Ways of Seeing

Part of the appeal of films is that they offer us the opportunity for exploration.

They are a way to explore the world (and imaginary worlds) in lieu - or instead - of physical exploration. In our lifetime we may never have the opportunity to travel to certain places and see certain sights. Film can act as a substitute, allowing us to experience the world without traveling it.

In this sense, we could enjoy a film entirely for the landscapes that it has allowed us to travel through and inhabit; film as short vacation. If this is the case, then the plot of the film may be little more than an excuse, to be in this place or that place. Yet its also a practical and necessary diversion - a way of arbitrarily defining time, saying 'enough of this place, let's go somewhere else.'

Computer games also offer the same opportunity.

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Narrative fiction engages this ability to explore hypothetical worlds, whether for edification - expanding the number of scenarios whose outcomes can be predicted - or for pleasure - vicariously experiencing love, adulation, exploration, or victory.

A compelling story may simulate juicy gossip about desirable or powerful people, put us in an exciting time or place, tickle our language instincts with well-chosen words, and teach us something new about the entanglements of families, politics, or love.

[Steven Pinker]
The Blank Slate ('The Arts'), p.406

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Field of Vision

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