BookPDF Available

Visual Learning -- A Year After Visual Learning Lab Papers ed. by András Benedek and Kristóf Nyíri

The talks here printed were given at a follow-up meeting to the 8th
Budapest Visual Learning Conference, 2018, the meeting being held
on May 23, 2019, at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Talks
given by András Benedek (organizer of the event; Prof. of Education
at the Dept. of Technical Education, BME), Kristóf Nyíri (Member
of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Petra Aczél (Prof. and Head
of Institute of Behavioral Science and Communication Theory at
Corvinus University of Budapest), Anna Somfai (Central European
University), Irma Puškarević (University of Novi Sad), Andrea Kár-
páti (Prof., Institute of Behavioral Science and Communication The-
ory at Corvinus University of Budapest), Péter Neuman (PhD, Dept.
of Phil. and History of Science, BME), Rita Lisa Vella and Anna
Chiara Sabatino (both holding a PhD in Communication Science,
University of Salerno).
Visual Learning – A Year After
Visual Learning Lab Papers
ed. by András Benedek and Kristóf Nyíri
© Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME),
Department of Technical Education, Visual Learning Lab
© the authors, 2019
The papers here collected have been accepted after a strict double-blind peer-
review process.
Cover design: István Ocztos
Budapest 2019
HU ISSN 2498-7441
András Benedek
Continuing the Visual Learning Project ….…….….….………...…. 5
Kristóf Nyíri
Visual Cognition: The State of the Art …………………………..… 9
Petra Aczél
Rhetoric: The Primordial Power ………….………….……..…….. 15
Anna Somfai
Visual Thinking:
A Cognitive Reading of Codex Layouts …………………………. 19
Irma Puškarević
Visualizing with Letters …….……….………..…….….………… 29
Andrea Kárpáti
Bauhaus Pedagogy:
The Origins of Design Thinking ………….……………….……... 35
Péter Neuman
The Victory of the Visual Approach
in Abstract Physical Theory ………….…..……………….……... 47
Rita Lisa Vella – Anna Chiara Sabatino
Virtual and Augmented Realities,
Cinematic Experience: Urban Space 3.0 …...………..….……...… 51
András Benedek
Continuing the Visual Learning Project
It was almost exactly one decade ago, in October 2009, that the
philosophical discussions I had with Prof. Kristóf Nyíri on the role
played by time and images in human activities led the expert group
around me dealing with the development of education to the idea to
establish – building on our researches investigating the more and
more complex impact of mobile communication tools on learning – a
Learning Lab within the Budapest University of Technology and
Economics. Although both topics – mobile communication on the
one hand, visual learning on the other – are equally important both
from the theoretical and practical aspects of education, we finally
chose the issue of visuality and started to examine it from an inter-
disciplinary approach. The success of our first meeting – a presenta-
tion given by Prof. Dr. Kurt Röttgers (FernUniversität in Hagen, In-
stitut für Philosophie), visiting professor at the Department of Tech-
nical Education, and a brief talk given by Prof. Alan Knox (Univer-
sity of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Educational Leadership
& Policy) – and the interest we experienced gave us the impetus we
needed to go on.
The widest possible interpretation of visuality awakened the
interest of the representatives of several disciplines. Linguists, psy-
chologists, sociologists and experts in technical sciences joined the
more and more exciting program of our professional platform that
was initiated by a philosopher and an education researcher. The
evolution of international dialogue was strengthened by the Visual
Learning Conferences organized each year between 2010 and 2016;
in spite of its initial workshop conference nature – 30-40 scientific
lectures – with the talks of European and even overseas researchers,
it slowly outgrew the modest university frameworks. Of course, elec-
tronic publicity was available, as well, through the abstracts, presen-
tations and our web page (, and at the same time,
we launched a book series, too (Visual Learning). The seven books in
this series included the studies that were written by the speakers of
the outstanding lectures held at the conferences and were strictly edit-
ed; the series was published by The Peter Lang Publishing Group.
Looking back at the results of the former years, at the turn of
2017 and 2018 we made a new decision. Stepping out of the routine
of organizing our conference each year, we prepared a more sig-
nificant event, and we won the Hungarian Academy of Sciences over
to support the organization of the 8th Budapest Visual Learning
Conference (VLC8). We faced some relevant questions: What profes-
sional responses would we meet? How intense and what quality
interest could be awakened by lectures that were relevant in their
field (Communication – Culture – Consciousness) and were connect-
ed to the broad and complex interdisciplinary topic of Visual
Learning? How would we be able to create a synthesis summing up
the given topics and to provide a summative evaluation of an exciting
period of co-thinking? These questions were partly responded by the
interest in the conference (150 participants and 93 lecturers), and the
results of the international event can also be judged by the reader. We
made some changes in the method and genre of publishing our find-
ings. Considering the topic timely and worth further researches, we
decided to compile a new series of three books to be published by the
Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Budapest University of Tech-
nology and Economics. The slightly altered title of the new series,
Perspectives on Visual Learning, refers to this new phase. However,
the titles of the volumes show that arriving at the end of a develop-
ment stage, we undertook something more: a comprehensive reeval-
uation. This is why the first volume, comprising 21 chapters, was
titled: Vision Fulfilled: The Victory of the Pictorial Turn. It took only
a little more than half a year to make this book available: the elec-
tronic form has been accessible since December 2018 and the print
form since the spring of 2019. The second book was titled: Learning
and Technology in Historical Perspective, and it contains 14 chap-
ters. The studies were connected to a wider thematic of education and
teaching, the authors, again, were teachers, sociologists, philosophers,
media researchers and technical experts. In addition to their theo-
retical approaches, the chapters introduced the practical experiences
of the relevant researches, as well.
We have now reached the final volume of this series. Its title,
Image and Metaphor in the New Century, makes it clear that we have
arrived at an essential phase of our story; however, the volume is not
the closure of something but deals with new exciting issues that are
topical from a scientific point of view. Placing the notion of meta-
phor into a broad context, the authors deal with new phenomena of
visuality indicating the wider environment of education as part of a
system of organic interrelations. They show us what challenge the
complexity of our world means for the disciplines in terms of the
subject and the applied methods. This is why we consider it essential
that we have had the opportunity to adopt a multidisciplinary ap-
proach in these volumes and their more than fifty chapters, demon-
strating the fascinating issues engaging many researchers; publishing
the results of their thinking may attract further professionals to these
developments. I am very grateful to Kristóf Nyíri who rendered us
enormous help in the professional preparation of the volumes, in cre-
ating their final form, and without whose ideas, constructive propos-
als and generous editing work this exciting new series could not have
been born.
Life is going on, our research community, which is also formed
by spontaneous impacts, faces new perspectives. I wish to contribute
to the hoped-for and demanded continuity with two thoughts. On one
hand, based on the successful conferences and rich publications of
the past decade, I reckon that it has been proved that in terms of
complex phenomena like the impacts images exert on our lives,
multidisciplinary approaches are extremely up-to-date both as re-
search topics and as programs. In terms of the common activities of
the various disciplines, this field is hiding prime opportunities that
might fulfil great hopes through mutual interest and the comparison
and constructive critical elaboration of partial research results. This
speciality may offer a perspective even in the current situation of the
domestic academic sector, and, in addition to basic researches that
are obviously important, it may show some good examples of the
domestic contribution of applied researches. In my opinion, we can
see relatively few researches of this type, implemented with a very
low budget, that have exerted such a well-perceptible impact on the
international field and various disciplines. My second thought draws
attention to the wide-spectrum collaboration possibilities of the aca-
demic and the university research sphere. Its frameworks have been
shaped by the latest years’ developments in a new way. Through its
scientific committees the Academy as a scene provides an orientation
as well as a research and communication scope that university re-
search communities can join with their colourful professional iden-
tities in a constructive way. It would be worth carrying on this
colourful research cooperation indicating progression in its changes
by involving new topics and maintaining common fora in the future.
Kristóf Nyíri
Visual Cognition: The State of the Art
A decisive insight within today’s philosophy of images is the recog-
nition that objects of vision are as a rule moving ones, rather than
static. Vision and movement are bound up with each other. It has of
course been known for a long time that the seeing eye is never at rest,
but that is not the main point here. The main point is that when we
open our eyes to the world, the picture offering itself is, normally, a
moving one. Likewise, our visual mental images tend to fluctuate,
rather than stand still. Still images are man-made artefacts, com-
promises forced upon their creators by there not being technical
means to put together moving ones. Drawing image sequences, the
precursors of the animated image, of course has had a long tradition;
and by the twentieth century there emerged film, animation, video.
However, it was not until quite recently that handling and even cre-
ating moving images became possible on one’s own computer. This
latter development forms the immediate technological background of
the pictorial turn, set on its way to victory. We now perceive still im-
ages as limiting cases of moving ones, we realize that it is the mov-
ing image that embodies what an image really is. Moving images are
not in need of interpretation, or captions, or verbal context, as op-
posed to the way still images are. The notorious problem of the ambi-
guity of the static image herewith disappears. Let us add that new
light is here shed on another notorious problem, that of the existing
or not existing grammar/syntax of pictures, discussed in volume 3 of
the series Perspectives on Visual Learning both by Forceville and by
Bárány. Just think of the primal situation of one looking around in
one’s visual surroundings: looking at this and then at that, or at that,
or not looking at something.
Moving images happen in time. Images and time hang togeth-
er. There is an intrinsic connection between how images mean and
how time flows. We cannot gain a proper understanding of the func-
tion of images unless we have an at least approximate notion of what
time is. On the other hand, the concept of time cannot be grasped
through verbal definitions, as the history of philosophy has so de-
pressingly shown. There is a famous passage by St. Augustine: “What
then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one
that asketh, I know not.” Augustine’s embarrassment was understan-
dable, since clearly he possessed certain perceptual images related to
time, did not however have at his disposal, as neither have we today,
a verbally articulated explanation. What we possess are verbal im-
ages, in the sense of verbal metaphors. Time cannot be conceptual-
ized except by metaphors, and so ultimately by images, of movement
in space. A fundamental metaphor is that of the flow of time. It is a
complex figure of thought, synthesizing the experience of the pas-
sage of time as a physical force on the one hand, and the experience
of the present as gradually receding into the past on the other. I will
within minutes come back to the topic of metaphors, but let me first
embark on a different train of thought by noting that the concept of
the flow of time can be very well expressed in some specific visual
languages: the languages of deaf communities, the language of ges-
There is every reason to believe, and this is the second deci-
sive insight within today’s philosophy of images, that the language of
gestures is the primordial language of humankind. My Postscript to
volume 1 of the series Perspectives on Visual Learning provides de-
tailed arguments, here let me just refer to the central point: verbal
language could not have possibly emerged before the coming into
being of visual language – the language of gestures and facial expres-
sions. Verbal language rests on conventions, the language of gestures
rests on immediate visual resemblances. In order to form conventions
you cannot but use a language, and in the course of the development
of verbal language – we are speaking of an evolution that probably
happened as late as perhaps 30,000 or so years ago the only lan-
guage humankind had been in a position to use was visual language.
Now once the fact of the historical priority of visual language is ac-
cepted, the primacy of visual thinking, too, must clearly be recog-
nized. Our early ancestors were, obviously, thinking beings, however
since they did not yet possess a verbal language, their thinking must
have been sensual, and indeed, fundamentally, visual.
The emergence of verbal language – spoken language – based
on the language of gestures and facial expressions, must have been an
immensely complex process, with so-called mouth-gestures – sound-
producing mouth movements, most importantly lip movements – prob-
ably playing an essential mediating role. Now visuality is primarily
bound up with the right brain hemisphere, while symbolic – verbal,
arithmetical – processing with the left one. The rise of verbal lang-
uage must have placed enormous psychological pressures on the gen-
erations subjected to the process. Imagine the accomplished orator of
gesture language having to cope with the upcoming of spoken lan-
guage. Stammering, he must have been looking for words. It is in this
light we must see the role of early, and even contemporary, rhetorics.
Rhetorics is not about the pictorial embellishment of ordinary spoken
language. It is about recovering the original sensual-pictorial content
having become buried under mere words. The Budapest Visual Learn-
ing Lab has had the good fortune of being able to count Petra Aczél,
world-renowned theoretician of rhetorics, among its contributing mem-
bers from the very beginning.
Developing through the phases of pictographs and syllabic writ-
ing, alphabetic writing emerged roughly around the 8th century B.C.,
in Greece. It was a real blow to visual thinking. It used no word spac-
ing, as neither did early Latin texts, thereby making the optical recog-
nition of single words difficult, with reading out loud the only option:
you understood what you heard, not what you saw. This changed in
the following centuries, but there still remained dramatic tensions
between visuality and textuality, tensions wonderfully brought out by
Anna Somfai’s chapter “Visual Thinking in Medieval Manuscripts”,
in volume 2 of our series Perspectives on Visual Learning. Medieval
manuscripts could be replete with elaborate illuminations and, even,
small paintings, but let us add that, as William Ivins classically point-
ed out in his Prints and Visual Communication, they were not ac-
companied by scientific drawings, since in the copying process they
would have been inevitably distorted anyway. The technology of
printing woodcuts, etchings and engravings was unknown in Europe
until as late as 1400 A.D; then came book printing with the invention
of the movable type by Gutenberg, but even after Gutenberg pictures
were relatively rare in humanities publications, since both for the
author and the printer to deal with images was much more cumber-
some than to deal with texts. With the arrival of the age of photo-
graphy this began to change, but the change was not radical: human-
ities authors as a rule did still not add photos to their typescripts, they
were happy to type away on their typewriters, pouring out words that
dealt with words, even while cinema and television completely al-
tered the culture surrounding them. The radical change, as we have
claimed by way of introduction, came with the computer, first en-
abling authors to work with still images, and then, finally, with mov-
ing ones.
The full vocabulary of verbal language must have consisted, in
its earliest phases already, mainly of metaphors – I am returning to
the topic of metaphor. The meagre core vocabulary could not but
refer to the human body itself – its parts, postures, and movements;
any extension must have relied on a transposed mode of speech. But
let me point out that even gesture language already made use of
metaphors. It is indicated at this point to refer to Wilhelm Wundt’s
The Language of Gestures, the original German editions published
around 1900. Wundt here claims that gesture language has “an
originality and naturalness such as speech neither possesses today nor
has ever had in any forms hitherto uncovered by linguistics”, and
agrees with the view according to which “gestural communication is
the original means of communication”. He first analyzes what he de-
scribes as “concrete” gestures, but then introduces also the notion of
“symbolic” gestures, of which he writes: “The over-all character of
the symbolic gesture … consists of transmitting the concept to be
communicated from one field of perception to another, e.g. implying
a temporal conception with spatial means or depicting an abstract
idea physically.” Wundt appears to be not only an early forerunner of
conceptual metaphor theory, a fact not known to Lakoff and Johnson,
but also of the conceptual metaphor approach as applied to the visual
a fact not known to leading figures recently pursuing research on
the subject. And let us here add another idea to the theme metaphor
and visuality, an idea that was indirectly alluded to in the present talk
some minutes earlier: even verbal metaphors express what they ex-
press only by virtue of sensual, mostly visual, images. The Postscript,
mentioned earlier, to the first volume of our series Perspectives on
Visual Learning, provides some references backing this idea; just
now it should suffice to recall a brilliant passage by the Jesuit
Stephen J. Brown, dating back to 1927: metaphor amounts to an “im-
ported image coming vividly before our mental vision, while the
notion which is the real subject of the discourse momentarily fades
into the background, and is seen only through the image”.
One of the very few who were still aware of Stephen Brown in
the post-WWII era was art historian and psychologist Rudolf Arn-
heim. He extensively quoted Brown in a 1948 essay. At the time,
Arnheim still had a long way to go before writing his 1969 magis-
terial book Visual Thinking. That book was the first indication that
after decades in the wake of the linguistic turn, a pictorial turn might
follow. For quite some time it did not happen. In the past few years
however the trend has changed. I believe that the Budapest Visual
Learning Lab, during the first ten years of its existence, has contrib-
uted to that change.
Petra Aczél
Rhetoric: The Primordial Power
In fact, what is primordial remains unheard; it is not self-evident
from the beginning, nor do we know how it manifests itself to us –
says Ernesto Grassi in his preface to the volume titled The Pri-
mordial Metaphor in 1994. By the term primordial we are brave to
presume that there is a beginning and a persistence; that there is the
original experience of meeting and being in the world, that there is an
ancient source of energy. How can rhetoric be considered the pri-
mordial power of communication?
It has been nine years since I first had the honour to dwell
upon rhetoric as visual and sensual within the academic circle of the
Visual Learning Laboratory. It is then almost a decade that I invested
– with the indispensable intellectual and scholarly support of profes-
sor Kristóf Nyíri – into the quest for a rhetoric that is not visual in
terms of the target domain but inherently, originally sensual.
This quest has been worth every step of its way, though meant
a disproportionately armed battle with enduring interpretations of
rhetoric as the verbal art of persuasion. Entailing eight published es-
says in the Visual Learning book series, my search was indeed made
to find the primordially visual-sensual in rhetoric. Instead of a big or
a little rhetoric, a deep rhetoric, that is, a novel perspective of the
two-millennia-old faculty which unveils the capacity rhetoric has be-
yond the verbal. I also wanted to follow the urging message I. A.
Richards delivered in 1930 saying that “so low has Rhetoric sunk that
we would do better just to dismiss it to Limbo than to trouble our-
selves with it – unless we can find reason for believing that it can
become a study that will minister successfully to important needs”. In
my view and endeavour, the future of rhetoric can lay in the success
of rediscovery of its relevance for and within the visual-sensual do-
Actually, the visual has seldom been focused in rhetorical the-
ory. Even though rhetorical persuasion and tropes (both exploiting
the visual, the non-verbal) have attracted notable scholarly attention
throughout the centuries, if it were not for the metaphor, rhetoric
would have been practically excluded from the visual realm. Even
though the 21st century has brought a new, more visual mindset to
the interpretation of rhetoric, the visual rhetoric this thinking has bred
seems to be more about the application of the rhetorical instrument to
pictures, visual ads, films or spaces than about the identification of
the considerable extent rhetoric is visual-sensual in itself. There are,
however, several earlier and contemporary scholars who dedicated
their theoretical ventures to this latter concept, assuming that there is
certainly more beside the metaphor with which the visual theory of
rhetoric can be informed. Giambattista Vico, the innovative rhetori-
cian from the 18th century, followed by the neo-humanist Ernesto
Grassi in the 20th century enforced the idea of an originary language
that reflects the experience of wonder (thaumazein) in our meeting
with the world. This experience is not at all rational but uses our or-
gans, our bodies and senses. Frances Yates in her seminal work on
The Art of Memory shed contemporary light on the long-forgotten,
still, highly effective rhetorical method of remembering texts. Ars
memorativa was a space- and image-based semi-conventional proce-
dure speakers used in the ancient Athenian culture to be able to select
and disseminate vivid ideas. Debra Hawhee has just published her
second book (Tooth and Claw) on how much classical rhetorical
practice was bound with the bodily. She, systematically revisiting
Greek and Latin texts offers a bright new horizon for finding a new
position for rhetorical literacy. These are just a few instances from
the less than numerous investigations which can prove that there are
pathways to be followed that lead us back to a deeper, a visually-
sensually enriched rhetoric.
Rhetoric as a primordial power calls for a different definition
from the ones that we have been administered so far, concentrating
on the formation of suasory, verbal texts. George Kennedy, translator
of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, provides us with the basis for this non-
mainstream rationale, arguing, that ”Rhetoric, in the most general
sense, can be regarded as a form of mental or emotional energy
imparted to a communication to affect a situation in the interest of
the speaker. … So understood, rhetoric is a feature of all human com-
munication…” If rhetoric is a form of energy – that is, a primordial,
creative force – then any kind of signs and signals can be included
into the rhetorical encounter, for any forms of expression can be
infused with such an energy. As a matter of fact, encounters do not
exclusively start with verbal exchanges. Indeed, there is more than
the word if the origins of rhetoric are considered. Rhetoric was
originally about both bodily and discursive expressions of the com-
pound self. The task of the rhetorical practice was to pair the visible
with the articulable. Feeling and sensation were salient, seeing and
telling were mutually constitutive in expression. If we go a bit further
into the origins of rhetoric, accepting that it had a more holistic role
and reference that that of the persuasive verbal act, we find a lot of
traces of the visual within rhetorical theory. I have already mentioned
the art of memory but there are also rich descriptions of phantasia,
the inner sense of the speaker and the receiver, that connects imagin-
ation, cogitation and memory, ingenium, the creative force in meet-
ing, cognizing and expressing the world, energeia, the energizing
force that guide speakers to create vivid descriptions and to make
their audiences to picture what is said in order to persuade or ekphra-
Figure 1
sis, the rhetorical description that unfolds before the audience’s eyes,
among others. Rhetoric then can be seen as a highly image-based,
image-evoking source and mode of communication, conveying vivid
messages that energize viewers’ and listeners’ senses.
This rhetoric has a sensual character the declaration of which
needs the reconsideration of the terminology rhetoric is most often
described by. So, in place of the traditional rhetorical canon we shall
build a theoretical frame that includes energy, sensing, imagery, kai-
ros and sensitivity (Figure 1), embracing a novel concept. A concept
of the primordial power of human communication: a new rhetoric
that reaches back the to the origins.
Anna Somfai
Visual Thinking:
A Cognitive Reading of Codex Layouts
Medieval codex layouts were complex designs planned with intended
readership and specific purpose in mind. The present paper offers an
insight into the archaeology of the mise-en-page from the point of
view of its cognitive functions.
Medieval manuscripts being handwritten provided space for
reshaping layouts, texts, images, reading and writing practices, and
ideas. Texts were in each case copied from earlier manuscripts with
an eye for accommodating the changing demands of readers and with
the aim to best transmit and organize a body of knowledge.
The Structure of the Folio:
Cognitive Implications of Planning the Layout
Folio layouts were mentally designed; then the concept was trans-
ferred on the physical folio. Ruling a blank page meant marking up
empty space for entering texts and images in a specific manner. The
process involved visual and cognitive choices as well as aesthetic
considerations. Double horizontal and vertical lines served as the
main text frame and also as a simple form of decoration (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Double-line ruling for the frame of the main
text. Basic decorative element. (The drawings in this
paper are my own.)
Horizontal lines of the textual space helped to write faster and to
produce straight lines of writing. Ruling was usually omitted for
aesthetic reasons where larger illuminated initials and images were
planned. When gloss was anticipated the marginal space was also
ruled, with narrower line spacing for smaller letters akin to the mod-
ern use of double and single space (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Ruling for main text
and gloss: double space for main
text, single space for gloss.
The two basic designs for ruling for text were long lines (Fig-
ure 3) and columns (Figure 4). Medieval scribes at different times
Figure 3: Basic layout
design: long lines.
Figure 4: Basic layout
design: columns.
made different choices depending on the book genres and based on
experience. Eyes move in saccades, thus columns, being narrow, al-
low faster reading. Column design was used for instance for 13th-
century university textbooks where large amount of reading was ex-
pected. In addition to the main text space, the margins were also
ruled for additional, even narrower multiple columns to enter margi-
nal gloss (Figure 5). Devotional books of the time had long lines with
Figure 5: Layout of a 13th-century
University textbook of Aristotle.
Schema based on London British Library
Harley MS 3487.
the text punctured with colourful images, large initials, and their bor-
ders were illuminated with vegetation and various scenes involving
human and animal figures (Figure 6). While the first design elicited
Figure 6: Devotional book. Fieschi Psalter. Walters Art
Museum MS 45, fol. 17v (13th c.). Digital image courtesy
of the Creative Commons license.
thinking, note-taking, and discussion and inspired an environment of
teaching and learning, the second invited meditation and emotional
response with slower pace of intermittent reading done in solitude.
Texts copied a number of times over the span of several centuries
often show variations in layout, level of decoration and glossing tech-
niques, testifying to changing attitudes.
Special layouts were developed over time in response to the
demands of individual texts and genres. The canon tables listing the
parallel loci of the four Gospels were arranged in four columns in an
architectural setting, visually emphasizing the correspondence of the
passages (Figure 7). Manuscripts of Euclid’s Elements were often de-
Figure 7: Canon table. Freising Gospels. Walters Art
Museum MS 4, fol. 24r (9th c.). Digital image courtesy
of the Creative Commons license.
signed in a two-column structure with diagrams placed on the left-
hand side and their explanatory texts on the right, moving visually
from left to right thus from proof to explanation but also allowing the
eye to run in either column from top to bottom, following literally a
different direction of thought. Averroes’ commentaries to Aristotle’s
works were sometimes written in a visually inescapable manner in-
tertwined with Aristotle’s text within the main text frame, but in
smaller letters and single-spaced for instantaneous recognition.
Devices of Division: Zooming in on Details
While ruling provided the main framework for arranging texts and im-
ages, visual devices facilitated quicker orientation within the volume
and on each page. Headers allowed readers to find a certain portion
of the text while skipping others. Within the body of the text titles
were often entered in red ink catching the eyes instantly (Figure 8).
Figure 8: Use of rubrum. Guido delle Colonne, History
of the destruction of Troy. Walters Art Museum MS 81,
fol. 4v (14th c.). Digital image courtesy of the Creative
Commons license.
Medieval scripts have changed over time and some of the early ones
were used later for writing titles or first lines, a practice similar to our
use of different fonts and styles within the same page (Figure 9).
Figure 9: Use of different scripts. Incipit and title in cap-
italis quadrata and capitalis rustica, text in Carolingian
minuscule. Walters Art Museum MS 4, fol. 34r (9th c.).
Digital image courtesy of the Creative Commons license.
The text was visually mapped up throughout to facilitate easy
navigation and quicker but deeper reading. A hierarchy of initials
was introduced ranging from large, many-line illuminated initials
through levels of smaller initials, differentiated by size and colour
complexity, to small initials in blue or red or in the ink used for the
text (Figure 10). Paragraph marks, sometimes in colour, were insert-
ed to divide the text into units of thought. Punctuation marks indi-
cated pauses based on further analysis of meaning at an even finer
level. While titles and initials which resulted from canonized divisions
Figure 10: Hiearchy of initials. Book of Hours. Walters
Art Museum MS 37, fol. 15r (1300-1320). Digital image
courtesy of the Creative Commons license.
for books and chapters had constant places, paragraph marks and
punctuation focused on the precise meaning of briefer sections and
marked a pause in reading and thinking, thus they changed location
matching the interpretation of individual scribes and readers. Various
helpful pointers were added in the margins by the scribe and by later
readers, such as chapter numbers, source marks, and symbols interre-
lating different texts within the manuscripts (Figure 11). These de-
vices allowed the reader to browse the text, skim read it and skip sec-
tions to focus on others or provided further information as do today’s
Figure 11: Marginal cross references. Walters Art Muse-
um MS 4, fol. 37v (9th c.). Digital image courtesy of the
Creative Commons license.
Not all manuscript layouts were structured with an array of
visual devices. Yet when lines were running with no pause visible at
a glance, a closer look reveals division of a different kind, one that is
now taken for granted nevertheless took time to develop. By the 11th
century the late ancient scriptura continua, text running with no space
between words, gave place to the practice of word separation which
helped readers of vernacular native languages to avoid vocalization
while reading silently. This development contributed to smoother and
faster reading at a more elementary level while also making the furth-
er divisions possible.
Engaging with the Folio: The Ongoing Discourse
Exploring texts through studying them in manuscripts prepared in
this manner trained the mind to treat the folio as a personalized writ-
ing surface and to experiment with one’s own ideas. Readers contin-
ued the interpretation of the main text and previous gloss by adding
their own textual and visual gloss engaging both intellectually and
physically with what lay before them. Words highlighting the content
Figure 12: Gloss. Aristotle. Walters Art Museum MS 66,
fol. 1r (13th c.). Digital image courtesy of the Creative
Commons license.
of a section, nota signs and pointing hands as well as longer com-
ments on specific points accumulated in the margins (Figure 12).
Thinking processes were made visually apparent as mental images
were transformed into visual ones and textual analyses appeared in
the marginal and interlinear space. These further additions by later
readers introduced a new element in the reading of texts and images,
that of continued and open-ended communication. Space thus facili-
tated discourse over time producing a visually manifest reception his-
Some of the explanations took the form of visual thinking, lit-
erally decomposing diagrams in an effort to explain details of their
structure and function. Sometimes, where space allowed, decomposed
Figure 13: Brussels Bibliothèque Royal MS 9625-9626,
fol. 13r page layout. Main diagram is explored by de-
composing into cubes then further into squares placed
within the main text frame and in the margin with
explicatory texts in the squares.
elements and additional diagrams were squeezed around diagrams
within the main text (Figure 13), at other times they were placed in
Figure 14: Brussels Bibliothèque Royal MS 9625-9626,
fol. 12r page layout. Main diagram is decomposed into
squares which are placed in the margin with explicatory
text inside.
the margin (Figure 14). Such instances closely mirror the cognitive
processes of the medieval annotator readers.
Navigating through the medieval mise-en-page and adding one’s own
mark was a voyage that aided the discovery of meaning, the speed
with which one accomplished this goal, or when that was called for,
it guided one through the inner process of meditative reading. The
personalized folios look much like the personal notebooks and manu-
scripts of modern authors. The practice of open-ended organization
of knowledge, the visual nature of presentation, and the cognitive
pointers visually underscore the similarities between medieval manu-
script layouts and today’s websites.
Irma Puškarević
Visualizing with Letters
Walking down the history lane there is evidence of text and image
trying to overthrow one another. Beginning with Gutenberg’s Galaxy,
written text enjoyed the primary role. The emergence of photography
brought upon us the next revolution and thus began the coexistence
of humankind and images.
Forwarding to the current state of the communication environ-
ment, one cannot but wonder if there might exist other visual dimen-
sions that are as successful in delivering meaning and influencing
connotations, apart from photography. Some of the well-established
ones are the illustration and moving images. However, the desktop
era revolutionized yet again the design of information. It brought
about the democratization of the visual, or if you’d like, the graphic
elements, principally that of typography and typeface design. De-
mocratization of typography enabled everybody with a computer to
use typefaces and construct them, without prior knowledge. This
phenomenon is among us today as well and the results are as positive
as much as they are negative in a sense that they create various levels
of visual and communication noise.
The goal of my chapter published in Vision Fulfilled: The
Victory of the Pictorial Turn (Perspectives on Visual Learning, vol.
1), was to argue that visual images are presently materialized also
through the craft of typography and that visualizing content with let-
ters can be done in a systematic and methodical way.
Letterforms, printed or on a screen, convey meaning and can
be, for this reason, considered as a significant imagistic tool which is
used in data visualization, product presentation, and, of course, edu-
It is not enough to merely present comprehensive strings of
thoughts and ideas with images. There needs to be developed a sys-
tematic set of skills for understanding the language of images (as it
was stated in the opening address of the 8th Budapest Visual Learn-
ing Conference, by László Lovász, President of the Hungarian Acad-
emy of Sciences, see the volume Vision Fulfilled). In this light, I
would like to present conclusions from my experimental studies
which can help us build skills for understanding the visual language
of letters.
A world of thought became legible with moving type. A keen
observation by one of the most influential typographers of the 20th
century – Adrian Frutiger. Printed words on paper gave a visual di-
mension to language. And, the traditional quality of typefaces was
durability and legibility. However, typographic tradition is constantly
challenged due to technological advancements. Consequently, the
durability has been recently replaced by elaborative letter stylization
with a purpose of expressing additional meaning.
Typography, a medium of expression, constructs a meaning
on the first level through the word image (meaning represented by a
word itself) and on the second level through the typographic image
(meaning is formed based on the holistic visual experience). Follow-
ing this reasoning, we can expand on the idea that a typeface can
become a signified. Furthermore, we can test the effects of the
typeface’s nuances, that is the effects of the levels of typeface com-
A useful playground for exploring this idea is the world of
advertising because communication in advertising is intentional, as
Barthes elaborates. Hence, the relationship between the art of typo-
graphy and the discipline of rhetoric is enhanced.
After a series of empirical investigations, I drew these conclu-
sions: (i) viewers consistently perceive typefaces to have different
personalities, (ii) typefaces influence information processing, and
(iii) certain typefaces are appropriate for certain communication con-
texts. Building upon these conclusions I was able to propose a sys-
tematic methodology of typeface effectiveness which began by defin-
ing two distinct sets of letterform properties, one being quantitative
and the other qualitative.
Pursuing the quantitative aspect, I considered the letter matrix
developed by Adrian Frutiger and the descriptive typeface classifica-
tion by Catherine Dixon. The core principle of this aspect was to
generate the letter skeleton using Frutiger’s matrix and pair it up with
Dixon’s descriptive categories of letterform’s formal attributes. These
formal attributes carry descriptions about the letterform, such as serif
detailing, stroke contrast, type of construction, etc. Letterforms treat-
ed in this manner become tools which can be objectively measured.
Considering the qualitative aspect of the framework, I called
upon the principles of rhetoric, or more closely, since we are navi-
gating through the scope of visual dimensions, upon those of visual
rhetoric. The resources of the traditional system of rhetorical speech
cannot be systematically re-interpreted to serve visual rhetoric, as
Prof. Aczél points out. What is needed is to build a conceptualization
of rhetoric that will answer to the challenges of the visual image.
However, it is very much possible to borrow communicative, sym-
bolic and strategic characteristics from that ancient discipline.
In line with the foregoing, I have used the conceptual taxo-
nomy of rhetorical figures developed by McQuarrie and Mick. Their
concept divides figuration according to the regularity or irregularity
of the form. The gradient of form’s deviation as they explicate it is
directly applicable to the construction of various levels of letterform
complexity. Going back to the quantitative aspect – once the skeleton
of a letter is generated, it becomes a starting point for gradually
building letterforms with various complexities.
The notion of the gradient of form’s deviation can be further
supplemented by visual rhetoric and semiotic resources. Here, I con-
sidered Prof. Aczél’s views on visual rhetorical interpretation which
are twofold. The first perspective addressed memory and the second
focuses on what might be seen as metaphoric characteristics. Sem-
iotic resources also address metaphor, as well as meaning-making
through connotation. All these resources combined provide a diverse
pool of micro-constructs based on stored mental images or “import”
of signs in a specific domain where the meaning is formed on the
grounds of associations and the like.
To conclude:
Letterforms are embedded in our daily surroundings and type-
faces are design systems that help us get through the day. The major-
ity of the population is accustomed to using system fonts when writ-
ing an e-mail, preparing a presentation or lecture. However, using
typography and visualizing meaningful content with letters, as com-
fortably as using images, has yet to become a reality.
The conceptual proposition offered through this presentation
is hoped to provide an insight as to how letterforms can be used as
visual resources for data presentation and education. The proposition
addresses both qualitative and quantitative aspects of letter construc-
tion and, consequently, the meaning it embodies. If these two aspects
of typeface properties are combined, we are leaning toward a more
systematic approach to visualizing verbal content. To further strength-
en my argument, I humbly provide a possible solution to a potential
communication problem by proposing an online platform (i.e. online
Figure 1
tool, see Figure 1) that will enable users to construct letterforms
based on the level of expressiveness one wishes to make. This online
tool would use letter skeleton as a starting point, the formal attributes
for meaning construction then perceived as the typographic image,
with visual and semiotic resources guiding interpretations of con-
structed forms.
When paired with technological resources, letterforms result
in amplification of possibilities for manipulating functional and aes-
thetic properties of typefaces. And technological resources are de-
veloping in rapid pace. We are yet to see what new possibilities are
stored for us in the future. If we develop and implement a structural
framework for visualization through letters, we might just be ready to
rush ahead with new challenges.
Andrea Kárpáti
Bauhaus Pedagogy:
The Origins of Design Thinking
Design Thinking is a contemporary model for effective problem solv-
ing in a wide range of fields, from art and design through business to
industry. Originally conceived at the Design School of Stanford Uni-
versity as a methodology to facilitate the process of product and serv-
ice design, it spread around the globe and became a leading model
for visual learning. In this presentation, we intend to propose a link
between Design Thinking and the pedagogical theory and practices
of the German school of arts, crafts and architecture, the Staatliches
Bauhaus, founded 100 years ago, in 1919, in Weimar, Germany, and
dissolved in 1933 in Berlin. During its relatively short period of ex-
istence, many of the most innovative artists, architects and designers
joined its faculty, and developed a series of teaching programs as
well as learning aids and manuals that have a lasting effect on art
Design Thinking and Bauhaus Pedagogy
Design Thinking offers a systematic problem solving approach for all
aspects of life where new ideas are needed for a product or service. It
combines elements of scientific research with industrial modelling
and prototyping in search of a useful and (relatively) easy to manu-
facture product, market search from business and the aesthetic con-
siderations of art and design. Traditional artistic, scientific and engin-
eering approaches work in synergy. They are used to address a plan-
ning task from multiple viewpoints ranging from user needs through
technical solvability to compliance with contemporary visual lan-
guage. It is the user-oriented approach and continuous dialogue be-
tween designers, producers, marketers and users that makes the mod-
el popular and widely applicable. “Design Thinkers step into the end
users’ shoes – not only interviewing them, but also carefully observ-
ing their behaviours. Solutions and ideas are concretized and com-
municated in the form of prototypes as early as possible, so that
potential users can test them and provide feedback – long before the
completion or launch. In this way, Design Thinking generates prac-
tical results” – postulates the summary on the front page of the major
distributing platform of the model, bearing the name of its conceiver:
the Hasso Plattner Institute (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Design Thinking for innovation. Source, with description of the model:
Hasso Plattner Institute,
In most previous models, problem-solving starts with the ex-
planation of the task by the commissioner of the product, followed by
a brainstorming about possible solutions. Here, however, the first
phase is called Empathize – a phase that requires a deep under-
standing of the emotions, ideas and needs of future users through
research on previous, similar products or services, on-site observa-
tion and interviews. In the second phase, Define, we may thus for-
mulate the task description rooted in user needs. Ideation or brain-
storming come only after these user-oriented phases. The Prototype
is, according to Design Thinkers, just a “thought draft”, the best idea
emerging from previous work that will be fed back in the Test phase
to users to ensure acceptability (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Phases of the Design Thinking process, with emphasis on the
beginning. Source: David Terrar, “What is design thinking?” Enterprise
Irregulars blog, 2018,
If the test fails, team members should handle it as a situation
often encountered in science and industry laboratories. Reasons for a
failure vary: either empathy was inadequate, or definition vague, or
else, not the best idea from brainstorming made its way to proto-
typing. In any case, the whole process must be repeated with more
self-reflection and scrutiny. As the activities related to these thinking
processes are mostly visual, we propose to consider Design Thinking
an exciting new model for visual learning. We will discuss phases of
the problem solving process the Design Thinking model proposes in
more detail in a further section of the presentation, where we will
demonstrate, through classic Bauhaus design objects, how they are
connected with Bauhaus pedagogy and contemporary art education.
Bauhaus, the revolutionary design school of the early 20th
century has similar objectives to those of the equally ground-break-
ing design school of Stanford, formulated as the Design Thinking
model a little less than hundred years later. In his Manifesto, the
mission statement of the school conceived in 1919, Walter Gropius
declared the central objective: to move away from art as pure aes-
thetics and return to the technical reality of crafts. “The art schools
... must return to the workshop. This world of mere drawing and
painting of draughtsmen and applied artists must at long last become
a world that builds. When a young person who senses within himself
a love for creative endeavour begins his career, as in the past, by
learning a trade, the unproductive ‘artist’ will no longer be con-
demned to the imperfect practice of art because his skill is now pre-
served in craftsmanship, where he may achieve excellence. Archi-
tects, sculptors, painters – we all must return to craftsmanship!”
Three years after opening the doors of the Bauhaus, in 1922,
Gropius published a conceptual diagram about the structure of teach-
ing. The programme places “building” (in German: Bau, the first syl-
lable of the name of the school) at the centre of all the activities.
However, a regular course in architecture was only introduced at the
Bauhaus in 1927. Only the most talented students were admitted to
this study programme. At start, they attended the Preliminary Course,
a year of basic training in which they were invited to experiment with
colour, shape and materials with no utilitarian goal in mind. This
study of physical, functional and aesthetic characteristics of materials
was followed by practical work in the workshops and theoretical
studies: mathematics, physics of materials and history of cultures
(Figure 3).
At the Bauhaus, artists and architects (the so-called “form
masters”) worked together with the “work masters”, the craftsmen.
Future artists, craftsmen and architects worked mostly in multidis-
ciplinary teams to realize tasks developed by Johannes Itten, the
founder of the course and its successors, László Moholy-Nagy and
Josef Albers (cf. Figures 4–5). Exercises on construction, balance and
appropriate use of materials enhanced both visual thinking and crea-
tivity. Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky conceived the curricula on
form and colour theory, George Kepes introduced experiments with
light, Oskar Schlemmer taught about the analysis and depiction of the
Figure 3: Walter Gropius, Circle diagram of the Bauhaus curriculum. Weimar:
Staatliches Bauhaus, 1922. Source: Das Bauhaus Kreisdiagram. Photo: Oliver
Tomas. Lomography blog,
Figure 4 (left): The Bauhaus emblem.
Figure 5 (right): László Moholy-Nagy, Sehen in Bewegung (Vision in Motion),
title page. Bauhaus Bücher (Bauhaus Books series), No. 39, Dessau, 1938.
Source: Spectorbooks Publishers,
human body and, to deepen this knowledge, invented Bauhaus ballet,
a synergy of painting, sculpture, dance and theatre (Figures 6–7).
After the preliminary course, over the next three years, students were
encouraged to experiment in many media, and only after this forma-
tion in the fundamentals were the best students allowed to enter the
core architecture course (which wasn’t established until 1927).
Figure 6 (left): George (György) Kepes and students, Discovery, light
installation, 1970, Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The
young Kepes, painter, photographer, designer, educator, art theorist, was the
assistant of Gropius at the Bauhaus. At the MIT, he founded the Centre for
Advanced Visual Studies, a creative space of scientific experimentations for
aesthetic purposes. Source: MIT News,
Figure 7 (right): George (György) Kepes and William Wainwright, Photoelastic
walk, light installation, 1969. Source: Art and Education blog, May 2018,
In the following, we will illustrate how the ideas of Design
Thinking are related to Bauhaus pedagogy. Figure 8 reminds us of
the phases of the model and their sequence.
Figure 8: Translation of the steps of Design Thinking, a user- or client-centred
model, to learner-centred art education. Source: Entry in the Roaming Educator
blog by Christopher Lister, 2014,
Empathizing with the owner of the problem that we intend to
solve is the initial phase of Design Thinking, and also a core aspect
of the planning procedure at the Bauhaus. Observing the life of a
client for whom a house is designed or a chair is made, engaging
with his or her views and immersing in the culture of the prospective
user’s existence inspired Bauhaus masters to include acting and
dance in their curriculum. Theatre, ballet and opera performances by
students and masters were meant to study human emotions in differ-
ent situations, and to observe the interactions of the human body and
its environment (Figure 9).
The next step in Design Thinking involves defining a problem
through translating the findings of the Empathy phase into needs and
insights. Assuming new viewpoints and creating a unique design vi-
sion with a problem statement that may give rise to multiple design
solutions was a key activity in all workshops of the Bauhaus as well
(Figure 10).
Figure 9: Actors of the Triadic Ballet (1922) at the Bauhaus.
Source: Getty Images and Artnet News blog, 2019,
Figure 10: The logo of the Bauhaus: three basic colours and geometric forms to
express the purity and scientific orientation of the art school.
Sources: on the left: SH Design blog entry,
On the right: Silver chain, made of Bauhaus basic forms. Sugartrends,
Ideating means going wild: exploring a wide solution space and find-
ing radical design alternatives. This phase of design thinking grasps
the essence of Bauhaus ideology: breaking away from the general
conceptions of “appropriate housing” or “comfortable furniture” and
produce solutions that reshaped more than a range of objects – it gen-
erated new lifestyle trends (Figure 11).
Figure 11: Marcel Breuer, Designs for the Wassily club chair. Innovative design
involved a lightweight, easily movable structure, observable using minimum
upholstery and the first ever chair with a bent-steel frame.
A key phase in Design Thinking is to prepare a prototype to show the
client the design idea in a visual form that engages multiple sensory
modes. A prototype can be anything – post-its with inspiring quotes,
a role play and of course the newly designed object. The “Bauhaus
lamp” embodies an essential Bauhaus idea: form follows function, in
a modern synthesis of fine and applied arts. Moholy-Nagy’s metal
workshop promoted the use of new materials and favoured mass
production under a collaborative, rather than individual, approach.
Collaborative prototyping was an essential part of workshop activ-
ities for the student groups, as they needed to show their ideas in
shareable forms for peer and teacher review (Figure 12).
Figure 12: Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Carl Jakob Jucker, Table lamp, 1924. Simple
geometric shapes: a circular base, cylindrical shaft, and spherical shade ensure
maximum simplicity and greatest economy. Source: Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin,
Testing, the last and perhaps most crucial phase of Design Thinking,
was highly important for the Bauhaus workshops, too. They aimed
much higher than teaching to design marketable products: they want-
ed to change lifestyles and tastes of their customers. When the new
club chair hit the market, the radically new concept for the epitome
of cosiness at exclusive gentlemen’s clubs elicited controversial reac-
tions, but finally, the new design was accepted (Figure 13).
The legacy of the Bauhaus masters is a living tradition at
Hungarian art and design academies and in the training of architects.
The name of László Moholy-Nagy in the title of the art curriculum of
the Visual Culture Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of
Sciences, “Moholy-Nagy Visual Modules – teaching the visual lan-
guage of the 21st century”, refers to this important and, for public
education, still unutilized heritage of Hungarian art education: the
educational theories and practices of its Hungarian masters: Marcel
Breuer, György (Georg) Kepes and László Moholy-Nagy. Their ped-
agogy involves a communicative, practice-oriented use of the visual
language, collaborative creation and synergy of art, design and indus-
try: practical applications of creative ideas. They introduced contem-
porary technologies, experimented with solarization, and introduced
Figure 13: on the left, Marcel Breuer: Wassily chair, 1925–1926. Source:
On the right, Jean Moulin: Leather Lounge Chairs, c. 1920. Source: S16 Home,
See the explanation of Design Thinking phases here: Hasso Plattner, ed., Design
Thinking Bootleg, Stanford: Stanford University, School of Art and Design –
Institute of Design, 2008,
creative task sequences for the in-depth, aesthetic and scientific study
of materials – methods that are important and relevant today.
The Design Thinking model, integrated with Bauhaus pedago-
gy, is a new and promising path for art education. Our discipline is
integrative, as it supports the acquisition of disciplines in science or
liberal arts through visualizations that provide new insights through
explaining relations, connections and processes.
Péter Neuman
The Victory of the Visual Approach
in Abstract Physical Theory
I am quite sure that there are some in the audience, and not only
physicists, who looking at the title immediately know what this talk
is going to be about: Feynman diagrams. Indeed, the powerful and
“easy to use” visual tool introduced by Richard Feynman in 1948 in
order to tame quantum field theory is the topic of this short pre-
sentation. But why do we need to domesticate a physical theory?
What does this amount to? Well, it can mean different things. First of
all, quantum field theory is difficult to learn, even more difficult to
make calculations within its framework. You can easily verify this if
you ask a graduate student of physics the day before her final exam.
The visual, diagrammatic approach presented at the huge Pennsyl-
vania inn some 70 years ago in front of a carefully picked few col-
leagues, not only makes the life of the graduate students easier by
simplifying the way we derive certain formulae, but as some re-
searchers claim are absolutely inevitable to be able to get results.
The development of quantum field theories, the quantum the-
ories of fields (e.g. electromagnetic field) was one of the most im-
portant achievements of theoretical physics in the 20th century. It is
quantum field theories that help us understand the peculiar behaviour
of light, the existence of photons, the light quanta, that may look
corpuscular and wave-like excitations of something, a minute later.
There are several field theories, explaining the behaviour of elemen-
tary particles. Contrary to Feynman’s own widely advertised prag-
matic ambitions, most of us would like to hope that field theories do
not only describe the behaviour, but also tell us what the microscopic
world really is. Quantum field theory as far as agreement with expe-
rimental results are concerned, is one or may be the most successful
physical theories/theory.
For the sake of the arguments presented below, it is sufficient
to understand that the basic principles of quantum mechanics are
applied to field theories in one way or another, thus we arrive at
theories with enormous potential in explaining certain interactions in
the microscopic world, especially at very high energies and short dis-
tances, i.e. in the regime where quantum effects become important.
High energy particles are also fast. If their velocity gets close to the
speed of light, we must modify the approach in order to be in agree-
ment with the theory of relativity, which makes the already difficult
calculations even more demanding. So much demanding in fact, that
Edward Witten, one of the founding fathers of string theory, another
favourite playground of those who love lengthy calculations and for-
mulae, referred to quantum field theory as the “the most difficult
theory of modern physics”. The difficulties belong to two groups.
One of them we have already mentioned, it is the tedious mathe-
matical machinery needed to arrive at physical results, numbers, that
we can compare with experimental results. These are relatively easy
to overcome, all you need is a preferably large group of smart people
suffering from insomnia. Graduate students of physics in some
competitive schools will clearly belong to this group. The other type
of difficulties arises because quantum field theory in some cases
becomes ill defined. In other words, the results we get following the
strict rules of mathematics simply do not make physical sense. For
example, we calculate the energy of the vacuum in quantum electro-
dynamics, and we get infinity, which is a clear nonsense. There are
techniques to get rid of these problems, however these techniques,
especially in their original forms (proposed almost a century ago),
take us out of the realm of exact mathematics, they are sometimes
even ad hoc and impossible to explain in a comforting way.
Feynman diagrams provide a tool that in some cases solve
both problem types. The diagrams look like particle trajectories with
a well-defined set of rules that determine how these “trajectories”
should be “translated” to formulae. The trick is that while the
derivation of the formulae is far from intuitive, using the diagrams
the process becomes intuitive, thus easy to render, draw and remem-
ber. Feynman diagrams really look like colliding particle trajectories,
and all this happens in quantum theory, where well defined particle
trajectories do not exist, at least in the usual Copenhagen interpreta-
tion. The Copenhagen interpretation asserts that such physical at-
tributes as position – necessary for a line-like trajectory to make
sense – do not exist as long as we do not perform a measurement.
And measurements are not performed during the collision, therefore
we have very good reason to say that the trajectories in the Feynman
diagrams are NOT the trajectories of the particles we are talking
about. So what are they? The debate about the nature of Feynman
diagrams has been going on for decades. Are they simply mnemonic
tools aimed to help the lazy or the less gifted? Or, as Frank Wilczek
put it: “The calculations that eventually got me a Nobel Prize in 2004
would have been literally unthinkable without Feynman diagrams, as
would my calculations that established a route to production and ob-
servation of the Higgs particle.” (Frank Wilczek got the Nobel prize
together with David K. Gross and H. David Politzer for the discovery
of the phenomenon of asymptotic freedom, which was a very impor-
tant step in the process of understanding strong interactions, respon-
sible for holding the nuclei together.)
At this point we arrived at the very question of this talk: are
Feynman diagrams necessary for performing the calculations that
produce numbers in agreement with experimental results or not? In
other words: do we learn fresh and new things about Nature with the
help of Feynman diagrams? Fresh and new things we could not have
learnt otherwise, from any other source.
There has been a widely debated issue that kept some philos-
ophers of science busy in the last 50 years. The issue is about the
epistemological status of thought experiments, and the question is
exactly the same as the one about Feynman diagrams. Can thought
experiments be replaced by a string of inferences formulated within
the theory or do they amount to something more profound? Do they
contain elements that were not already present in the theory before
the thought experiment was proposed?
Instead of giving a correct definition here for thought experi-
ments, I rely on the common understanding of the expression.
I would like to explain why I believe that Feynman diagrams
can be perfect examples of thought experiments. The general recipe
for creating thought experiments based on a certain theory is that we
choose a particular experimental situation adopting the rules given by
the theory, and generate the “thought experimental results”, which in
some cases may contradict our or others’ original theoretical assump-
tions. The famous thought experiments of Galileo, for example, work
this way. Feynman diagrams, as thought experiments, are based on
the assumption that microscopic processes, normally described via
quantum theory, can be thought of as interactions between fully clas-
sical particles. Classical particle trajectories and interactions can be
visualized in classical ways, making an intuitive approach possible.
The assumption is based on the mathematical formulation of certain
quantum processes. The classical analogy is valid only from a certain
point of view, and for a limited scope, therefore it does not imply that
quantum ontology can be replaced by a classical one. However, for
finding some specific results, as we understood from Wilczek, these
thought experiments are necessary.
According to Wilczek, and according to what we saw in the
physics of the past 70 years (a large amount of results were derived
exclusively via Feynman diagrams), the diagrams are necessary.
There is something more in them than visualization of the theory. In
this respect, they are close to those thought experiments that tell us
new facts about Nature, facts that cannot be seen without their help.
Therefore, the case of the Feynman diagrams endorses those in the
philosophical debate who claim that thought experiments are not
merely inferences.
Rita Lisa Vella – Anna Chiara Sabatino
Virtual and Augmented Realities,
Cinematic Experience: Urban Space 3.0
The current world is overflowing with audio-visual stimuli, while the
spatial experience is more and more structured by an intrusive medi-
atic system through multi-layered information, both geographical and
Specifically, our cities are full of commercial screens and elec-
tronic devices, and surveillance cameras are always on. The media
are reshaping the human experience developing different kinds of
visuality and narratives. Cinema as a living medium, with hybridiza-
tion of multiple narrative practices and media, has to be considered a
relevant part of how urban contexts and its visual regime interact
with audio-visual technologies used to represent and rebuild urban
life and narratives.
The role of the new medial images in the urban context and, in
particular, the contributions of these images to building and sharing
specific urban narratives and identities are here investigated through
audio-visual examples where urban storytelling is assumed to be the
result of the dynamics in between the city, the users and the devices,
that allow a contemporary experience of cinema in its latest modes of
relocation, assemblage, expansion and performance.
The Medial Body of the City
The city is a privileged context to observe the diffused aesthetics or
“hyperaesthetics” connected to the proliferation of medial images,
and also to investigate the possibility of a corresponding process of
anesthetization as “a kind of numbness and the connected weakening
of the ability to create our experience through the senses”.
All the images spreading through urban screens, mobile de-
vices or social networks are in some way implicated into the process
of building and sharing the meanings of the city and, as a con-
sequence, of the identity of the city. So, we should refer to the
aesthetic identity of the city as the whole set of expressive qualities
represented in the city and on the city, where all the images are part
of the city as a complex, cultural system.
Specifically, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
technologies in the urban context allow users that visit cities to par-
ticipate within the narrative structure and plot conceived for them. If
AR is positioned between the real world and the virtual world, VR
juxtaposes multimedia content (e.g. 3D models, animation, video,
audio, and websites) on a real image captured by a video camera in
real-time, whose activation depends on an object that triggers an ac-
tion, usually for multimedia content interaction and visualization. In
simple terms, Augmented Reality technology adds information about
the image while maintaining the real view of the surroundings, Vir-
tual Reality makes the user experience a world in a world that sim-
ulates the real.
Through the following practical cases, we investigate the ap-
plicability of a transmedia storytelling model for users that, visiting
cities, may participate within the narrative structure and plot of vir-
tual and augmented realities in urban contexts.
The Medial Body of Images
We can definitely say that nowadays cinema is in constant search of
new environments and devices onto which to transfer itself, from city
squares to my smartphone. Looking at relocated cinema experience
as something that has moved to somewhere else from its original
context, penetrating aspects and practices of everyday life, the spec-
tator finds him/herself involved in transmedia storytelling environ-
ments while exploring urban space.
Bepart is an Augmented Reality application that transforms the city
into an exhibition space by adding an “invisible” layer every citizen
can experience. In Figure 1 there is an example of Bepart using aug-
mented reality, in which Mole Antonelliana becomes the head of a
huge octopus through the addition of synthetic elements that appear
to be part of the real world.
Three characteristics are activated by Augmented Reality tech-
The work of art becomes something that without the intervention
of the user wouldn’t appear/exist;
the user can experience an “additional element”, multidimensional,
alive, that isn’t physically there;
the user can experience the installation moving himself around it,
with his own body.
Figure 1
Imageen Tarraco
This application allows the visitor of Tarragona and Costa Daurada
an immersion into the Roman city of Tarraco through their mobile
devices, that become windows to the past through which visitors can
admire the greatness and original disposition of the monuments and
old spots and get into the real environment of the era that they are
visiting. Figure 2 shows an image from the Imageen Tarraco project.
An example of virtual reality, that allows the users to immerse into
the ancient Roman city of Tarraco through their mobile devices that
literally become windows into the past.
Relocated cinema takes part in audio-visual virtual reality nar-
ratives, in which user coincides with spectator: looking at the scenes
of a past living Tarraco, spectators navigate plot surface, not con-
fronting an “other” world capable of speaking about the “real” world,
but rather a “possible” world that can find its realization.
Figure 2
Both AR and VR realities use 3D techniques that “high def-
inition” cinema is familiar with, a kind of visual language that, just
like it happens in 3D movies, leads spectators immediately to the
heart of the action.
But this user/spectator lives experiences so filled with stimula-
tions that very low participation is required. Like hot media, AR and
VR grant their users such a great wealth of perceptual intensity that
no form of completion is needed.
In both Bepart and Imageen Tarraco the user meets high-
definition body images through a “guided” tour either in the “past”
virtual reality or in the present “augmented” city, going from a key
point to another in a high-definition and perceived map designed just
for her/him. While exploring the city, the user/spectator experiences
these fragments of relocated cinema like a casual wanderer and ob-
server of the urban context: without the urban user and his/her ex-
ploring” the effect would simply not occur.
The new body of medial images, travelling through a myriad of
screens, changing our relationship with the city and urban space,
make us live in emotional and narrative spaces, rather than just
physical ones.
In contrast with high-definition ones, low-definition city nar-
ratives, built through collaborative processes that involve inhabitants
and visitors, turn users/spectators into performers that don’t just
attend the premade show, but collect and reshape pre-existent images
and materials, creating their own meanings. Even though AR and VR
in the urban space are conceived to involve the user as much as
possible, they strictly frame her/his possibilities of experience, estab-
lishing boundaries within few possible practices and ways of use, not
allowing the user/spectator to become a performer.
The described cases suggest that it is not just a matter of tech-
nology change, mobile screens for mobile spectators, but a matter of
narrative and new forms of engagement with the urban stories. It is
performative, because everything is taken within the flow of becom-
ing: the user, who can keep doing whatever he wants while using the
screens (i.e. walking, driving, speaking with other users); the screens/
devices that are hybrid devices used for seeing, communicating, lo-
cating; the off-screen world that surrounds the screen and the user,
that is not a dark silent room designed to disappear in favour of vis-
ion; the images on the screens, that are related to the mobility of the
screen, the user and the off-screen world. All these elements are
interconnected in a flexible and intimate way, co-participating in the
breaking up and recomposing of urban meanings and narratives.
Visual Learning Lab Papers
No. 1 (1/2016): Sipos Júlia, “Képi reprezentáció és hitelesség a 21. századi
médiatartalom előállításban” / “Deli Eszter, Új ecset, új vászon: A modern
képkorszak lehetőségei és kihívásai”.
No. 2 (2/2016): James Kimble – Trischa Goodnow / Aczél Petra, “On
Invisuality” (to appear).
No. 3 (3/2016): Nyíri Kristóf, “Elfelejtett képelméletek” / Veszelszki
Ágnes, “Egy sziget körülhajózása”.
No. 4 (4/2016): VISUAL LEARNING: Virtual – Visual – Veridical. The
7th Budapest Visual Learning Conference Abstracts.
No. 5 (1/2017): Virág Ágnes, “Forceville monomodális és multimodális
metaforaelmélete” / Jávor-Szelid Veronika, “Szó – kép: A vizuális
metafora a kognitív nyelvészet perspektívájából”.
No. 6 (2/2017): W. Barna Erika, “Kézírás és képiség” / Nagy Zoltán,
“Kézírás a neurológus szemével”.
No. 7 (1/2018): VISUAL LEARNING: Communication – Culture –
Consciousness. The 8th Budapest Visual Learning Conference Abstracts.
No. 8 (2/2018): Dávidházi Péter – Szirák Péter – Deli Eszter, Két
médiatudományi kötet bemutatása.
No. 9 (1/2019): Visual Learning – A Year After. Talks by András
Benedek, Kristóf Nyíri, Petra Aczél, Anna Somfai, Irma Puškarević,
Andrea Kárpáti, Péter Neuman, Rita Lisa Vella and Anna Chiara Sabatino.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Képi reprezentáció és hitelesség a 21. századi médiatartalom előállításban" / "Deli Eszter, Új ecset, új vászon: A modern képkorszak lehetőségei és kihívásai
Visual Learning Lab Papers No. 1 (1/2016): Sipos Júlia, "Képi reprezentáció és hitelesség a 21. századi médiatartalom előállításban" / "Deli Eszter, Új ecset, új vászon: A modern képkorszak lehetőségei és kihívásai".
Kézírás és képiség" / Nagy Zoltán
  • W Barna Erika
No. 6 (2/2017): W. Barna Erika, "Kézírás és képiség" / Nagy Zoltán, "Kézírás a neurológus szemével".