Meme Engine


What I've been thinking about...

More thoughts from “Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud.

I could almost post this man’s whole book panel by panel.  Each page is worthy of pondering, and none of it is hard to read.  And though I now read all sorts of things, this book opened me up to philosophy at a time when the most philosophical thing I was reading was Dragonlance.

In these panels, McCloud is pointing out how funny it is that we see faces everywhere.  Electrical outlets, car headlights, windows on the front of houses… we are willing to mentally morph almost anything into two eyes and a mouth.  Why should this be?

McCloud’s theory is that it has to do with a little sketch of ourselves that we keep inside our minds.  We’re capable of remembering very complicated images, but for everyday tasks, that’s just not required.  When you want to scratch your ear, all you need is a little schematic in your head that gives the location of your ear.

As an argument for this process, he notes that our personal mental schematics can be expanded to include our tools.  He explains:

For some reason, the panel showing the car collision has stuck in my mind.  I can never forget how we associate ourselves with vehicles.  “Understanding Comics” was published in 1993, but these days we might say that we associate ourselves with a particular computer, or even just a browser.

As an interesting sidenote, McCloud came to this topic via exploring the continuum between realistic and iconic images of characters:

One conclusion he reaches is that more iconic characters are easier to identify with, because they’re less likely to have a particular feature that you don’t have.  Interesting food for thought when considering modern (computer?) animated movies.  Where would a 3D animated smurf fall I wonder?