Images and Ideas

Here’s a question posed by Lynda Barry to her writing class recently:

What is the difference between and image and an idea?

What say ye?

Comments | 11

  • Off the top of my head

    If I were to consider image and idea for the same event; say a woman longboarding on a somewhat desolate, smooth mountain road, with cars going by every now and then, and she in firm control of her vehicle—it seems the idea is the container of the components- speed, athleticism, a zenlike flow, defiance of gender expectations, possible risk…and the image is composed of the manifestation of these elements in actuality- as they are posited in time and space. (board style and shape, posture, grade of the road., light, etc)

    If the definition is applied to something more formless, like time itself—the idea still circumscribes a greater area, including offshoots, abstractions and various renderings. Whereas the image of time is vague until populated with a specific– a watch stopped at 11:11– setting up interpretation off a more fixed starting point.

    • Ideas and images

      In the most basic sense, images are those ideas that manifest themselves in a visual way. All input is sensory. For most of us, vision is our most dominant sense. While we could assign image status to other sensory input such as sound or touch, such interpretation is simply a metaphor. If we claim that we can see sound we are speaking metaphorically. Vision is the sense by which images are formed. Light hitting the retina of our eyes is converted to electrical impulses that travel to our brain. Variations in the light such as color, intensity, shape, frequency, and other aspects are sensed and an image is created.

      Images are remembered and associated with other images. We combine sensory input from our other senses to form ideas. The resultant associations become thought and meaning is ascribed.

      Sensory stimuli may not be the only way that images and ideas are formed. Recently I have been thinking about instinct. Instinct is memory that has not been formed by sensory input. Our brains seem pre-programed to know certain things that could not possibly have come from sensory stimuli. Ideas such as fear or abilities such as artistic creativity or mathematical ability seem to occur without explanation. We readily accept the notion of instinct in animals. How does a bird dog know how to point? How does a chicken know how to sit on its nest? Instinct. We seem to downplay the importance of instinct in humans. I wonder how much we know but don’t realize that we know it.

  • Images & ideas

    “I love you,” is an idea.

    “You are the most beautiful flower,” is an image.

    • Images and Ideas

      “You are the most beautiful flower” is an idea that evokes an image.
      The statement itself is not an image. It is a visual or sensory metaphor that compares the image of “you” and that of a flower. The comparison assigns meaning, “the most beautiful”.
      The idea of love, on the other hand, requires no image to exist.
      Maybe love is an instinct. I hope so.
      I have noticed that it is difficult for people to separate what they see from what they know. “Seeing is believing”, as the saying goes. If I can see it, it must exist. If this was true, then illusions would not exist. An illusion is a false idea about an image. Our mind misinterprets an image and assigns meaning that does not jive with physical reality. I wonder how much of people’s realities are based on illusion.

      • Then do poems ever have images, or just words conuring up images

        vtstream writes:

        “‘You are the most beautiful flower’ is an idea that evokes an image.
        The statement itself is not an image. It is a visual or sensory metaphor that compares the image of ‘you’ and that of a flower.”

        Strictly speaking, that is true… words, not matter how flowery, are not images. So when vtstream is present 🙂 we should be very careful not ever to refer to “the poet’s use of images,” or to talk about the images in a poem.

  • image/idea (not really an answer, but ...)

    In the Air of Abstraction, the Texture of Reality Thins:
    an essay on poetry & painting, for Arrin

    … to get it right …
    skies spilling into sea ….
    you have to be there, she said …
    salt mist, silver world,
    the gull’s cry
    past the edge of sound ….

    Formality a patterned division the lore of clean edges
    prevails over the looser form the life of the moment

    & t h e t e x t u r e o f r e a l i t y t h i n s . . .

    to get it right …
    cold, grainy damp of sand,
    insistent between the toes,
    tug of tide at the pulse ….
    driven back on the moment
    tireless as the wave
    & again
    till body & soul come together
    in a shape we know as truth.

    • I like that!

      Thank you. I could not have said it better myself, no matter how hard I tried.

      • thanks

        Glad you liked it. It would actually read better if the software didn’t insist on erasing spaces – like ripping the rests out of a music score. I knew the old system did that – now I know the new version does, too! Ah well, can’t have everything.

        Incidentally, I enjoyed your piece in the Commons. You’ve referred to your health crisis here; it was interesting to get a clearer idea of what happened.

  • What's the Differnece

    They are the same. One is visual, the other is words.

  • For me

    Many of my ideas come to me in the form of images.

    Images are fragments of an idea. I can, for example, imagine scenes I’d like to animate or build. They come to me in the form of images.

    The full idea for the project isn’t there, but parts of it are. I can see them.

    An idea is more fully thought out. An image is a snapshot to consider.

    Ideas can be put into action.

  • Idea: democracy

    Idea: democracy (sublime)
    Image: 2 people arguing heatedly nose to nose (appears repugnant)

    Idea: totalitarianism (repugnant).
    Image: 2 smiling people (appears sublime)

    can’t tell a book by its cover

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