How do We Know it’s Venice? Memory and Experience of the Replica

 

This learning experience project was an empirical study of authenticity in the preservation and conservation of cultural heritage. It integrates up-to-date knowledge of human learning theories, visual thinking skills and my own enthusiasm for historic cities. The purpose of this ongoing research project is to explore how general audiences perceive and react to the generic qualities of art and architecture in myriad environments through the mechanisms theorized by cognitive psychologists. Is it possible to look at this problem of authenticity from a cognitive point of view? Particularly, how do people take in information about the world, and how do we process the information we take in? Do cultural difference and prior experience affect the decisions we make?

 

Design Challenge

My short-term observation and research have shown that our experiences of the world aren’t always real or authentic; our memory for a scene is often stereotyped or distorted. For example, many tourists who visit the famous Venetian hotel in Las Vegas or Macau enjoy its authentic representation of Venice even while they know the setting is artificial. Under what circumstances do we know we are in Venice without any real architectural remnants around? Is seeing the true color of Istria stone enough? Or St. Mark’s Square in miniature? How about a pleasant gondola ride with a knockoff gondolier singing O Sole Mio? Certainly there are many other common ingredients in the spread of “Italian traditions” to convince tourists that what tourists feel is the verisimilitude of Venice. Will the newly-built Constitution Bridge (Ponte della Costituzione) over the Grand Canal, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, one day be accepted as one of the timeless architectural elements of Venice?

 

Knowledge about prototypes or common features of objects, places and events certainly helps us efficiently categorize what has happened, but the predictive processes in our brain can cause problems. This is an ongoing project and the research results will be updated later. Phenomena such as “stimulus equivalence” and “boundary extension” will be discussed to demonstrate how perceptual experience and dynamic memory affect the way we understand the concept of replica.

 

真假威尼斯:複製的記憶與經驗

幾次去義大利威尼斯和賭城拉斯維加斯開會的機會,讓我有機會觀察到一般大眾如何察覺藝術和建築的一般特質,並在五花八門的環境裡對他們所看到及感知到的東西所做的回應,希望藉此經驗結合人類學習的理論,視覺溝通的技巧和對古蹟文物保存的研究熱忱,有沒有可能從認知心理的角度來看建築真實性的真諦呢?特別是我們一般人到底是如何攝取周遭的信息?我們又是如何處理那些攝取進來的信息? 不同的文化背景和經驗會不會影響我們所做的決策?

 

根據有限時間的觀察和定性研究發現我們對周遭的經驗不是永遠都是名副其實的。我們對一般場景的記憶常是千篇一律的或是扭曲的印象。譬如說,許多到訪賭城拉斯維加斯威尼斯人飯店的觀光客,他們覺得那種經驗就像是真的威尼斯一般,即使知道這飯店的設置完全是人造的威尼斯城。到底在什麼狀況之下,即便是沒有任何真的威尼斯建築的殘留物時,我們還能知道那是威尼斯?是­那替威尼斯墊下基石 Istrian石材(九成以上的威尼斯建築物採用這個色彩純白,堅硬耐久的材質)和色彩顯眼的大理石和所造成的華麗浪漫印象?­ 還是微型聖馬可廣場上的鐘塔所顯現的象徵性意義?大快朵貽地吃一頓威尼斯道地的烏賊麵 (sèpe nère)? 盡情享受完美粉紅配方的貝里尼雞尾酒(Bellini)?還是搭一程貢朵拉 (Gondola) 聆聽熱情船夫的義大利情歌? 即使是個冒牌貨也無所謂。 當然還有其它點點滴滴所謂的「義大利元素」穿鑿附會在威尼斯人酒店的設備及服務裡用來­吸引觀光客。 我懷疑有多少下榻的遊客會在乎威尼斯人酒店的建築景觀模仿的有多逼真? 那像最近才興建啓用由著名的西班牙建築師 Santiago Calatrava 設計的橫跨大運河上的大半徑拱橋(Ponte della Costituzione)日後會不會被接納成另一個代表威尼斯歷久彌新的建築縮影呢?

 

我們對一般事物產生的知識原型和共同特點當然可以幫助大家更有效地歸類出發生了什麼事,但是在大腦做預測過程時就可能會引起問題。為了示範我們的感知經驗和變動的記憶力如何影響我們對複製品的觀念,我現在正將這些先前的旅行觀察轉換成學習經驗的專題研究,針對古蹟文化保存和修護領域裡的建築真實性議題做一項定性研究,這個持續的研究專案將會討論到幾個重要心理學上出現的現象,包括 “Stimulus Equivalence” 和 “Boundary Extension”。