Welcome to the blog for An Introduction to Architecture and Visual Communications.

Please use this blog to post your glosses.

post titles uncapitalized!!!


Monday, November 26, 2012


            Reification is formed by a conjunction of the latin terms res, meaning "thing" or "material", and the suffix -ification, from the latin ficare meaning "to make" or "to become". The term itself has been incorporated into the technical language of a number of different fields, acquiring new meaning within each context.

            In Gestalt psychology, a movement founded on the premise that we perceive whole entities before we perceive disparate parts, reification refers to the constructive aspect of visual perception. This aspect causes us to interpret forms beyond those of the actual stimulus. In the example below, rather than perceiving three separate figures we interpret from them a triangle where it is neither outlined nor filled in with a tone or colour. Advances in the study of illusory contours revealed that we perceive these implied contours as "real".

The Oxford Dictionary of Sociology defines reification as "The error of regarding an abstraction as a material thing, and attributing causal powers to it—in other words the fallacy of misplaced concreteness." If we consider a statement such as "If the government refuses to put this stimulus package into action, the nation will run out of fuel and stop dead in its tracks" we find an example of this fallacy. The person making this statement is arguing the urgency of a certain action on the premise that "the nation", itself a concept, is no different from a vehicle, something concrete, and therefore can be treated as such. In political rhetoric this may be taken as a metaphor used knowingly in an attempt to persuade an audience. To accept this as reasonablr the audince must either assume the speaker understands the concept they are describing on a deeper basis than the metaphor, or commit the fallacy of the argument themselves.

            The Oxford Dictionary of Media and Communication defines reification as
“a representational practice which functions to establish the self-evident reality of the concept in question, treating it as if it has the ontological status of a specific physical thing in an objective material world. Reification suppresses the human intervention involved in the defining process as if the signifier were neutral and had been an integral part of a pre-existing thing in the world.”. In essence, this says that reification takes place when a concept becomes taken for granted as an actual thing. It goes on to give supporting examples including the mind, technology such as television and computers. Carrying on this idea, our acceptance of corporations as actors or entities in our daily lives might also be considered reification.

1. Scott, John, inasdf and Gordon Marshall. "reification." In A Dictionary of Sociology,    Oxford University Press. (, n.d.). Retrieved 25 Nov. 2012, from http://www.oxfordreference.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/view/10.1093/acref/9780199533008.001.0001/acref-9780199533008-e-1906
2. "reification." In , . (, n.d.). Retrieved 25 Nov. 2012, from http://www.oxfordreference.com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100412880
3. Joffre Essley, . House Design Coffee, "Gestalt Laws." Accessed November 25, 2012. http://www.house-design-coffee.com/gestalt-laws.html.


The meaning of heuristic is most often equated with that of  the more commonly spoken "rule of thumb". The OED defines "rule of thumb" as a  "Method or procedure derived from practice or experience, rather than theory or scientific knowledge; a roughly practical method". If we compare its definition to that of a heuristic we find little difference: "method or process proceeding to a solution by trial and error or by rules that are only loosely defined". As the word heuristic is derived from the Greek heuriskō, meaning "to find" it might be expected that all heuristics are discovered, however this is not the case. Since our survival has always depended on the ability to make quick decisions in a fast-moving and complex environment, we are born equipped with a number of heuristics which constitute our instincts. Unlike heuristics emerging from trial and error within our lifetime, these are the product of natural selection which eliminates all approaches which do not lead to the organism passing on its genes. Instincts do not determine the single correct response for any given situation since this is impractical from an evolutionary standpoint. Instead, our instincts help to limit or guide our responses to those which have yielded the best results in the past, much like a "rule of thumb".

            In the book Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer, the phenomena of heuristics is illustrated with "the gaze heuristic", involved in catching a ball already high up in the air. Whereas a perfect/formal method exists in which the trajectory and landing of the ball could be calculated mathematically, such a solution would be neither efficient nor effective in helping catch the ball on time.
Here, the gaze heuristic is described so as to catch a ball already high up in the air, by this             method your location should be that of the ball as it lands.:

"Fix your gaze on the ball, start running, and adjust your running speed so that the angle of gaze remains constant."
            Like catching a ball, many of the situations we face in life require solutions that are timely and practical rather than one hundred percent accurate. Though heuristic may sound more technical than “rule of thumb” its meaning does not extend a great deal beyond it.


1. Rouse, . WhatIs.com, "heuristic." Last modified 2009. Accessed November 25, 2012.    http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/heuristic.
2. Soegaard ,Mads, and Dam. The Interaction Design Foundation, "The Encyclopedia     of Human-Computer Interaction." Last modified 2012. Accessed November 25, 2012.           http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/heuristics_and_heuristic_evaluation.html
3. GIGERENZER, GERD. Gut Feelings: The intelligence of the unconscious. Penguin       Group, 2007.
4. "heuristic, adj. and n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press.            http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/86554?redirectedFrom=heuristic (accessed    November 25, 2012).