The concept of seeing faces within any environmental object is called apophenia. Psychologytoday.com describes the process of on the fly facial recognition as;
“…when our pattern-recognition systems misfire, they tend to err on the side of caution and self-deception. The experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data was coined apophenia by the German neurologist, Klaus Conrad. He originally described this phenomenon as a kind of psychotic thought process, though it is now viewed as being a ubiquitous feature of human nature… Examples of apophenia, or patternicity, are everywhere. Many people perceive faces in seemingly random places—such as in clouds, in patterns of dirt left on cars, or on the moon. We take such patterns a step further by ascribing meaning to them. People have seen the images of Jesus and Mary inside a halved orange; or the face of Jesus on a piece of toast. “
This is a very interesting concept, especially seeing that this is done at such a subliminal level that it is ingrained in our basic functioning. This initially was used in determining threat level and reacting appropriately. Ascribing a face to the object allowed us to recognize it faster and respond regardless of level of threat. Now, in this era, we see it more as a means to laugh as we see a goofy smiley face in our hamper or sidewalk. A great list of examples are linked here at wtface.com.
To drive this home below is a three minute video on apophenia brought to you by Stuff to Blow Your Mind:
Now, to bring it back around. McCloud offers a very interesting point in his “Vocabulary of Comics” piece.
This is problematic for me in that he is saying there is a separation between the two mediums. The science of seeing a face -any face- purposed in apophenia would contend that you learned the picture and word in tandem. At the time of understanding the face you have internalized the term of face. They would work in strict connection, if not overlap in meaning. That is why I would beg to differ on how separated they two mediums are.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British philosopher dealing mainly in logic, brought up the concept of words and their image. He started with the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus that helped make connection to the world via human lens. Below is a list called “The Seven Basic Propositions” from the Tractatus translated by C.K. Ogden:
He attaches these concepts to his outlook on imagery and text very thoughtfully as he gives credence that one can not be without the other. They can not be divorced of each other because one will beget the other. Below is an except from his philosophy essay provided by The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
“The move to thought, and thereafter to language, is perpetrated with the use of Wittgenstein’s famous idea that thoughts, and propositions, are pictures—“the picture is a model of reality” (TLP 2.12). Pictures are made up of elements that together constitute the picture. Each element represents an object, and the combination of elements in the picture represents the combination of objects in a state of affairs. The logical structure of the picture, whether in thought or in language, is isomorphic with the logical structure of the state of affairs which it pictures. More subtle is Wittgenstein’s insight that the possibility of this structure being shared by the picture (the thought, the proposition) and the state of affairs is the pictorial form. “That is how a picture is attached to reality; it reaches right out to it” (TLP 2.1511). This leads to an understanding of what the picture can picture; but also what it cannot—its own pictorial form.
While “the logical picture of the facts is the thought” (3), in the move to language Wittgenstein continues to investigate the possibilities of significance for propositions (4). Logical analysis, in the spirit of Frege and Russell, guides the work, with Wittgenstein using logical calculus to carry out the construction of his system. Explaining that “Only the proposition has sense; only in the context of a proposition has a name meaning” (TLP 3.3), he provides the reader with the two conditions for sensical language. First, the structure of the proposition must conform to the constraints of logical form, and second, the elements of the proposition must have reference (bedeutung). These conditions have far-reaching implications. The analysis must culminate with a name being a primitive symbol for a (simple) object. Moreover, logic itself gives us the structure and limits of what can be said at all.”
Although McCloud gives very compelling analysis on the spectrum of image and text I would have to say that it is not as separate as he would lead on. I look forward to learning the readers takes on this. Are words and text as distinctive as McCloud says. Or are they more blended into a synthsized hybrid of image and word.