Looking Back (an ITP reflection): Part 2

In many ways, my ITP experience has been similar to an experience I had as a child. This story, based on my personal experience with impaired eyesight is in many ways a metaphor for my ITP experience. It also led me to an exploration of vision that would ultimately lead to an exploration of vision shifted over time, which is my final project.For the first seven years of my life, my visual experience was different to that of others. The only things I saw perfectly were the things immediately around me, and anything more than a few feet away was a blur; yet, knowing nothing of sharper vision, I was unaware that blurry vision was not the norm and less than adequate for daily life.On my first trip to the optician, I learned that I had moderate myopia, or nearsightedness, and I was prescribed glasses to correct my vision. The world literally expanded when I slipped on my first pair of glasses. My field of vision was no longer limited solely to my immediate environment: while I had been fully aware that leaves grew on trees, and while I had been entirely familiar with what a leaf looked like, I had never seen multiple leaves attached to a tree except in photographs. My visual world had expanded in three-dimensionality; I could now see clearly all the way to the horizon.

What I find remarkable about my impaired eyesight is that I was entirely unaware of my inability to see. In school, for example, my teacher would write on the blackboard, and my fellow students and I would watch the board as she wrote and copy the words into our notebooks. All along, I thought I was writing what I saw her write. Years later, however, I realized that I was writing the words not as I saw her write them, but rather as I heard her say them aloud as she wrote. My brain and other senses were compensating for my imperfect eyesight.

Before I wore glasses, my vision was not based on the sharpness of what my eyes were seeing. My brain was pulling together information and detail from past experiences to create a sense of “seeing” in the current moment.

The experience of “seeing” is about more than vision. It is a process that begins with focusing on and comprehending visual information and then interpreting that information to make assumptions and conclusions. Seeing is something that depends not only upon the current information we are viewing, but also on information from a greater context, some of which might not currently be available at a given moment.

My ITP experience, like that first pair of glasses, expanded my horizons. ITP has enabled me to see the world and notice new details that I might not previously have noticed. ITP has also helped enrich my perspective of the world through collaborating with others, and catching new glimpses of the world through the eyes of my collaborators.

Detail is always a subset of a larger picture. When I see a blur, as I did without glasses, I can see only the big picture, but not the details. My ITP experience has provided me with the ability to examine problems from a number of perspectives – from the big picture down to the intricate details, and the links between the physical perception and the psychological process – and create solutions through collaboration, technology and creative problem solving.

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