Lenticular lenses

I was recently reminded of a chapter by Tara McPherson in The New Media Book called “Self, Other, and Electronic Media” by an ad campaign targeted at children who are suffering from abuse at the hands of adults. McPherson describes the complexities of race representation in new media by comparing it to an older visual technology: lenticular lenses. Lenticular technology interlaced two images in such a way that when viewed through a special lens, only one image could be viewed at a time, depending on the physical position of the viewer and the image surface. The two images coexisted, but their relationship to each other was obscured. McPherson argues that this repression of relationality between the two images exemplifies the problem of constituting the self and the other as if they were not related and reflects similar difficulties in new media spaces where people may work with fragments of representation or code which obscure relationships with the larger social world.

This ad attempts to use lenticular lens technology to send different messages to adults and children, based on calculations of average height:

People in the comments have raised the predictable concerns: short parents, tall children, children of the expected size being unable to read or without access to a phone, the psychological constraints that prevent children from reporting, the problem of parents and children seeing different messages.

This last issue seems to most nearly echo the concerns that McPherson raises in her chapter. The conversation (or lack of conversation) that the ad might provoke between adult and child will rest on the premise that they observe different realities and take away different messages from them. The repressed relationship here is not so much between the two images, which can coexist, but not co-appear, but between the two viewers, the adult and the child, who coexist and co-appear in a reality that relays different messages and attempts to obscure the mechanism by which it does so. What happens when what an adult sees and what a child sees differ? How is the difference accounted for? How is the (child) self constituted in relation to the (adult) other, and vice versa? Do children and adults live in different worlds? How do we deal with lenticular realities?

The visual drama of the advertisement highlights the social drama of situations where children and the adults responsible for them are not necessarily on the same team.  McPherson concludes that “[her] argument builds to a warning, a cautionary tale about the multiple modes of meaning a coded fragmentation can create” (191). Will coded messages improve the lives of children in desperate situations? Whether the ad accomplishes its stated goal or not, it has certainly brought attention to the possibilities and problems of constituting adults and children as inhabitants of unrelated realities.

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