Steven Rudin

Pareidolia and Apophenia
October 14, 2019

One of our inherent human traits is the brain’s ability to create signal where the signal does not exist. This ability takes place in the same 9 regions that it takes to read a sentence, or look at a painting, or create images within abstract artwork or inkblots.

The human brain is a complex machine. There are different regions that are responsible for different functions. For example, the frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for memory, cognitive skills, emotional expression, sexual behaviors, and judgement. Another example is the right half vs the left half of the brain. The left half of the brain is responsible objective thinking, logic and problem solving. Meanwhile, the right half of the brain is responsible for subjective thinking, and creativity. Then, going is farther there are specific regions within the two hemispheres that are responsible for different functions.

Right now, as you are reading this sentence, you are using 9 different regions of the human brain. Humans use 9 different regions of the brain to read a sentence. Those regions are all responsible for different things, but they all work together to help humans comprehend a sentence.

One area will look at the lines, put them together and decide “oh, that is a letter”. The following region will take those letters and form them into words. Then, the region that is responsible for communication will create the sounds of the words that you are reading. After the sounds are made in your head, the brain will give meaning to the sounds that you are making in your head and create an association with the words. Beyond that, everything else is sensory and responsible for imagery. Your brain will tap into the regions that are responsible for sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. Your brain will begin to put itself into the moment of what you are reading. Really, in-depth, descriptive writing is like sensory candy for the brain.

The same can be said when looking at a painting. When you put yourself into the scene of the painting and feel the landscape, smell the smells in the scenery, or here the noises in the scene, your brain is creating that signal for you. When these illusions take place, many people believe that it is simply your brain playing tricks on you. That is not the case. Having our brain create these illusions, or sequences is a part of our instincts.

This is what I want to demonstrate and convey.

26 May 2019

Two phenomena that often occur in art are pareidolia and apophenia. These psychological phenomena are fairly common, and often occur in people who have a neurotic personality. Pareidolia is the creation of imagery or sound through a vague stimulus. For example, when someone sees the face of Jesus Christ in a piece of toast. Apophenia is giving meaning to something, or giving meaning to unrelated things. For example, seeing the face of Jesus Christ in toast and reading that as a sign of world peace. These two tendencies often go hand-in-hand.

A really popular example of pareidolia meeting apophenia took place in the 1970’s when people started to hear “messages from the devil” hidden in rock music. This was popularized in 1967 by the Beatles who were intentionally putting messages in their album “Revolver”. The intentional placement of backwards messages in recordings is called backmasking. After that, people started to listen to other tracks from the beatles and started hearing messages about Paul McCartney being dead in the song “Revolution 9”. But those messages were never really there. It was simply a case of Pareidolia. But, listeners did not know that and started to hear messages in other songs from other bands.

The most well known case of this was when concerned parents and Christian fundamentalists started to hear messages about the devil in Led Zeppelin's “Stairway to Heaven”. Parents were afraid that these records would be heard by impressional teenagers, and the subliminal messages would bypass the conscious mind of the listener. That is where the apophenia took place. Soon enough, there was widespread panic and protesting. People were burning records that had these “satanic messages”, and trying to have laws passed that would make backmasking illegal. However, it was impossible to get rid of those messages. This is because they were never really there to begin with.

This subject has always intrigued me. The idea of finding a signal where there is no signal. it is as if your brain is creating illusions for you. your own brain is trying to deceive you.

For my seminar thesis project, I want to look more into the psychosis of pareidolia and apophenia. What I want to do, is find a way to communicate the ideas of pareidolia and apophenia visually through design. In a sense, I would be creating my own visual backmasking. I feel like a good place to start would be looking into the origins and psychology of the Rorschach inkblot test, since that is a test that relies on both pareidolia and apophenia.

I have found many online articles about pareidolia and apophenia. I will also be looking at books from the school's library, in the public library for reference.

Mead Branding
13 May 2019

This past year, many of the projects that we did focused in on branding. Some projects that influenced my idea for design seminar include a project on rebranding Montserrat in Design Stories. Also, in typography two during the fall semester, we branded a beverage. What that project entailed was us creating a label for a beverage and advertisement for that beverage. I designed a label for a bottle of mead. This curiosity in mead started at the beginning of my freshman year of college.

I started working as a magician at a Renaissance Faire. While working there, I met so many fascinating people. One of the people that I met there taught me how to make mead at home, and it was straightforward and a lot of fun. This is where my interest in mead started. The method that he taught me was as simple as mixing honey and water in a food-safe bucket, adding yeast and leaving it in a closet or a dark area for a couple of weeks. The only problem was that I could never maintain consistency in the taste and I never learned how to maintain it. So I lost interest in making it.

Fast forward to this past January, I started a job at The Castle, a board game cafe on Rantoul Street in Beverly. I found out that we sold mead at the cafe and I told my boss how I used to make it. He had a few connections to a couple of the local beer breweries in Beverly, and he connected me with them. However, beer was far different from mead. I decided to see if there were any meaderies near me that I could maybe take a tour of. In February, I took a tour of the 1634 meadery in Ipswich. While there, I sampled a bunch of different types of mead, I learned how a professional makes it, and my interest in making my own had come back, and had heavily influenced what I wanted to do in seminar.

For seminar, I would like to add some extra steps to the project that I did in typography 2. I want to brand a bottle of mead. I plan to design the packaging and advertisements. I intend to come up with recipes for multiple flavors of mead and design packaging based on those flavors. I also recently learned about different cocktails that are made with mead. So, I would also like to design and typeset a recipe book that is primarily mead-based cocktails. Some of which would be from other people, and some of which would be my own.

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