Schlagwort-Archive: Context

Seeing is believing

For good reason have religions the tendency of demonizing pictures. The faith is threatened by information. Figurative representations have the strength to convince people that what they see is the reality. It began with symbols and drawings, which were painted on the wall in the darkest corners of caves, probably by torchlight. It continued with depictions of gods and holy stories, which could only be seen at magic locations. Then the painting entered the private households. Since each picture was an original piece of art, only a few people could afford this luxury. With the printer press and the photography all people could benefit from this new look at the world. Eventually picture and tone became easily receivable for many people with the film and television. In parallel the conviction evolved that what you see actually is – “Seeing is believing”.

The picture is however determined by conditions, which prevent that you really get a look at the reality. The three following aspects play thereby a large role.

  • Image composition
    A photo squeezes the motives from its multisensual world into a two-dimensional frame. Outside of the image margin, on the right or the left, above or below, is no component of the picture and thus invisible. The use of a wide-angle lens tears relationships apart. The telephoto compresses distributed objects and produces the impression of proximity. The film type (black-and-white or color) produces additional tendencies. The appropriate orange hue creates the impression of the seventies. In the end the picture maker does not show the reality, but he produces it with its formal possibilities.
  • Context
    The environment, where the picture is presented, creates additional meaning. The image of a driving tank in an article about the invasion in a country or in a report on liberating a region elicits a corresponding impression. Although it is the same photo, it is evaluated differently. Similar motives are likewise differently interpreted. A group of people, who walk a dirt road with suit-cases and children by the hand, can awaken different feelings – depending on whether they are refugees from Syria or the former GDR.
  • Censorship
    At the end the control bodies of a country or a newspaper determine, what you van see – or not. As soon as a decision is required for a publication, the monitoring begins. The criteria does not matter thereby, since the decision gets removed from the potential viewers – for reasons of picture quality (e.g. awkward perspective or blurring), missing importance of the photo, assumed lack of interest, or to hide undesired facts, like critical points of view, messages, or truths. The censorship is already accepted practice. It starts with the rules for good journalism and certainly does not end with embedded journalists, who report on a military action – nobody is irritated by the influence of the military on the publication.

The changeability of pictures is not an achievement of today’s Photoshop age. Pictures were always falsified. The illustration shows for example, how Stalin dealt with comrades, who were fallen in disgrace. He simply let them retouch from the pictures. The media suggests neutrality, if it speaks of the filter bubble and populist reporting. If you look and listen closer, then you hear the tendentious tone in each newscast. So-called neutral fact checking does not help any more.

Bottom line: What you see in a photo is always the result of filtering one or several aspects. This happens consciously or unconsciously, with the best hidden agenda or bad-willingly, supporting or obstructing the viewer. In any case filters are impacting, which falsify the reality. In changing a well-known saying: One cannot not falsify pictures. An indicator, which can only be checked with difficulty, is the origin of pictures – if you can find it. Thus, there is no reason to believe something, as soon as you see it.

The total context determines the understanding

The language does not offer an adequate base, in order to interpret a phrase.  Let’s pull one of world literature out of its context “The husband asked, would she allow him to smoke, obviously not with a view to smoking, but to getting into conversation with her.” You can better understand what is happening, if you know that this is a sentence out of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj. The internal images adapt immediately. If you realize that you are in a train compartment you get even close to the circumstances. The following illustration creates on the left a frame condition and offers on the right goods for smokers. Which one fits best? That depends on the mental framework in your mind, because the total context determines the understanding.


If you prepare a lecture, you have to take care of the circumstances. There are three aspects that affect this total context.

  • The presentation
    Since you can only understand the things that you can express with words and pictures, the designing of the presentation is a pre-requisite for the transmission of meaning. Most of the times people limit themselves to the determination by facts that are worth it to convey. Unfortunately, many stop there. The information should always be translated attentively into the appropriate words, metaphors, and visualizations that can be understood by the target audience. The dissemination of the own ideas is the real purpose. Eventually the worm has to taste good to the fish, not to the fisherman.
  • The event
    The interpretation framework that is created by the event, determines the exegesis of the messages. The title of the event, the various subject areas and the participating presenters with their program items give the attention of the audience a certain direction. Presentations that do not fit within the framework will have difficulties to attract sufficient attention. For this reason you should always consider, how you can shape your contributions to the event. At least titles, examples and presentation style should fit into the program. Eventually the messages need the loosened soil in the consciousness of the audience, in order to strike roots.
  • The target group
    The total context is determined by the background and the technical field of the listeners. The cultural background can be derived from the place of the meeting. If the addressees come from the western hemisphere, they are for example coined by values, as good and bad, right and wrong. The eastern heritage is based on the balance of Yin and Yang. Accordingly, the desire for acknowledgment is more pronounced in the west and less in the east. The attitudes of the expected participants can also be derived from the event. It is mainly a matter of distinction, whether it concerns technique, sales or leadership oriented listeners. In any case the presentation should be adapted to the respective cause. Eventually there is no general sequence of the lecture that fits for all imaginable opportunities.

Each spectator and all speakers bring in their total context. The effect of the exchange of information is a result of the overlap that you achieve between the total contexts. How far you create this, can be recognized by the reaction of the public.

Bottom line: The total context determines the probability that a message reaches the target audiences. Here it is not a matter of your own preferences, but above all the adapted presentation, the general framework of the event and the respective target audience. Since the context always changes from one to the other event, the appropriate conceptions should always be adapted to the respective case, because the total context determines the understanding.