May 10

Upon reflection…..


A mirror is an inanimate object, a piece of glass silvered on one side.  Its function is to reflect back light that hits the mirror surface, providing a ‘mirror image’.  Put a frame around it, cut it into shapes, engrave the edges with designs, hang it on a wall, put it on a stand – all these can be added in the pursuit of style, appearance, fashion, etc., but the function remains unchanged.  It reflects what passes before it.  Light is the only requirement for it to function, light emanating from an object before it.

Add a human observer to the mix and a different dynamic begins.  The observer brings his/her own baggage to the observation.  What they see is what they are looking with, not what they are looking at.  Judgements, opinions, perceptions, ideas, knowledge, experience – everything about the perception of an image that enables different observers to interpret the same image in a variety of ways.  A useful observational tool for an AT teacher and pupil.  The mirror is mute witness to all this.

Though perhaps for not much longer.

A recent edition of New Scientist had a small article, about 8cm of one column, titled ‘‘Mirror’ keeps music and posture right’.  It reports on the Musician’s Mirror, which can be programmed so that it ‘provides an audible warning if it spots poor posture’.  Just 125 words, but weeks later, I am still working my way through it and the conclusions, so far, are not good.  What do you think?  My response follows.

The Musician’s Mirror is yet another example of a symptomatic, ‘end-gaining’ reaction to a situation.  Wait until something happens then do something about it.  There is no attempt made to determine the cause of the ‘bad’ posture, or what steps can be taken to maintain ‘good’ posture.

The use of white noise and notes made to sound out of tune as the audible warnings of ‘bad’ posture are, in behavioural terms, confusing.  Are people being punished or is this ‘escape learning’ aka ‘negative reinforcement’?  Punishment is designed to weaken a response (’bad’ posture) that produces an aversive stimulus (white noise, discordant sounds).  Escape Learning is designed to strengthen a response (‘good’ posture or at least the avoidance of ‘bad’ posture) that removes the aversive stimulus.  The reactive, symptomatic nature of this Mirror system means that an event (‘bad’ posture), has to happen first and the response that results looks like punishment to me.  Hardly a positive strategy for change.

And how is ‘posture’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, determined?  Is it left to the individual using the Mirror or is there some form of universal ‘good’ that is applied and if so, how is that determined?  What exactly is ‘posture’?  In the context of the Musician’s Mirror it is no more than a position.

Then I read that the user can ‘highlight the parts of the body they want its software to focus on’.  Not exactly a psychophysical, holistic response to body use, and there is a lot of ‘doing’ and ‘trying’ and the adopting of positions.

All in all an unsatisfactory system and one more example of the Magic Bullet Syndrome, where a person seeks a quick answer, external to themselves and preferably not involving any work on the person’s part, to an issue that is ‘internal’ to themselves.  Personal responsibility for a solution is thus transferred to someone – or something – like the Musician’s Mirror.

However, unlike most New Scientist articles, this article does not include a response from anyone else, either critical or supportive, so it is left unquestioned.  But it is printed in a respected journal and that carries weight.  I am left pondering how to respond to articles like this.

Fortunately the blameless, silent, non-judgemental mirror is only indirectly involved.  Adorned with software and technology perhaps, but continuing to function in the only way it can.  Its ‘use’ is perfect.

It provides an opportunity for reflection and for me as an observer, it’s not just about images.  Thank you, mirror.


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