Dancing with words, Good/Evil in a new ambigram context

by | Monday, February 04, 2013

Many years ago I constructed an ambigram for the words “good” and “evil.” The idea came to me while waiting for a traffic light to turn green. The memory of it is so vivid in my mind that even today when I come to that particular intersection I remember that moment when the visual insight struck. Out of that came one of my most popular designs—one that has been replicated many times in books, websites, crafted in wood—sometimes with my permission, sometimes without.

The most recent use of the design (with permission) comes in Janet Smith Warfield’s blog post titled: Dancing with words- dancing with wisdom. Looking at this design Janet writes:

The black and white lines on the ambigram above have neither meaning nor emotional charge until our minds chop them up and give them both. When we see the word “good”, we feel safe and warm. When we see the word “evil”, we feel contracted, unsafe, and afraid. Yet none of the sensory data changes. All that changes is what our minds have done with it.

Irrespective of whether or not you agree with Janet’s interpretation, I think you have to accept that the design (good in one reading, and evil in another) is a kind of rorschach test, where the “meaning” of the design comes from an interaction of the perceptions of the viewer and the properties inherent in the design itself.

Bob Stake, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign often spoke of the transactional theory of meaning by saying, “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, but is inherent in the flower.” The point I think he was trying to make was that meaning emerges not just from the object under observation or from the observer but rather from a transaction between the two. This is consistent with the idea that meaning making is a bi-directional, reciprocal and dialogic process that emerges from the interaction between the observed and the observer!

Whether you buy into this idea or not, enjoy the ambigram. As I said, this is maybe the best design I have created.

Topics related to this post: Ambigrams | Art | Creativity | Design | Fun | Philosophy | Puzzles | Representation | Worth Reading

A few randomly selected blog posts…

TPACK Newsletter, #44 March 2021

TPACK Newsletter, #44 March 2021

This is a delayed (by more than a year) posting of the TPACK newsletter #44 (link to PDF). My apologies, I am not entirely sure how I missed that. As always, Judi Harris and team have done a great job. You can find the previous issues archived here. This issue...

From incompetence to mastery, the stages

One who knows and knows he knows is a wise man, Follow Him One who knows and knows not he knows is asleep, Awaken him One who knows not and knows he knows not is a child, Teach him One who knows not and knows not he knows not is a Fool, Avoid him. -- Attributed...

Tactical creativity in sports

Tactical creativity in sports

Daniel Memmert is Professor and Executive Head of the Institute of Exercise Training and Sport Informatics at the German Sport University Cologne. A lifelong sports player and enthusiast, Memmert’s research is at the intersection of human movement science, sport...

Finding humor in play

Learning through play has been an important part of my philosophy of teaching (and learning). In fact I have argued that play is far more important than games (though games have been receiving a great deal of educational interest lately). [You can read a previous...

Bye bye textbooks, buy buy laptops

Reuters story titled Technology reshapes America's classrooms. Couple of quotes worth noting: "Why would we ever buy a book when we can buy a computer? Textbooks are often obsolete before they are even printed," said Debra Socia, principal of the school in Dorchester,...

A Systems view of creativity

A Systems view of creativity

Our series of articles related to the broad topic of Rethinking technology and creativity for the 21st century in the journal TechTrends continues with two new articles. The first focuses on developing a systems view of creativity,...

Indipix Gallery, cool photographs

The International Conference on Indian Education: The Positive Turmoil. is being held at the India Habitat Center in New Delhi. This Habitat center is a rather cool building and, apart from academic conferences (I saw two different conferences going on at the same...

TED is bullshit 🙂

Evrim Baran (who I often joke is the only reader of this blog) sent me this link to a set of notes by Jeff Jarvis from a TED talk he recently gave. He says that he used the opportunity of a TED event to question the TED format, especially in relation to education,...

Wicked problems, Design & Horst Rittel

Matt Koehler and I have often talked about the wicked problems of design and teaching with technology (most specifically in our handbook chapter on TPACK). We take the idea of wicked problems from a classic paper written by Rittel and Weber back in 1973. As Wikipedia...

2 Comments

  1. Punya Mishra

    Gaurav, you remain my most loyal reader… and thanks for pointing out the Good (black)/Evil (white) contradiction, something I had NOT noticed. The nice thing about the design is that both good and evil have to exist for the design to work – which is cool.

    BTW, I always had a problem with that Doyle/Holmes quote. What about considering the possible, before we get to the impossible/improbable? Also, what if more than one improbable solution remains? What then? And finally, can one really eliminated the impossible? Things can be impossible in infinite numbers of ways, I would think. Maybe it depends if there are a countably infinite number of impossible solutions.. in which case, technically, we could take care of the the infinity (though not really).

    ~ punya

    Reply
  2. Gaurav Bhatnagar

    One thing i noticed about it is that Good is in Black and Evil in White, which is somewhat contradictory. The other is of course possibility that if you remove the evil, good will remain which I am not so sure is true either.

    Which reminds me…”When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *