See It, Believe It?

Published 01.25.2017

By Elaine Lambert


Words or pictures? Which holds the greater value for you?

As a writer, a former journalist, I put a great value on words. Yet, the course of my own career – I now produce a public television series for Pennsylvania College of Technology – has taken me beyond the written word and into electronic media, where visual images reign supreme.

The idea that pictures are worth more than words is nothing new. While the emphasis on visual media exploded with 21st century technology, the fact is that signs, billboards, and printed advertisements have been used to market products to consumers for centuries.

You and I may not stop to consider how the images we see every day ultimately shape our ideas and opinions, but they do. What we think we see often becomes what we believe.

Ask yourself these questions. Do you tend to skip over captions that describe the content of the pictures you view on social media? How often do you read the text that identifies the source of the materials you see?

We all might criticize the infiltration of “fake news” in our society, but how do we – as consumers of modern media – determine what is true and what is false?

Because these questions are so timely and so interesting, I am looking forward to the next speaker in Penn College’s Technology and Society Colloquia Series.

Robert N. McCauley, the founding director of Emory University’s Center for Mind, Brain and Culture, will address the impact of visual images replacing printed words in modern communications, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium.

“A General Assertion Is Worth Innumerable Pictures” will examine our culture’s reliance on technology that primarily disseminates information through visual images. Dr. McCauley says he is “not a naysayer about those technologies,” but he asks us to consider how our minds are stimulated by those images.

During the Feb. 7 presentation, he will share visual stimuli to help the audience understand the difference between natural and intuitive visual perceptions and the more reflective cognition required by the printed word.

“My aim is to get folks to take a step back and reflect on the impact of a variety of new technologies in modern American life,” he said.

Dr. McCauley, a professor of philosophy, psychology, religion and anthropology, is a renowned pioneer in the cognitive science of religion. His most recent book “Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not” suggests that science poses no real threat to religion because minds are better suited to belief than to inquiry. Existing over thousands of years, religion makes better sense intuitively to human minds while science – a more recent development – requires a more rare type of abstract thinking.

As a national leader in applied technology education, Penn College attracts students, faculty and staff with keen interests in the ways technology impacts our daily lives. The opportunity to attend a free presentation by a renowned expert in this field is one we should not miss.

The public also is invited to attend the free series presentations, which offer a unique opportunity for students, faculty, staff and members of the community to participate in intellectual discussions on timely topics that relate to technology and society.

Immediately following Dr. McCauley’s presentation in the auditorium, the author will greet the audience and continue the conversation with interested participants during a free reception in the Academic Center’s Wrapture dining area.

Previous colloquia series presentations have attracted great interest on campus and in the community. You can view a number of the presentations on YouTube. You also can read more about the Technology and Society Colloquia Series and its most recent presentation in earlier blog posts.

Please invite other students, faculty colleagues and friends from the community to join you for this next timely discussion of technology and society issues on Feb. 7. Through the experience, you will be exposed to innumerable new ideas that will enlighten and entertain. See you there!