Thursday, 11 February 2010

Your opinion counts

How much are we, or should we be, swayed by other people's opinion. There have always been opinion leaders.

In the Pharmaceutical industry we even have a TLA for them -- KOLs.

I think its part of the natural human condition to want to fit in, even if we are trying to fit into a remote tribe of geeks teetering on the edge of geekdom. No man, as they say, is an island. [A brief interlude and a search on the internet reveals] John Donne, the author of this poem, is "they".

So as much as we wish to form our own opinions it is inevitable that others influence them. The speed of that influence is noticeably quicker since the advent of social networking.

Many people are left stone cold by surrealist art - I find it quite liberating. Admittedly Fey Poem Coffee Break seems a strange title but this and the intriguing image gave me something to think about and pleased me. Is it art? Does anyone have a right to criticise it? or the artists right to create it? are you influenced by my opinion?

The following picture is one of my favourite pieces of my own art. Is it art? Possibly photography is just recording fact. I would maintain that in someway I orchestrated or composed it; some part of it is fortunate and "right place right time". I simply don't remember if I asked Ellie and the guys to stare in the water or if something had just caught their attention. I'm not sure if I was consciously aware of the striking juxtaposition of the weeping willow hanging soulfully into the Thames and the jagged stark tree jutting in menacingly from the side. I do know that I edited the photo, in my mind I can still see Will standing under the tree, I clipped him out, as he wasn't looking into the water. If you do like this picture, and I hope you do, were you influenced by my monologue?

So why all this bleating about "influenced by opinion"? Well, a mate of mine, Drew, put a very funny comment on Face book about "Dances with Smurfs" - a small amount of research identified this as a joke name for Avatar. Drew, whose opinion I respect, clearly thought that "Dances with Smurfs" is a less than edifying demonstration of James Cameron's artistic ability. His opinion was in polar opposition to my previous discussion on the subject. So should I allow my view to change, I must admit I stopped to think -- as I do respect Drew's judgement, and it has influenced me even though my feelings were clearly modified by the context of my viewing. 

Clearly this is not about if either of us is right or wrong, but more the nature of opinion and the age-old instinct to create a consensus and if this is enhanced or influenced via virtual networking.

I would say that opinion is not a solid fact; it is context and mood sensitive and will evolve and age as all things do. A gut reaction can be more visceral and true to base nature but a developed savoured opinion can be more lasting and give a balanced view.  So perhaps we are now more prone to circulating "gut feel" via networking sites and we will just have to get used to accommodating each other’s raw truth rather than considered opinion - my view was not considered I mean, I have no-way of knowing if Drew cogitated or evoked.  

On Avatar then, despite its obvious shortcomings in plot and blatant simplistic moralising that is to be expected from Hollywood, I still believe it was a visually and aurally outstanding experience and a fantastic movie to share with the kids. It provoked some fascinating philosophical discussions about spirit and the meaning of self from the scenes where consciousness transferred from one body to another. I would still recommend it - just don't go and watch it with Drew yet, until I've had time to work on him.

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