Some aspects of the technic of Visual Realism, the persona, acult persona etc.

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Mon Dec 25 12:58:58 MST 2000

Greetings Comrades,
    Visually ordinary working people like to put up photos of their family
around where they live.  This realism of what they have in social
connections is a small hint of the point of visual realism which in
computing is called agents, avatars, etc.  I will use the word persona which
indicates how the human visage contributes to communications.

    Many people ask some person they are making a picture of to smile.  Why?
When one puts that picture up on a wall someplace later on, as time goes by
no one remembers the context of that image, they just smile out of the
frame.  What is it that people are asking of the person being photographed?

    That image of the smiling person produces a kind of labor process in a
social network.  Primarily the smile represents a kind of unity between the
person taking the picture and the person who smiles.  A smile is a kind of
assent in visual content to the social connection between two people.  The
audience that laughs together at the comedy is unified by their common
reaction.  (Do I really need to quote academic texts here to support these

    A persona is a visual image that embodies some aspects of those forms of
visual communication to which I allude to above.  Words written that include
things like emoticons ;-) for example are using some aspect of constructing
a persona.  A persona is the accompaniment to speech acts that we expect of
emotions, and gesture to add meaning to language.  Personas can be distinct
cartoon like images like Bugs Bunny, or Albert Einstein.

    Personas appear in religions as the figure of God (which indicates the
limitations that the neo-cortext imposes upon what personas transmit).  So
they have a very long history of use in human beings.  They appear amongst
hunter gatherers as the "spirit" in the landscape.  The embodiment of how
the mind will use aspects of social relationships to communicate meaning to
the landscape.

    The smile that is demanded upon the photographed person is not with much
content, but it does show a certain connectiveness of the person to social
world.  Even though they only smile for the person shooting the camera the
smile tends to make us feel more close to the person when we look at the
photograph.  Personas are then visual means to indicate social connection.
They aren't words but symbols of the accompaniment of the body to speech
which clarify how emotions are expressed in the body of someone connected to
us.  Or beyond emotions that gestures also indicate elements of content in
speech.  So visually when we see the hands used in the space of the speaking
person we tend to see how the use of the hands adds meaning to the words.
Often this activity is completely unconscious to the person speaking.

    All this is important to visual realism.  They indicate that channels of
information are being utilized.  A channel is the sensory mode in which data
is transmitted.  The main ones for human beings are sound, and vision.
Vision as an input channel is by the far biggest carrier in input dwarfing
hearing in how much neocortex is devoted to seeing.  Yet sound carries
language because of the difficulty of transmitting information through use
of the body to represent language.  The evolutionary displacement of
language to sound and keeping less meaningful information in the hands might
be thought of as the importance to keep the hands free of such duties when
using them for immediate practical manipulation required of us in those
conditions.   This possibly indicates why too we aren't conscious of using
the hands when we add content to speech, because that part of brain power is
not really useful to 'conscious attention' in the sense that foveal vision
and attention seem to require.  (I am referring to the primate division of
the senses into motion detecting and surface detail detecting in vision,
hearing, and touch.)

    These channels have various levels of data content being transmitted.
Visual channels happening in the seeable moment of about the range of a
tenth of second, carry a great deal more data than does the sound channel
transmitting words.   Words represent not so much raw data (as does vision
in the fovea), but the rapid sequence of neo-cortex groups organized to
functions.  Functions might be seeing functions, or sound related, or use of
the body functions, or organizing the many functions in to a unified whole
and arranging those functions (the frontal lobe).

    Visual displays then tend to carry for human beings not so much the very
high content of words, but the lower content of feelings or how the body is
used in motion in speech acts to indicate the sense of the use of the body
to display meaning to a concept.  I sweep my hands in front of me to show
the "broadness" of the words.

    These features of communication are why we tend to use political leaders
as a source of communications (as personas) about political ideas.  We are
not yet to the point of seeing 'personas' as a feature of language
independent of specific bodies (independent of a Mao or a Stalin).  The idea
of personas is gradually lifting off of it's origin in the quasi religious
seeming spirit in the landscape as a useage.  This seems most clear in
animation and cartoons particularly in relation to visual oriented video
games.  Personas are important features of communicating meaning to words
that humans have developed in the context of social network.  This is
important and not a trivial aspect of communications production (and is
related to the issue of broadband, versus narrow band electronic
communications, or roughly the divide between a focus purely on words in
data transmission and production of communications which are primarily

    The use of emotions and body movement with words are about the specific
location of a human being in the moment.  We tend to look at words as being
independent of the moment.  Words written down like the photograph taken of
a smiling friend above seem to have lost their connection to the moment and
become somehow eternal.  Platonic almost.  Yet much of the meaning of words
flow out of the moment and having a realistic understanding of how the
moment contributes to meaning is why personas become important.  Hence to
some degree using a major political figure is the best way to indicate the
contemporariness of the words.

    Personas have an important contribution to make in the clarification of
the crucial content of emotions in language like conversations.  They show
exactly what we mean by how we feel in the moment to moment flow of language
which is impossible to replicate by typing emoticons with every word.  Since
the persona can be removed from specific people they can be thought of as
not so much the personality of the cult leader but as the necessary aspect
of body related features of language transmission which clarifies the
central cognitive functions of organizing language itself in the neo-cortex.

    My remarks are meant to dispel the concept of the quasi-religious
concept of personality 'worship' as is often directed toward left leaders.
While the use of personas is primitive they will grow in importance as the
conversational features of computing communications grow.   We need personas
as a means to add meaning to words.  Often times personas arise as it did
for the hunter gatherer as a means to add meaning to landscape when the fine
detail of meaning that goes with much brainwork (fovea like vision
brainwork) was not possible in a world in which such labor had not be
created yet.
Doyle Saylor

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