Posted by: malenfantable | December 17, 2011

Image and deception

When researching, pondering, and looking for interesting topics for my final paper I could not really come to any satisfying concept until I looked into the incredibly academic world of Yahoo Answers . I think a great deal of information about how we as humans perceive and are simultaneously deceived can be seen through the uneducated, or un-reasearched answers we can find on sites like Yahoo or Wiki answers. These answers, especially when ungrounded, can give us a window into how many different visual and textual mediums can come together to create an altogether false or unfounded common knowledge. 

For example when I type into the Google search bar, “Was Lewis Carroll a…” google gives me the most commonly asked question, “Was Lewis Carroll a pervert?” If I accept this wording and click search, my first internet hit is a link to yahooanswers.com( http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100513155537AALX8Hy) The best answer chosen by the asker is: 

“Without ANY DOUBT Lewis Carroll was a dirty old man, but because he was a great mathematician and an even better writer of fascinating childrens books like many other famous people his “transgressions” are forgotten and forgiven, and how about his photos of little girls almost naked? yes the guy was a pedophile but a very ingenious and genial one. 

Voila.”

Or alternatively, if I search, “Drug references in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” in my first three hits I get linked to an article that uses images from the 1951 Disney movie to describe possible references to drugs in the 1865 children’s novel.(http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2011/02/22/alice-in-wonderland-demonstrates-various-drug-use/)

So voila. That’s that. No but seriously now, how do we come up with this information? Where is the source? I don’t think there is one specific source, there is instead, a culminating effect of ideas and guesses based off  sometimes unrelated imagery that yields fallacious knowledge. Maybe this is not interesting to others, maybe I am reading too far into the depths of silly online forums, but I really do think there is something in this false understanding. I believe it may show that unrelated images from different time periods can shape people’s conceptions of history in a very real way, whether it be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or something completely different. 


Responses

  1. I think that this is an incredibly widespread phenomenon, that even permeates supposedly scholarly work. How often do we hear phrases like, “The Victorians were very repressed,” or other such generalizations about all of the people of a certain era. It speaks to the prevalence and importance placed on media in our society. There is a difference, though, between stereotypes, like the repressed Victorians, misinterpretations, like the assumption that Carroll was a pedophile, and misinformation, like the belief that “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is about drugs. While it’s pretty easy to see where the first two come from, the third is baffling. Looking specifically at the case of Alice, I have no idea who decided it was about drugs. When I hear that explanation of the book, I am always reminded of the Jefferson Airplane song, “White Rabbit,” which is probably the oldest media piece that espouses this view. Some google searching suggests that the interpretation started in the 1960’s, when people suddenly decided that the hookah-smoking caterpillar telling Alice to eat a piece of mushroom clearly meant that the entire book was about drugs. Of course, I could say that this makes sense, since the media tells us that everyone in the ’60s ate hallucinogenic mushrooms. I haven’t done any scholarly research into the subject, but it is amazing that in several pages of google search results, I saw several times that the drug metaphor originated in the ’60s, and nothing more, other than people absolutely convinced that “Alice” was about drugs. It is certainly interesting that scholarly work doesn’t permeate through the bounds of Google Scholar to the results that the masses see.


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