Friday, January 20, 2017

January Deep Thought: Listening to the Inauguration

Listening to the Inauguration

Jennifer E. Miller

Today we have a new president. A big change for sure. Whether or not it is believed Donald Trump is suited for the job is no longer of concern, because he is the president now. There is no other option but move forward.

I chose to listen to the inauguration via the radio. To report: experiencing it in this fashion felt refreshing. Listening to a radio broadcast, versus watching it on my television screen, allowed me to only focus on the words spoken. I tuned in just as our new president began his speech. There were no distractions filling the sides of the frame. Reading additional snippets of mindless information scrolling across my screen was no bother to me. I didn’t feel compelled to interpret body language since I was unable to see it. That goes for the speaker’s body language as well as the audience’s. I had no idea if it was sunny or cloudy day; pleasant or frigid temperatures. Removing the live picture brought forth the raw words where I applied their effect on myself; without reporters, supporters, protestors, or other personal agendas attempting to sway my thoughts on the inaugural address.

Radio is how people received news before there were a dozen televisions in every home. I think it is possible that the introduction of TV has depleted the crucial communication skill of listening, by providing our brains with visual reactions before our own thoughtful consideration can take place. Any picture presents the tempting option to pass judgement; think of first impressions. Of course, this theory can go the other way, too. I can’t see what is happening in the background when I tune in to the radio. For all I know, the Obama administration could’ve been sticking their tongues out as Trump spoke of promises and visions. I doubt that was the case, but physically possible, nonetheless. A message without a picture is certainly a different, although traditional, way to absorb it.

Before the widespread use of cameras (or ability to print images), newspapers entirely consisted of words. Now, it’s near impossible to find a page in the local paper without a photograph. Image is tricky. It’s possible to print facts only using words, but present something entirely different when a photo is introduced. A picture can be photo-shopped, altered, or the frame simply doesn’t include all of the scene. Or someone can say one thing while a photograph shows differently; assuming the photograph is the truthful instance this time. A former employer once said to me, “A photograph never lies; but lies are often photographed.” Take Sasquatch photographs. The picture isn’t lying, per se, but it's possible a hoax was caught on camera. Image use has the possibility to sway a reader’s view towards truth or untruths.

Imagery is helpful to prove or deny statements or claims. I could falsely tell people over the telephone I have blonde hair. When they see a photograph of me (assuming the image is of me) it is clear I have brown hair. But what if I had colored my hair blonde? Is that photo a lie? If I have naturally brown hair, colored blonde, the hair follicles underneath the blonde sections are still brown. Which is true? I suppose I could state that yesterday I had brown hair and today it’s blonde. I changed my “truth.” That would be the epitome of a politician’s standpoint on nearly anything; it’s rarely constant, and constantly changing. In any case, truthfulness should be of utmost importance, and an image should accurately portray that. It can be relentlessly argued whether any person’s image matches their intents. This element will be questioned forever.

I hope I have thoughtfully presented, by way of the 2017 inauguration, that while images are useful, they can also easily influence opinions. The same goes for writing words, of course, but that’s a topic for another day. I thought it was interesting how differently I reacted to a subject when listening to a broadcast versus watching a TV news broadcast. It confirmed my suspicion: “read” images with caution. Cheers to a new presidency.

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