Reading Question 3/20

Sousanis discusses several dimensions in his text, and at this point, we arrive at the fifth dimension. These frames illustrate that from the same mind that creates dimensions, it also limits them by our habits (111). Advocating for “plasticity,” we need to lessen our habitual tendencies or learn flexibility. What I am struggling to grasp is then why Sousanis chooses to illustrate/write a graphical book. What do we need to re-learn or be more flexible on in order to comprehend more opportunities than a book for composition? At what point do we stop forming habits?

Glossary 3/20

Perceptual Experience: Sousanis cites Alva Noe’s suggestion that perceptual experience is a way of encountering how thing are by making contact with how they appear to be (Sousanis, 73). Sousanis asserts that by being able to hold dual views of what something appears to be while recognizing other aspects of its appearance, we negotiate experience.

Derive: When speaking of how a person shifting the routes they take, rather than taking the same consistent path again and again, allows them to encounter different sights and make new connections, Sousanis mentions derive, which is a walk conceived of as a playful drifting rather than a goal-oriented journey (Susaanis, 112). Hence, shaking up our approaches and processes can help us avoid getting caught in a visual rut.

Reading Questions (3/20)

On page 78, Sousanis writes, “Drawing is a way of seeing and thus, a way of knowing.” He claims this allows us to extend our thinking by “distributing it between conception and perception,” and argues this is a generative process by which we form ideas in search of greater understanding (79).

This makes me wonder – does someone need to have some proficiency/mastery in drawing to fully extend his or her thinking in this way – or for the process to be successfully generative? I think of myself (a self-professed poor drawer) during most of our stop-draws; I’m often consumed by the notion that the image I am looking to create is never truly reflected. When I write, however, I do experience this extension of thought. So, should we think of this experience from drawing as universal, or as just one of several formats to engage with this thought-extending process? Perhaps the woodworking or the quilter – folks who may self-profess proficiency in neither drawing nor writing – could also experience this? Is this more generally a notion realized through the creation of art?

Sousanis cites Masaki Suwa and Barbara Tversky’s idea that drawing is a means of developing a conversation with ones self, allowing us to tap into our visual system and see relationally. He claims that his relational viewpoint, or perception, is fundamental in meaning making. Sousanis writes, “in reuniting thinking and seeing, we expand our thinking and concept of what thinking is.” He ends the idea with stating, “to prepare good thinkers we need to cultivate good seers” (81).

This is a bit of an extension from my question above, but doesn’t Sousanis ignore a specific population of people in this claim? If I am blind I cannot reunite thinking and seeing – does that mean I cannot expand my concept of what thinking is? Do I not have the potential to be a “good thinker” (in this sense) because I cannot be a good seer? Or should we, again, look at this as just one of the potential avenues to cultivate expansive thinking?

Glossary 3/20

Imagination: Nick Sousanis discusses imagination as a crucial to “unflattening” our perspectives. He claims, “[i]magination lets us exceed our inevitably limited point of view to find perspectives not in existence or dimensions not yet accessible” (Sousanis 88). When referring to the function of imagination, he continues, “[i]t is the imagination, Etienne Pelaprat and Michael Cole assert, that fills in the gaps and links fragments to create stable and single images that make it possible for us to think and to act” (Sousanis 90). Hence, imagination allows us to understand life from the perspectives of others.

Understanding: Regarding understanding, Sousanis explores it as the creation of meaning through the process of making connections between ideas, concepts, items, etc. Sousanis states, “[u]nderstanding, like seeing, is grasping this always in relation to that. Even as we hold and stitch distinct viewpoints together, the space between them doesn’t collapse—it’s not a process of closing, of being finished. Rather, each new engagement generates another vantage point from which to continue the process again” (150). This notion further expands and evolves the role of understanding. [MAP]

Brooke Notes (3/13)

Citation
Sousanis, N. (2015). Unflattening. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Keywords

  • Flatness
  • Unflattening
  • Pragmatism
  • Multidimensional
  • Sequential Art

Summary
The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making? Written and drawn entirely as comics, Unflattening is an experiment in visual thinking. Nick Sousanis defies conventional forms of scholarly discourse to offer readers both a stunning work of graphic art and a serious inquiry into the ways humans construct knowledge.

Unflattening is an insurrection against the fixed viewpoint. Weaving together diverse ways of seeing drawn from science, philosophy, art, literature, and mythology, it uses the collage-like capacity of comics to show that perception is always an active process of incorporating and reevaluating different vantage points. While its vibrant, constantly morphing images occasionally serve as illustrations of text, they more often connect in nonlinear fashion to other visual references throughout the book. They become allusions, allegories, and motifs, pitting realism against abstraction and making us aware that more meets the eye than is presented on the page.

In its graphic innovations and restless shape-shifting, Unflattening is meant to counteract the type of narrow, rigid thinking that Sousanis calls “flatness.” Just as the two-dimensional inhabitants of Edwin A. Abbott’s novella Flatland could not fathom the concept of “upwards,” Sousanis says, we are often unable to see past the boundaries of our current frame of mind. Fusing words and images to produce new forms of knowledge, Unflattening teaches us how to access modes of understanding beyond what we normally apprehend.

Harvard University Press [http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674744431]

Works Cited

Ball, D.M. & Kuhlman, M.B. (2010). The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing Is a Way of Thinking. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

De Bono, E. (1970). Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step. New York: Harper and Row.

Jensen, D. (2004). Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.

Quotations

  • “A changed approach is precisely the goal for the journey ahead: to discover new ways of seeing, to open spaces for possibilities, and to find ‘fresh methods’ for animating and awakening” (27).
  • Unflattening is a simultaneous engagement of multiple vantage points from which to engender new ways of seeing” (32).
  • “In relying on text as the primary means of formulating understanding, what stands outside its linear structure is dismissed, labeled irrational – no more conceivable than the notion of ‘upwards’ to a flatlander. The visual provides expression where words fail. What have we been missing? And what can be made visible when we work in a form that is not only about, but is also the thing itself” (59).

Questions

  • Sousanis suggests seeing things from a myriad of different perspectives, but the book has no mention of ethics [at least yet]. Would views considered to be unethical, or harmful, also be worthy of consideration from his viewpoint?
  • Sousanis explains that comics allow us to process images both sequentially and simultaneously. Are there any other formats that also invite this type of thinking? Could you think of shots within a film this way?