Alvaro Espiritu Santo Raba
Since the beginning of time, human kind has evolved and grown around social experiences. Groups of cavemen worked together to hunt and collect food for the tribe, people gathered in festivals or carnivals to get acquainted and develop stronger social bonds. When communities or villages grew on numbers, their skills, tools and environments improved greatly. The pressure of more people put more pressure on resources, forcing our ancestors to devise cleverer ways to obtain food and materials for bond tool-making. (Wong, 94)
Nowadays, thing haven’t changed much. We still have social gatherings that serve as an information exchange. Whether we go to parties, dinners or other kind of events, human kind has the innate desire to talk with colleagues or friends and consume information. Concerning this gatherings, nothing stands out more as the famous “Water Cooler Talk” in the office.
Over small conversation of 10 to 15 minutes, people talk about their weekends; the activities they did or if they saw a particular TV show or even if they went to the movies. After all, for any kind of media to me successful it has to become a social experience; we need to tell others about it. Take for instance movies. Every weekend, people go to their local movie theater in order to enjoy two hours of entertainment, they want to have the experience of being transported elsewhere and feel part of those magical worlds.
Sometimes movies transcend or break through the conventional narrative standards. They want to have people talking, create enough buzz so people may return and buy another ticket in order to comprehend what certain symbols or images may refer to. People share their internal representations with others so with the help of others, so they can form an external representation of what something really meant. After all, a human mind becomes more powerful by its connection to a cultural network (Merlin Donald, 220)
In Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” (2010), a spinning top was used as a totem that could help us know if the characters were awake of if they were trapped in the dream world. In the movie’s final sequence, Leonardo DiCaprio arrives to reunite with his kids who haven’t seen him in a long time. He arrives home and starts spinning his “totem” on the kitchen table, before we can see if the totem falls (real world) or keeps spinning (dream world) the film fades to black and to the end credits.
This made people anxious for answers. They contacted friends, searched online for interpretations and try to see if someone had a concrete answer for that particular ending. Even today if you google “Inception spinning top meaning” you would get around 68,000 results. So as our ancestors did before us; we engaged in an cognitive activity to try to get some answers. We combined our internal representations with our groups external representations so we could unravel the mystery, this distributed cognition (L. Patel 334) led to different interpretations about the movie, but made ourselves question the narrative quality of cinema and the stories portrayed in the screen.
I mention the scene in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” because it is a moment filled with visual metaphors, our hero has finally achieved inner peace at the end of a difficult journey. Cinema is well known for using visual and spoken metaphors to convey ideas across. Metaphors are not just a matter of language, but of thought and reason. (Lakoff, 192) Maybe traditional media can learn something from the way cinema uses this “layered” almost poetic language.
Even though cinema has more time to produce and prepare it’s content. Information can’t just be thrown out d without repercussions due to short production times. As communication professionals we have a responsibility to construct coherent, interesting yet elaborate messages that people can share with their peers or friends within these water-cooler conversations.
Communication can’t be seen now as a simple sender—message—-receiver. Media has to acknowledge that every message constructed has the opportunity to reach millions at the time instead of thousands through the power of conversation. Messages have to be constructed with a clear strategy in mind and as well as quality improvement through time. How we might share and consume media is important because they define our self-perception as individuals, communities or even as cities or countries. The Water Cooler has just gotten bigger so the responsibility for those who generate information for this talks has increased.
Zhang, Jiajie, and Vimla L. Patel. “Distributed Cognition, Representation, and Affordance.” Pragmatics & Cognition 14, no. 2 (July 2006): 333-341.
Kate Wong, “The Morning of the Modern Mind: Symbolic Culture.” Scientific American 292, no. 6 (June 2005): 86-95.
Merlin Donald, “Evolutionary Origins of the Social Brain,”from Social Brain Matters: Stances on the Neurobiology of Social Cognition, ed. Oscar Vilarroya, et al. Amsterdam: Rodophi, 2007.
George Lakoff, “Conceptual Metaphor.” Excerpt from Geeraerts, Dirk, ed. Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2006.