On languages & fluency

Something interesting I learned about languages today:

Italians are some of the fastest speakers on the planet, chattering at up to nine syllables per second. Many Germans, on the other hand, are slow enunciators, delivering five to six syllables in the same amount of time. Yet in any given minute, Italians and Germans convey roughly the same amount of information, according to a new study. Indeed, no matter how fast or slowly languages are spoken, they tend to transmit information at about the same rate: 39 bits per second, about twice the speed of Morse code.

And there’s this thing about not one language is better than another:

The “crystal clear conclusion,” he adds, is that although languages differ widely in their encoding strategies, no one language is more efficient than another at delivering information.

The real problem, isn’t about delivering the information, but it’s this:

… he says, instead of being limited by how quickly we can process information by listening, we’re likely limited by how quickly we can gather our thoughts.

I figured I should pick up Spanish back again now that I have started watching Spanish series on Netflix — first Elite, and now La Casa de Papel. In entirety, I could speak and understand about 4 languages — although 2 native and almost native (English and Malay), and the rest are conversational (Spanish & Turkish). I also found it funny that due to the fact that I am a Muslim and we are taught to recite Quran from as early as we could remember, a lot of us non-Arabic speaking Muslims could read some of the Arabic words and letters but have no idea what they mean, unless we learn the Arabic language from the start.

We always think of ‘fluency’ to indicate ‘native-level proficient’, but it turns out even the most eloquent speaker in another language which they were not raised with were still not perceived as ‘fluent’ by their native speakers, as in this case:

A “heritage speaker” of Italian, I’d been living in Italy for two years when I overheard a receptionist refer me to me as “that foreigner who doesn’t speak Italian”. I was confused, then gutted. That one casual sentence launched a journey that resulted in my being forced to acknowledge that while I had grown up speaking Italian at home and was fluent, I was not by any means proficient.

Daniel Morgan, head of learning development at the Shenker Institutes of English – a popular chain of English schools in Italy – says that fluency actually refers to how “smoothly” and “efficiently” a second language (L2) speaker can speak on “a range of topics in real time”. While fluency may denote a degree of proficiency, it does not automatically imply accuracy – the ability to produce grammatically correct sentences – nor does it imply grammatical range.

Fluency is then, gauged through The Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of References (CEFR) for Languages, which groups language learners into concrete proficiency levels:

A1: Capabilities range include basic introductions and answering questions about personal details provided the listener speaks slowly and is willing to cooperate.

A2: Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her past, environment and matters related to his/her immediate needs and perform routine tasks requiring basic exchanges of information.

B1: Can deal with most daily life situations in the country where the language is spoken. Can describe experiences, dreams and ambitions and give brief reasons for opinions and goals.

B2: Can understand the themes of complex texts on both concrete and abstract topics and will have achieved a degree of fluency and spontaneity, which makes interaction with native speakers possible without significant strain for either party.

C1: Can understand a wide range of longer texts and recognise subtleties and implicit meaning; producing clear, well-structured and detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

C2: Can understand virtually everything heard or read, expressing themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, while differentiating finer shades of meaning even in highly complex situations.

With the exception of Malay, I am still not fluent in any of the rest of the other languages, so it seems.

Is it right because it has always been like that?

I finished writing my thesis today! All 257 pages, 59986 words in entirety. Surely it sounds like it calls for a celebration, but there is a huge amount of editing work to be done till next month. And so onward I shall do so.

Some things I have been consuming around the Internet, and outside the ‘Net too:

  • I have wanted to visit Iran for the longest time. Right now, I’d just be content viewing and drooling at all the pictures and descriptions in Alex Shams’ Twitter thread.
  • WITI on why Goodreads right now already works so well (for some), despite its frictions. I am one of those who frequent Goodreads to track the books I read, participate in reading challenges, and sometimes weigh out options of book purchases through the reviews, and I love how it, at this point of time, still not heavily algorithmised unlike other social media platforms.
  • Speaking of crowds, Nadia Eghbal writes on the effects of overcrowding on offline and online communities. The gatekeeping of locals from the places they inhabit, can they be akin to the dark forest?
  • I am currently obsessed with Elite, a Netflix Spanish series set in an international school filled with ridiculously attractive students, murder, sex, and manipulations. Some call it Spanish Riverdale or Gossip Girl. Expect lots of plot twists and super close face-to-face interactions between the characters, which couldn’t be comfortable?

I was outraged by some form of injustices last week, and my shoulders hurt as I felt helpless. So I reread my copy of Book of Dissent, all dog-eared, highlighted, and spine broken. Some sayings from the book:

  • “The ultimate aim of the government is not to rule, or restrain, by fear, nor to exact obedience, but contrariwise, to free every man from fear, that he may live in all possible security, in other words, to strengthen his natural right to exist and work without injury to himself or others.” – Benedict Spinoza, 1670.
  • “No man can be king by himself nor reign without people; whereas on the contrary, the people might subsist of themselves.” – Stephen Junius Brutus, 1579
  • “Just take four or five hundred women who are free from attachments, put bayonets in their hands, then see what a time they’d give you.” – Tarabai Shinde, 1882
  • “The people are the root of the nation. If the root withers, the nation shall be enfeebled.” – Donghak Rebellion, 1894
  • “Don’t waste any time in mourning — organise.” – Joe Hill, 1915
  • “Is it right because it has always been like that?” – Lu Xun, ‘Diary of a Madman’, 1918

How to teach a computer to ride a bicycle

A visualisation of an unsteered bicycle, shown in an academic figure

I don’t often leave home these days, and there is ever a day in a week that I ever do, it’s Friday. It’s the day my mother goes to her religious class in the morning, and as I drop her off at the building I drive to any nearby cafés and read till she texts me.

I looked through my email of newsletters today and found this issue of The Margins guestwritten by Andrew Granato. He wrote about the climate change of the abandoned Internet, where he revisited the old websites in the 2000s — ones before the advertisers decided it was a good idea to place all their ads across your pages and track your every movement, ones where you could experiment with all sorts of projects and abandon at your own cost and you are not obliged to monetise on them anyway, ones where you could safely scream into the void.

This whole paragraph was what reminded me of how fun it was to tinker with every bit of CSS glitter on Myspace, and the glee that I rekindled as I built my first Twitter bot this year:

I think the main thing that is being lost in this shift is the (relative) ability to experiment freely and have a culture that reflects that option. The old internet was less overtly commercial and more willing to suspend disbelief about something that was obviously dumb if there was fun to be had from it, and so you could screw around and float in a sea of people doing the same thing and it wouldn’t matter at all. It was often innocent in the sense that people didn’t much assign real meaning to it, so you could start things and abandon them in this other sphere of life without feeling like it was even really you that was doing it.

Also TIL, link rot — where a combination of website redesigns, name changes, intentional website discontinuations, and various random other factors and errors result in some fraction of web links becoming nonviable constantly. “The web is in a constant state of erosion”, Granato adds.

Finally, there is no end to academic wonders — as I found this academic paper called It Takes Two Neurons to Ride a Bicycle, where the author attempted to teach a computer how to ride a bike. I haven’t read the whole thing in entirety yet, but I was taken a fancy to the instabilisation of an unsteered bicycle, visualised above.

Questions to ask

I have written 2,567 words for my final chapter today, of which I expect to be concluded by next Tuesday. For the thesis, I have written close to 52,000 words. I thought about the time a few months ago when I was lamenting about how I was going to write 60,000 words for the thesis. If I was asked how I felt, all I could probably manage now is a shrug! I am far too tired to form any words of how I am feeling right now.

Sometimes I revisit my older posts to see if there are any additional points I could add, or if I might have written something insensitive that my past me would not have noticed and aware of. I thought, not in particular about the subject of the experiment, but more about the subject of ethics as I stumbled upon this article on Alzheimer’s patients the other day. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which involves severe loss of mental capacity through a mechanism where proteins such as tau and amyloid are formed and clumped inside the patients’ brains. When this happens, it affects the capacity of language, reasoning, and mood. The older population are the most susceptible to the condition as one’s mental capability slows down as we age.

As dementia patients often slip into past realities, they might forget who they are at the given moment and only remember the moments when they were younger. In the article, it is said that in the 1960s, nursing homes with Alzheimer’s patients would use a technique called reality orientation — a technique that, when the patients forget, they would be reminded of the actual time and date, and where they are. The patients would often get distressed as it conflicts with their perceived reality. The method was then challenged, where it was then validation therapy was introduced. With this method, the caretakers would not correct the patients, but instead play along. I think about the time when I watched some older folks I knew slipped into their past lives, and instead of correcting them — which had been done numerous times before — their family members would just go along. That was in a family setting, but how ethical it is in institutional settings such as hospitals or homes? But consider this:

Lying to most patients in this way now seems obviously wrong; but when it comes to people with dementia there is no consensus. To lie is to violate the respect that one person owes another; but lying to a person with dementia can protect them from awful truths that they have no power to alter. If a woman asks for her husband, having forgotten that he is dead, should you tell her the truth and cause her terrible grief, knowing that this fresh bereavement will likely repeat itself, over and over, day after day? Or should you just tell her that he is at the office? And is direct lying different from various forms of passive lying—encouraging delusions, or allowing existing delusions to persist? What is more important—dignity or happiness?

Unrelated, but — I often go back to this tweet from @prisonculture every time I found myself faced with any form of injustice, and was too enraged to do something about it:

  • What resources exist so I can better educate myself?
  • Who’s already doing work around this injustice?
  • Do I have the capacity to offer concrete support & help to them?
  • How can I be constructive?

On personal evolution

I saw someone reading and speaking highly of Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America the other day, and being my usual curious self, I started to look for the book at the library. I admit this was my first time hearing of the book or the author himself. I learned that the book has been the “canonical anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-American text” of the region, where Galeano analysed the history of the Americas from the time during the European settlement of the New World all the way to contemporary Latin America, where the effects of European and the United States colonialism has impacted the economy and politics of the while region. It was so influential that not only it has been included in university courses all over the world, it was also reported that Venezualan president Hugo Chávez, handed a Spanish copy of the book to President Obama’s hand when they met.

As I was looking through the information for the book through Internet, I also learned that Galeano, in 2014, disavows his manifesto in the book. According to him, he wrote it during the time when he was not qualified to tackle the subject, and he thought it was badly written. What’s amazing is the response from the scholars who had been teaching his book in the class: one said that she will continue teaching it but will “take his comments, add them in and use them to generate a far more interesting discussion about how we see and interpret events at different points in time”. One said she wouldn’t change how she used the book, because “because it still captures the essence of the emotional memory of being colonised”. She however, will include Galeano’s comments on it, citing that “it’s good for students to see that writers can think critically about their own work and go back and revise what they meant.” A lot of others think the book still holds a significance on the past, present and future of the region of Latin America, and would still consume the book rightly so.

His full reply, translated from Portuguese via:

It would be impossible for me to respond to such a question, especially because, after so many years, I don’t feel as connected to that book as when I wrote it. Time passed and I began to try other things, to get closer to human reality in general and especially to political economy—because Open Veins tried to be a book on political economy, yet I still didn’t have the necessary education. I don’t regret having written it, but it’s a stage that I have surpassed. I wouldn’t be able to read it again, I would collapse. For me, that traditional leftist prose is so very dull. My body wouldn’t hold up. I’d be placed in urgent care… ‘Do you have a free bed,’ I’d ask.

It took a great deal of courage and determination for a writer as significant as himself to admit this, although the book was said to be “intellectually honest and passionately stated” by critics, and one that has much cultural and political significance to the region.

Do we deserve one another?

I just finished reading Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories over the weekend, and because I have the tendency to compare things, it’s like reading an anthology of Chinese Black Mirror. Science fiction is not always my genre of choice — it’s none of anyone’s faults — it’s just that I often find it difficult to relate to its whole worldbuilding, which a lot of times were constructed out of Western elements. However, I felt with the exception of Ken Liu’s works — which is called silkpunk (#TIL) — and the science fiction worlds constructed out of MENA settings like P. Djeli Clark does, those are the ones I could find myself immersed in.

The anthology is made up of 15 short stories or novellas which some of them have been published elsewhere, and I enjoy a lot of them. However I couldn’t stop thinking of its last novella in the book, called The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary. It tells about a Japanese-American / Chinese-American couple, one a physicist one a historian of some sort, who develop this time travel machine that enables people to experience historical events. In particular, the couple developed the machine to allow the relatives of the victims of the infamous Unit 731 — where the Japanese Army undertook lethal human experimentation on the Chinese people and other human subjects during the World War II — to revisit the horrors of those days, and came back to tell the tale. The story was told in a documentary format — a format Liu adapted from Ted Chiang’s Liking What You See: A Documentary. It was hard to catch up at first as it jumps from one person’s narratives to another, but once I got ahold of the format, I can actually imagine the words playing in a whole documentary as if it is shown on screen.

As an early career researcher, I couldn’t help but recognising the aspects of ethics in this research. The machine was posited to be a breakthrough in both physics and history area, where it allows anyone — particularly the relatives of the victims, who are Chinese — to go back in time to witness the atrocities with the goal of informing ‘the truth’, at the same time, forcing the Japanese people and those of their descendants to admit of their complicit, and to apologise. Some questions arise: why send in volunteers rather than professional historians or journalists, who were deemed to be more articulate and objective, and will not inculcate biases into the documentations? Sending in relatives of the victims means “large segments of history were consumed in private grief”, and their narratives might also be partial. It goes back to the same question of the academics particularly in social sciences, and also for activists: whose voice takes more precedence than the other? Is it the experts’, who sometimes do not have personal links to the events themselves, or the victims’ (or relatives of the victims’) who are the most affected by the cruelty inflicted upon them, but sometimes might not have the language to tell the stories in pure objectivity — which is a white myth anyway. The story does not give the answers to these questions, but this is something the academia had to work on, the whole objectivity and all, while not disregarding the voices that needed to be heard the most.

“What role, if any, we wish to give the voices of the past in the present is up to us.”

I love the fact that the novella also presents multiple narratives of other people from different perspectives. There are the cynics, the believers, those who are even indifferent, even some who believe in “the Christian thing to do is to forget and forgive”, those who think the atrocities were a karma to the Chinese for “being mean to the Tibetans”, and another from the Japanese doctor who lived (and conducted the experiments himself) during the event to tell the story. I think of a phrase from Angela Davis’ Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, “Our histories never unfold in isolation. We cannot truly tell what we consider to be our own histories without knowing the other stories. And often we discover that those other stories are actually our own stories.”

It is hard to deal with the present and the future when those who were cruel to us never made any effort to forgive, and that’s the fact that the victims and the relatives of Unit 731 had to endure (also Auschwitz, Armenian massacre, Palestine, etc.). The brief mention of the terrible deaths happening during Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution in the story also exemplified the concept of karma, and if or maybe we do deserve one another for the monstrosities we cause on each other.

How to mail a package from space

I have only one chapter left to write, and that’s the final chapter: Discussion and Conclusions. After that, I am going to spend 2-3 weeks more for editing before the whole thesis is polished for final submission in October / November.

It feels so surreal. Just two days ago I was lying down, almost debilitated because there were a whole stream of voices — a combination of my own conscience and from others who have doubted me — kept playing in my head. “Someone’s going to find out you are just bullshitting all of these things”, “you write like a pseudo-intellectual” (I was told this before), “you’ll never be good enough”, and “what are you going to do with a PhD? You’ll never find a job anyway.” I was lucky (?) I have practically trained myself to time and schedule my breakdowns, so in 20 minutes I got up, brushed the vicious thoughts away, walked to my desk, and resumed to write.

I don’t plan to write longer than 300 words tonight — or maybe even less — but I am intrigued with this article and xkcd comic (I just learned today his name is Randall Munroe) on how to mail a package from space. Apparently it involves just throwing it out of the door of the ISS and wait. There are also two possibilities: the package will burn before it ever reaches the ground, and if it ever arrives on Earth anyway, we have no idea whatsoever where it will land, despite it being addressed elsewhere. But there are ways to ensure your package reaches the land safely, and one that involves a lot of addressing heat reduction. Anyway, read here.

Also, social media isn’t entirely baaaad:

People’s ability to connect is the glue that holds our culture together. By thinning out our interactions and splintering our media landscape, the Internet has taken away the common ground we need to understand one another. Each of us is becoming more confident about our own world just as it drifts farther from the worlds of others. Empathy requires us to understand that even people who disagree with us have a lived experience as deep as our own. But in the fractured landscape of social media, we have little choice but to see the other side as obtuse, dishonest or both. Unless we reverse this trend and revive empathy, we have little chance of mending the tears in our social fabric.

Have a good weekend.

An act of defiant grace

Came upon Stoop app for reading newsletters and was intrigued until I saw the bit that says “trusting an algorithm with deciding what you read is like trusting a nutritionist who gets paid based on how many chips you eat”. Uhm, no? If you want to use the nutritionist analogy, pretty soon you are going to be suggested to eat products sourced from the companies in their network, because face it, it serves both them and you. I think I am pretty much done with algorithmic recommendations these days and besides, it looks and has the possibility to turn into my Instapaper app where the newsletter I subscribed would be backed for months. I’m sure some other people might find it useful, but again it’s another utility fallacy — it requires habit reshaping more so than another technology which features we are going to compare to its predecessors. I also couldn’t stop thinking, what’s next after newsletters? We have gone from forums to blogs to social media as microblogs and now we are writing longform in newsletters, whilst all of the rest still prevail somehow. It’s definitely an interesting trend to watch.

Something completely different: Nick Cave’s advice on how to forgive someone who has done something terrible to you — something I have been struggling with, as years of anxiety had been inflicted upon me. He mentioned of a mother who forgave the murderer of his son, “I forgive you from the bottom of my heart. I pray for you as a mother. You are a child to me”, showing an act of “defiant grace, a refusal to be bowed by the malevolence of the world, and the heightened compassion way beyond the reach of most of us, a saintlike mixture of beauty, lunacy, and courage”.

… try to see the idea of forgiveness as an act of insubordination, a non-compliance to the forces of malevolence, a recognition that you will not be defined by the offence that has been inflicted upon you. See forgiveness as a gift, not to the person who has committed the injury, but to yourself, in the form of self-protection. The sooner you start the process, the less time you may spend imprisoned by resentment and bitterness, hopefully moving toward a more resilient self. To try and fail is in itself a form of betterment. There are times forgiveness is beyond us but still we must reach, still we must strive.

And so I will try, this act of defiant grace.

We live for such miracles

I forgot that people actually wrote things by hand long before typewriters and computers were invented, until I came upon this digitised original manuscript of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I suppose a lot of other famous writers do this too, both drafting and possibly writing the entire book. Writers like James Patterson, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates (“Writing is a consequence of thinking, planning, dreaming “) all write their works by hand, some even write in pencils, and even much more amazing, in longhand. Some writers, like Niven Govinden found computers are “not conducive to good writing”, “a lined notebook is less judgmental”, “a blank computer screen makes me want to throw up” (why is this also familiar?), and most importantly, the writing flows much better, or in his own words, “I write in a more economical way. I think harder about one good sentence following another, which for me is all that matters”. I personally (not that I am a famous writer) had only written notes or rough structure using pen and paper before transferring them to writing software such as Scrivener or Google Doc, but I do get the idea about the ‘flow’ as you put down your rough ideas into paper.

A screen capture of a scene in Mindhunter with the actors Jonathan Groff, Anna Torv, and Holt McCallany standing next to each other in the lift

I am currently obsessed with watching the true crime series on Netflix called Mindhunter, which was based on the eponymous book. It revolves around two FBI agents, Holden Ford and Bill Tench, and psychologist Wendy Carr, who were part of the bureau’s Behavioural Science unit who went around to interview real serial killers to understand how they think — ‘serial killers’ being a term which they apparently also coined, which initially of what they called ‘sequence killers’ — in order to concoct a profiling framework of these killers and how they could become what they have become. The series, part academic part true crime, tries to answer the most important question at the heart of it, “Are criminals born, or are they formed?”. This is a series with as less gunfights as possible, and more chilling moments — such as the scenes where Holden and Bill interviewed Ed Kemper, an apparently very articulate serial killer and necrophile who also killed his own grandparents and mother. The casting, especially for the killers, is on point. The show, however, posed many racist and misogynistic dialogues and scenes, all of those which were probably a representation of its time (the show was based in 1970s). I am still in Season 1 and I would watch one episode per night before sleep (not entirely a good decision though) after writing my thesis.

I picked up Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories at the bookstore today. I am only in my first 50 pages so far (out of 500+ pages) and I feel somewhat guilty for reading a new book despite having not finished the annotated Frankenstein and The Digital Party, but I have always been a polygamous reader and it’s nice to switch books to read once in a while. In his preface, Liu, also a translator (he translated the famous Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem series) wrote about all manner of communication is an act of translation with some beautiful description of how neural impulses travel from his brain to his hands and then perceived by the readers’ eyes, which caught my attention:

Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.

At this moment, in this place, the shifting action potentials in my neurons cascade into certain arrangements, patterns, thoughts; they flow down my spine, branch into my arms, my fingers, until muscles twitch and thought is translated into motion; mechanical levers are pressed; electrons are rearranged; marks are made on paper.

At another time, in another place, light strikes the marks, reflects into a pair of high-precision optical instruments sculpted by nature after billions of years of random mutations; upside-down images are formed against two screens made up of millions of light-sensitive cells, which translate light into electrical pulses that go up the optic nerves, cross the chiasm, down the optic tracts, and into the visual cortex, where the pulses are reassembled into letters, punctuation marks, words, sentences, vehicles, tenors, thoughts.

The entire system seems fragile, preposterous, science fictional. (…)

And yet, whatever has been lost in translation in the long journey of my thoughts through the maze of civilisation to your mind, I think you do understand me, and you think you do understand me. Our minds managed to touch, if but briefly and imperfectly.

Does the thought not make the universe seem just a bit kinder, a bit brighter, a bit warmer and more human?

We live for such miracles.

On metaphors & utility fallacy

There’s a piece by Cal Newport I read today where he speaks about utility fallacy — which is the tendency to narrow your analysis for a particular piece of technology by comparing it with the features of the technology of what it had replaced. The context in the article was email, where some Redditors were replying to Newport’s call to eliminate email and were saying that it had worked for them, in many ways. I am one of those who would say email is still useful to me — not only as a way to communicate with people — but also, it serves as somewhat a key for the lack of a better term, as in, you need email addresses to sign up to a lot of things now. But the point Newport was making is, with the rise of other similar platforms to “replace” email, in a way it still works around the same set of features: reply, reply all, folders, tagging, some may come with schedule email options, or enable you to see whether people have opened your emails. But then again, “the more important story is almost always how they end up mutating our socio-cultural dynamics”, as in one of the examples in the comment section where corporate email has evolved as a social media feed where one would sit at the desk and monitor it in real time, and another commenter remarked about how in the Asian culture, one often turns to messaging apps such as Whatsapp, and intrusive clients who lack the idea of boundaries would get agitated if the messages are not replied instantly. My biggest pet peeve.

The point is, almost all messaging platforms, emails or others, work around the same features. But we must remember to reshape our own ways of using it so they don’t end up consuming us:

The point too often missed in a cooly instrumentalist understanding of technology is that we don’t use these tools in a vacuum; we instead participate in complicated social systems that can careen in unforeseen directions when powerful new technological forces are introduced. Features are important, but they’re not the whole story.

I am also enjoying this piece on the significance of metaphors in our image-saturated world. Psychologist Kyung Hee Kim believed that creative thinking is “declining over all Americans of all ages”, despite the abundance of opportunities and resources for knowledge-gathering and study. However, in order “to be creative, they also need opportunities to engage in the mental process of building knowledge through mental actions”. Schools kept focusing on problem-solving skills in education, while discarding the more imaginative problem-finding ones. “Standardisation,” Kim concludes, “should be resisted”.

And this is where the link to metaphors and creative thinking happens:

‘Metaphor requires a perceptual power and ability, a re-seeing, a re-analogising’ that is not inborn, but instead fostered through a ‘depth of attention’ that, in turn, breeds imagination. ‘You know, you can’t just wake up after a steady diet of social media and harness the deeper power of language and connection.’

This is also attributed to how our daily practices are often dominated by screen-based activities, leaving us to “engage less frequently in primary experiences involving our non-visual senses. Instead, we navigate the world as we see it, confined in its screen”. Furthermore, in our image-saturated world where a lot of them have been curated for us — by ourselves, others, or the work of algorithm — we often see things as how they are presented to us, as predicted by Walter Benjamin in the essay ‘A Short History of Photography’ (1931):

… a photography which is able to relate a tin of canned food to the universe, yet cannot grasp a single one of the human connections in which that tin exists; a photography which even in its most dreamlike compositions is more concerned with eventual salability than with understanding … the true facts of this photographic creativity is the advertisement.

I’m not quite sure I agree with how photography does not encourage metaphoric thinking, but it might be also because as I enter academics, I am trained to do critical analysis on almost every piece of work. But this is a good finding and read nevertheless.