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Sample System Analysis - A Television Image

The Physical World

Let's assume the television uses a cathode ray tube (CRT). Other technologies like LED, LCD or Plasma will differ in how they illuminate the screen's dots, but the idea of dots will be the same. A light beam is traversing the backside of a television screen in a horizontally zigzagging motion. It covers the entire screen top to bottom 18 times per second, making 360 horizontal lines in each pass. As it travels, it is bent slightly up or down so that it lands upon red, blue or green tinted holes in an otherwise black mask, or on the mask itself. The tints are phosphorescent so that each lighted area glows briefly, a brief lingering ghost of the color that was just excited. The effect, when viewed from the front of the screen, is a field of illuminated spots, each of which may change color or intensity at each pass of the beam. The best way for a human to fully appreciate this view is to use a magnifying glass to examine a small area of the screen when the broadcast contains slowly changing imagery.

The Visual World

From a distance of a foot or more, the image on the television screen becomes a virtual picture of something recorded or printed in a distant studio. The human visual system is duped into perceiving the large number of titillated dots of phosphorescent dye as a single coherent image at the surface of the screen. The viewer has taken notice of the broadcast.

The Contextual World

When viewing a succession of television images, the human mind assembles a context in which the apparently moving image makes sense. There is rarely any ambiguity in these contexts, which is remarkable given the enormous number of possible contexts that any single image might represent. Context is established within seconds, and once established, becomes the framework for higher levels of understanding. The viewer is now captivated by the broadcast.

The Emotional World

Given a context in which to think, the human mind begins immediately to look for emotional relevance. How does the context satisfy the viewer’s needs? Which needs does it satisfy? At this point we are oblivious to the single spot of light dancing between cells in the mask and the light’s glowing trail fading in microseconds. Consciousness had shifted entirely from the real world to whatever part of the mind that houses imagination. The images shifting on the screen are relegated to the role of cue cards as our minds dredge up thoughts in rapid-fire succession. The viewer has become psychologically immersed in the broadcast.

The Meaningful World

With a connection established between the images flashing on the screen and the emotional states from which the viewer subliminally chooses to perceive them, the mind is free to look for meaning in the sights and sounds coming from the television. The meaning rises from the context that is updated synchronously as the images arrive. Almost immediately as the mind begins experiencing meaning, it connects meaning with further emotions, which in turn foster additional or refined meaning. Thus starts a cycle of physical perception, contextual connection, emotional experience and perception of meaning, with an additional paisley of eddies between emotion and meaning. At this point the viewer understands the broadcast.

The Deeper Meaningful World

Once the mind is fully engaged, familiarity may set in, releasing some mental resources so that the mind might explore deeper meanings beyond the broadcast’s obvious content. “Does this story have a moral?” “How might this end?” “Who ‘dunnit’?” The viewer is thinking about the broadcast.

The Meta-Meaningful World

If further mental resources are available, the mind may introspectively explore its own activities, as if watching itself as it watches the broadcast. “Should I be watching this?” “This is only a story, not to worry.” “I have an idea for a story like this.” The viewer is now manipulating the experience of watching the broadcast.



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