People watching isn’t creepy after all! Its just science.

I love those moments when you walk away from a day and all your expectations are thrown out the window leaving you to dwell a small fragment or moment of the day that was merely a part of the whole – not the sole focus, but it’s enough to change your perspective that even when you wake up, the thoughts are still there present.  Granted, this event often happens to me when my roommate makes some kind of delicious dessert like a pan of brownies and leaves it on the counter…forcing all of us in the house to become distracted by it, to dwell on it hourly to the point of obsession…even waking up in the middle of the night thinking “would she notice if a bite were taken from it?” Maybe she’ll confuse those fork marks and believe that no, this was not the work of her sweets addicted roommate that she unknowingly and cruelly taunts every time she makes baked goods, but perhaps she’ll see those lines and would perceive it to be the work of some mutated rodent out of the depths of the local WIPP site with an unusual bite structure and a penchant for breaking and entering houses with freshly prepared treats? I mean, after all, mutated rodents in our area surely have the right sized hands for picking locks and have an overdeveloped sense of smell, right?

I question my roomies observation skills between sips of coffee and bites of chocolate goodness in hopes she has an overactive imagination like mine or in hopes that she just won’t notice that detail at all.

But details are what’s on my mind. I approached the iSwoop training expecting to dive into topics of how science is viewed, specific research dealing in the cave, or even just topics relating to interpretation and education, and yes we did some of that…but instead my thoughts have been lingering on observations of the world around us in the search for details we often overlook or fail to consider. We all read the article about how med students are improving their abilities to diagnose patients by improving their observation skills using art. That in studying small details in various paintings, they could reveal greater details and meanings of the whole picture. Ah…the mission of an interpreter right there.

It all makes me wonder: how often do I fail to take notice of those details? As interpreters, we are supposed to encourage observation and provocation of thought to connect to a place. We try to read our audience for cues as to when to hold back our messages or to provide more. We try to encourage people to look for details as we study their body language, verbal cues, even behavior like little kids dancing in place – a sure sign that they are gonna wet their pants if we don’t wrap up this talk about the molecular structure and chemical reaction of sulfuric acid and limestone (no matter how much 5 year olds LOVE that kind of talk!).

I sometimes fail quite often in noticing details, or at least, i notice too late …as in that time I went in to hug a friend’s mom for cooking me dinner, only to realize too late in mid air approach that she was not a hugger. Momentum and gravity carried out her torture as I squeezed that poor woman with wide, deer in headlight eyes leaving me to think…hmm, maybe i should have noticed that sooner as she quickly tensed up and shuffled away backwards in case I was one of those overly gregarious types who can never settle for just one hug.

And isn’t observation one of the critical methods in science? It’s a no brainer: make observations, form questions, make an educated guess, make some more observations, come up with an experiment to test that guess, make more observations…

If we look at the world through Facebook, it’s all questions and guesses (and pictures of kittens doing adorable things).  We all seems to fail to make observations and read the world around us. Are we all too distracted and too quick to assume that we don’t have time to make observations and think before we act?

I feel like in my world around me i’m often asking questions, but how much am I really observing the details to formulate a guess …or am I just pondering those dang brownies as my attention is taken to something else? If I truly want to help people find meaning to these places we care about, or encourage critical thinking and scientific appreciation, i better start paying more attention to the little details myself. Otherwise, i may be left with a used convenience bag in the cave, or another socially awkward moment after dinner.

And with that…i notice my coffee cup is empty.

5 thoughts on “People watching isn’t creepy after all! Its just science.

  1. Some people watching IS creepy, eric…but thanks for the post! The work we’ve done on observing these past few days has been some of the most interesting for me. Once you get part the feeling that you have no idea what you are looking at or what on Earth to say about it, it’s amazing what you can start to see (or guess).


  2. Eric, I relate fully with your first sentiment in this blog right at this moment… Hours after our work day has ended, I am haunted by an overloaded noggin. So many concepts, ways of thinking and interacting and looking at the world, so much needed information… My mind is looking forward to a night of mulling-over a packed day in the dreamworld. Today’s thoughts will still be present in the morning… a day dawning on a new perspective. Thank you for the lovely insights!


  3. Such wonderfully expressed thoughts about our potential to observe and the opportunities we miss. I test myself like this. I have had the same 8 mile bike commute for over 10 years. Sometimes I take a quick mental snapshot of a house and say to myself: if someone asked you if this house were on your commute, would you answer yes or no? Would you know what corner it stood on? Would you know what trees are in the yard? How not after 10 years?? Now that I have increased my attention to the architecture of the home facades, I have taken to trying to peek around the back. Where are the garbage cans? How deep is the yard? When I swim I try to listen to the sound of the water splashing around me. I guess being attentive to detail can be overwhelming or it can be soothing.

    Your post is making me think about the kind of observations that feel purposeful, like they are pushing toward a scientific type of understanding. But there are observations that are more along the affective lines. Is that false color thermal image pleasing or not? Does it look like a cartoon to you? Maybe for some people those kinds of questions are easier points of entry.

    My random thoughts for tonight!


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