An article posted today on New Scientist suggests that, over the course of a 150-minute film, audience members will miss an incredible fifteen minutes simply through the act of blinking – but also that people watching a film tend to blink at the same time.
It’s called “synchronized blinking,” and it means that “we subconsciously control the timing of blinks to make sure we don’t miss anything important” – with the addendum that, “because we tend to watch films in a similar way, moviegoers often blink in unison.” That is, they blink during “non-critical” moments of plot or action, creating a kind of perceptual cutting-room floor.
On the one hand, then, I’m curious if this means that clever editors, like something out of Fight Club, might be able to insert strange things into those predicted moments of cinematic calm – moments deemed safe for blinking – simply to see if anyone notices, but I’m also left wondering if there is an architectural equivalent to this: a spatial moment inside a building in which it seems safest for us to blink.
In other words, do people not blink when they first walk into a space like Rome’s Pantheon or into Grand Central Station – or is that exactly when they do blink, as if visually marking for themselves a transition from exterior to interior?
It would seem, then, that if film has moments of synchronized blinking, then so might architecture – but when do we choose to blink when experiencing architectural space, and do those moments tend to occur for all of us at the same time?
How could we test this?
[Image: The Pantheon, photographed by Nicola Twilley].
Further, if there is, in fact, a moment inside a building somewhere where almost literally everyone blinks– say, in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art, or in a bathroom corridor in the history building at your own university – could we say that that space is somehow yet to be fully seen?
It is the spatial equivalent of those fifteen minutes of a film that no one realized they missed.
After all, perhaps there’s a detail in your own house that you’ve never actually seen before – and it’s because you tend to blink as you walk past it. Your own body assumes, outside conscious awareness, that this must be a safe space for blinking; it’s near a window, or the colors are very dull. Perhaps that’s how spiderwebs build up: you literally don’t see them.
On a much larger scale, meanwhile, are there stretches of highway somewhere outside town where the scenery gets a bit boring – and so everyone starts to blink, more or less at the same time, thus visually removing from collective cultural awareness that McDonald’s, or that abandoned house, tucked away over there beside the trees?
And could you locate that exact moment of blindness – could you find blinkspots throughout the urban fabric – and start to build things there? Architecture becomes a three-dimensional test landscape for the neurology of blinking.
[Image: A human blink, via Wikipedia].
For instance, if people driving 65 mph travel, say, five feet with every blink, then what spatial and architectural possibilities exist within that five feet?
What are the spatial possibilities of the blink?
I’m reminded of certain zoning laws in which you need to consider the exact amount of shadow your building will cast on the neighborhood around it before beginning construction.
But what about zoning for blinks? Can you zone a building for maximum blinks?
Or perhaps the opposite: a new genre of architecture, specially designed for Halloween fun houses, in which it’s too stressful to close your eyes even for a micro-second…
(Spotted via @jimrossignol).