly we collect single, representational bits and pieces. Making decisions based on isolated bits of information can lead to failure: failed perception, failure to comprehend complex ideas, failure that can be damaging. Despite these failures, life encourages a reliance on minimum data and quick responses. Impulsiveness makes us like animals, whose behaviour is triggered by particular stimuli—a sound, a smell, a colour, a move…species that evolve extra sensitivity to certain types of information and do so because that data is enough to get the required response. Unfortunately, we’re disadvantaged by our ability and inability to take in a multitude of relevant facts when trying to control our lives. In trying to be efficient, there’s been a change from time-consuming, weighing-up-the-pros-and-cons, fully informed decision-making to the fast, automatic, off-the-cuff response. We’re more likely to use isolated facts when we don’t have the inclination, time, energy, or mental capacity to undertake a complete look at a situation. When rushed, stressed, uncertain, indifferent, distracted, or fatigued, the tendency is to focus on less and less detail. All this leads to the blinding realisation: we’re in an environment so complex, fast-paced, and information-laden that we’re increasingly having to interact in ways akin to animals. Today, the idea that someone would or could know all the facts is ridiculous. After slow, historic accumulation, knowledge is snowballing and expanding with momentum. The speed of modern life is unprecedented: we travel more and faster; we relocate more frequently to newer residences, which are built and torn down more quickly; we make contact with more people and have shorter relationships; in supermarkets, department stores and shopping malls, we are faced with an array of choices among styles and products that were unheard of last year and may well be obsolete or forgotten by next season. Novelty, transience, diversity and acceleration are acknowledged as primary themes of modern existence.

As Paul Virillio notes in the shrinking effect, "with acceleration there is no here and there, only the mental confusion of near and far, present and future, real and unreal… Objects occupy space that remains indeterminate, dislocated and disorienting by lacking external references, logical spatial constructions or rational perspectival systems." 2

Overload of information and choice is commonplace. The biggest change is our ability to collect, store, retrieve, and communicate information. Technology has evolved faster than our ability to process information. We’re totally inadequate dealing with the excessive change, choice, and challenge that’s characteristic to this life. We’ve created our own deficiency by designing a more complicated world than we can handle.

1. Robert b. Cialdini, Influence-the Psychology of Persuasion, William Morrow and Company Press, pp 271

2. Paul Virillio, The art of the motor-The shrinking effect, University of Minnesota Press, 1993, pp 35

Text by Clare Firth-Smith - Video Stills from Seventeen by Julian A. Holcroft



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room