Vision Sense Overview I

Brief Overview

Vision uses sensors in our eyes to accept and process light which is transmitted to the brain to interpret as information and forms. Through our lenses, we receive an upside down image on our retina that is put right-side-up by our brain; this is the first operation that we see, but it is not the only one: in order to interpret the information coming through light, we need to make assumptions and connections with forms and images we have seen before. This interpretation adds to the complexity of vision, in that objectivity may be lost or affected by the understanding and ideas imposed on the signals of light.

Although it may not be the first of our senses to develop through evolution, it is arguably the most important. More of our brain is used to process vision than any other sense. In addition, it is the first sense most people go to in order to understand the world. We use our eyes to see objects, but we also use our eyes to read and interpret language and data, and this sense is used nearly continuously throughout the day. Perhaps vision is not a necessity, but it would be a hindrance for many to lose access to it.

We are able to see things when there is light. This light might be inherent in the object, like a lightbulb or a phone screen, or it may be reflected off of it, like a piece of paper or a brick wall. We are able to capture understanding from the variation of the light–not only are colors important, but variations of shadow are crucial to understand the form and character of objects. When using vision, our eyes collapse the three-dimensional world into two-dimensional projections, so every other variable available to understand the sense is used in order to get a true understanding of that viewed.

We use vision to allow us to passively understand the world, but we also use it in combination with other senses and logic to create, analyze, and evaluate. We can use other senses to do these things, but to see is instantaneous and can be done from afar, without touch and even beyond sound. We can easily see the stars and planets in the sky, but we aren’t able to hear or touch these from Earth. So, the sense can work at distance, unlike most other senses.

These qualities of vision are helpful to experience the present and possibilities of the future, but vision is also very important for the past–we use vision to intake information, and we use memory to hold what we have learned. Much of our memory is based around vision, and even though we cannot actually replay the true images in our brain, we are able to imagine and recollect the imagery. Because memory partially relies on vision and our memory changes over time, there are interesting games we can play to explore what our imagination is able to do with the visual information that is used to communicate. We cannot be completely objective, because we have an interpretation for everything that enters or leaves our brain.

Applying Vision

Although we use vision constantly, we can use a constructive method of interpretation with sight that allows us to interact with the world to build and change the environment. There is a skill called formal analysis that allows us to understand things through vision by breaking down the imagery or form into constituent parts and understanding what those elements do. These can include the definition of the elements and understanding any actions of these, but also of the shape, direction, and speed of these parts. In this way, we discern meaning relative to our experience and position.

We can try to rely on memory of our vision to interpret, but this ensures the image and meaning change over time, as our memories change over time–we do not hold a continuous snapshot in our head, like a computer. Besides remembering, we can also utilize technologies we have, such as cameras, but also ways to light an object. For example, how does the element appear with infrared vs standard illumination? Ultraviolet? Do we use one light or two, and what is the direction of these lights? How the object is lit allows an understanding of form, as mentioned above. What other optics or sensors can we use to interpret information? Light sensors, infrared distance meters, and laser diffraction are all possible alternate ways to use light.

Next Up:

Analyzing Vision

Creating with Vision

Evaluating with Vision


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