Seeing and Enhancing?

I spend a lot of time thinking about observation.

This week news of a paper written by Christopher Chambers, Christopher Allen, Leah Maizey, and Mark Williams has added to my contemplation.

The paper published in Cortex is titled ‘Is delayed foveal feedback critical for extra-foveal perception?‘. The abstract is:

Recent neuroimaging evidence suggests that visual inputs arising beyond the fovea can be ‘fed back’ to foveal visual cortex to construct a new retinotopic representation. However, whether these representations are critical for extra-foveal perception remains unclear. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation we found that relatively late (350–400 msec) disruption of foveal retinotopic cortex impaired perceptual discrimination of objects in the periphery. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that feedback to the foveal retinotopic cortex is crucial for extra-foveal perception, and provide additional evidence for ‘constructive’ feedback in human vision.

In an ABC Science News post about the paper, Anna Salleh points out that this research encourages conjecture about the peripheral vision system :

  • Feeding back information to the foveal region to give extra information to the central vision.
  • Using the extra processing power of the foveal region as a kind of “scratch pad” to improve itself.

Mark Williams points out in his conversation with Anna that “Peripheral vision is best at picking up things in the dark and detecting movement. Our central vision, on the other hand, is best for focusing and detecting colour”.

Chris Chambers (the first author of the paper) has posted about the paper too. In his post he writes:

Peripheral vision is useful. Whether you’re an astronomer who practices ‘averted vision’, or a footballer monitoring for defenders, or even just attending covertly to a weirdo on the Tube – in each situation, looking directly at what you’re attending to may not be the best course of action.

Evidence is now mounting that when we attend to objects in the periphery, critical information about them is transmitted, or ‘fed back’, to an unexpected part of the brain: a region that neuroscientists have traditionally believed represents only the ‘fovea’, our central visual field.
Exactly why this feedback of information occurs isn’t yet clear. But one possibility is that the visual system harnesses the resolving power of the foveal cortex to enhance our peripheral vision, much like a small-town police force sending important CCTV footage to the ‘big city’ for analysis.
Chris provides a detailed account of his work with Mark Williams and has a copy of the paper available for download. I think his post as a briefing is an outstanding example of sharing insight into a research question and its investigation.
The research used two experiments. There were eighteen neurologically healthy, right-handed volunteers in Experiment 1 (nine females; mean age = 26.2 years). All participants had normal or corrected- to-normal vision and were initially screened for medical contraindications to TMS and MRI. There were ten volunteers were in Experiment 2 (six females; mean age = 23.9 years), one of whom had participated in Experiment 1.
The paper prompted me to think about individual variation in peripheral vision and how the construction of learning environments might stimulate this extra-foveal perception. I wondered too about how we are able to discuss what we have seen when each of us may have different peripheral feedback potential.
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#SCP12: Observation and Augmented Information

This week’s topic in the Sport Coaching and Pedagogy unit at the University of Canberra is Observation and Augmented Information.

It has been a busy week so I am behind with the SlideCast for this presentation.

I aim to integrate some of the material in the presentation with some autobiographical information.

As throughout this unit I am trying to ensure that I have material relevant to the coaches and teachers on the unit.


This is a short video clip I used in the lecture. I used it to trigger some thoughts about coach/athlete, teacher/pupil relationships and proxemics.


Observation +

I received an alert today via a LinkedIn group about a Performa Sports App.

I discovered that “Performa Sports is the performance analysis tool that gives analysts, coaches and players the edge”.

The availability of applications like this is offering real-time opportunities for observation + support for coaches and players. It has been fascinating to watch the transition from real-time hand notation systems to ubiquitous digital tools that generate data rich resources.

I thought I would use the term ‘observation +’ to describe tools that provide real-time and near real-time augmented information. This observation + domain is no longer the sole preserve of performance analysts.

Here in Australia, for example, FoxSports is offering viewers of their A-League and Big Bash League coverage some powerful real-time tools.


Big Bash League

Each of these applications shares rich data about performance.

The A-League App has a video replay option:

and a range of data that can be used for real-time or subsequent secondary data analysis.

The Big Bash League App shares a range of data visualisation tools:

As I watch people use these Apps and see the flourishing of digital media I sometimes think back to the start of my involvement in this analysis of performance space and the use of cine film!

Some key issues for me in this observation + time:

  1. How do we support real-time live observation?
  2. How do we filter the volume of material available for reflection?
  3. What do we know about the effectiveness of these media for personal learning environments?

One of my research priorities in 2012 will be the exploration of the use of observation + tools. I am going to look very closely at the multiple intelligences and learning styles literature and practice.

I would like to share some ethnographies of learning to explore observation + behaviour.

Photo Credit

Observe them