Small children do not know the difference between a scribble and a letter. Later, they learn this, but they still struggle with the difference between a word and a random collection of letters. And so on, the difference between random words and sentence is learned. At this point, even in literate society, people start to drop off. Most people can distinguish, consciously, between a coherent paragraph and a random collection of sentences, although fewer can write one.
The difference between a random jumble of paragraphs, and a coherent essay or argument is something that eludes even some academics. Daniel C. Blight, who has graced this pages from time to time, might serve as an example here.
Always, I think, more people can distinguish these things consciously than can write them, and more people distinguish at some unconscious level than do consciously. But at around the level of an essay, say 1000 words upwards, people often more or less stop reading and start skimming, peeling out keywords and phrases, guessing at the ideas, and reacting to those. Overall structure ceases to matter as much, in our modern social media times.
I dare say it goes on from there, at least notionally. While I think the human mind generally taps out around here, it is possible that there are higher-order structures which a greater intelligence than ours might consider obvious, shaking their heads sadly at poor, limited, homo sapiens who generally cannot tell the difference between a properly constructed grozbloo and just a random collection of books.
Anyways. I was reading something, never mind what, the other day and thinking the basic problem here is that the author cannot tell the difference between an essay and a collection of vaguely related paragraphs.
And then a shiver ran down my spine. What if I am the guy who can't tell the difference between a random jumble of shitty photographs and a properly structured photo essay?
Of course, in a panic, I immediately set about proving to myself that I could, and do, and am also handsome and charming to boot.
But I'm still a little panicked. But anyways let's think about this a little.
I feel confident about my writing. Not everything I actually write is particularly coherent, but in the first place I do ok, and in the second place I can at any rate tell the difference between random jumbles of noise, and coherent blocks of writing. Why? Whence this confidence?
The first place it comes from is simply that I differentiate. I judge this block of 2000 words to be gibberish, and that one to be a sound argument. Obviously I am perceiving something or other, although we might suspect that maybe I'm not seeing what I think I am seeing.
The second wellspring of my confidence is that, from time to time, people tell me that something I have written is coherent and well written. That's always nice. But then again, so few people actually read anything, maybe they're just skimming it and signaling agreement with my politics.
The third source is maybe my education. I do have a couple of degrees in, basically, constructing sound arguments. From, I admit, rather a long time ago, and anyways isn't that just an appeal to authority?
But there it is, anyways. There is my perhaps tenuous justification -- to myself -- for believing that I can fairly reliably distinguish written gibberish from a well written essay.
Does this translate to photographs? God knows my tastes are catholic, I am willing to judge some pretty random assemblages of shit to be Good Work. There's also the problem that I really have trouble declaring any individual picture Bad, it's always "well, maybe in the right context?" All that is consistent with Molitor just can't tell the difference between scribbles and letters, the idiot.
Tentatively, I have concluded that I do know what the hell I am about, though (surprised? of course I would arrive at this conclusion, no?).
I do judge, though I am pretty open minded. There is shit out there, and I can at any rate dredge up some words to tell you what is shitty about it. There is also excellence, and ditto. I do judge individual photos, as well. I can tell the difference between a "good image [sic]" and a "poor image [sic]" -- I just don't care, and I don't think the differences are that important.
There's my moment of doubt for the week!
Thank goodness I was mostly able to talk myself out of it.