Critical Approaches to Culture + Communications

A Weblog by Ron Burnett (Founded in 1994 and now celebrating 23 Years!!)

This site began as one of the first academic sites in Canada when the World Wide Web was in its early phase of development. I have maintained it through many iterations since 1994.

Thinking by Inference

To varying degrees, images have always been integral parts of human efforts to construct livable environments. They have always helped shape and form the spaces we inhabit whether they took the form of drawings, markings or pictures in caves or defined the architecture of churches and museums.

Today, as images and screens have become more and more prevalent, they have begun to redefine human action and human subjectivity in even more sophisticated ways than in the past. The extension of image use into digital technologies has further heightened not only their importance but their role as mediators of human experiences in general.

Interestingly, digital technologies rely on inferential thinking. They do not so much make the real come to life as they create an awareness of the many different planes on which our perceptions of the real depend. One of the best examples of this is a CD player and the CD’s themselves. One may infer that a particular CD will play a certain sound and that inference will have a great deal to do with the experience. The properties of the CD that generate the inferential process are not physically apparent either on the CD or even when the CD disappears into a player. In other words, we begin the act of listening within a virtual space of expectation devoid of sensory stimulation yet flush with internal dialogues and feelings and expectations. The laser that helps to generate the sound is invisible. The electric current that energizes the music, gives it a shape and broadcasts it to us is also invisible. Yet, the expectations remain constant. Inferential thinking is at the heart of digital technologies and I will be exploring this mode of thought in greater detail over the coming months.