intro: how to see the world

As part of this weeks task, we where told to read and reflect on three points in Nicholas Mirzoeff’s introduction to “How to See the World” that we find interesting.


“The numbers are astonishing: one hundred hours of Youtube video are uploaded every minuet. Six billon hours of video are watched every month on the site, one hour for every person on the earth.”

Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World, Pelican (Penguin Books), 2015, Page 6

Since I spent most of my high school life without internet so this statistic shocked me. I knew that as a teenager many of my friends often enjoyed watching a Youtube video as a quick study break but these figures are huge. Later on in the paragraph Mirzoeff talks about the development of film and photography and the rate of which humans capture whats around them. Thanks to smartphones and the accelerated rate of which our technology is exceeding, we are able to take high quality photos anywhere at anytime; “Every two minuets, Americans alone take more photographs than were made in the entire nineteenth century” (Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World, Pelican (Penguin Books), 2015, Page 6). Generally I myself take a reasonable amount of photos but reading these statistics was still interesting but mildly shocking.

“Though the transformations of the present may appear unprecedented, there have been many similar periods of dramatic change in the visible world before. The nineteenth century was famously described by historian Jean-Louis Comolli as a “frenzy of the visible” because of the inventions of photography, film, X-ray and many other now forgotten visual technologies in the period (Comolli 1980).”

Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World, Pelican (Penguin Books), 2015, Page 16

It seems odd to think that our present has gone “through transformations”. In my opinion it seems that all the technology and new additions to the visible world are exciting but almost predictable. We are in a constant state of improvement. In the 19th century these advances were life changing simply because all of that new technology was never seen before, some ideas seeming almost fictitious. In our generation people seem to upgrade¬†technology or make it smaller, faster, more user friendly. There isn’t much that comes to the market that hasn’t been seen before. I find looking at the development and history of modern technology fascinating but don’t often find new designs extremely interesting.

“What once took centuries, even millennia, happens in a single human lifetime. As the ice-caps melt, gases that were frozen hundreds of thousands of years ago are released into the atmosphere. You can say that time travel is as simple as breathing these days, at least on a molecular level”

Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World, Pelican (Penguin Books), 2015, Page 27

I was amused by Mirzoeff’s whimsy on this rather serious statement. On a book about how to see the world I suspected conversation about global warming and the worlds environment.It will be interesting to see if Mirzoeff ¬†intertwines this topic with visual culture throughout his novel. I would enjoy reading about how/if these two topics have influence each other. I hope to read more about this further through this book.

Works Cited: Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World



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