blelb The visual perception lab

The alphabet as a code

To perceive means to differentiate
When we perceive something, it is necessary that this something can be differentiated from its surroundings and appear as an independent whole. When we perceive an object, we remove it from its surroundings and experience it with all its features as a whole. This «deciphering» of reality by creating differences is a basic principle of perception at all levels of complexity. It is interesting that the search for similarities and contrasts is not only an analytical process related to the statistical methods of psycholinguistics [3], but that it also has a creative side to it. Many painters, poets, musicians and others see it as a way of representing their art. We have only to think of the Surrealists with the pictorial logic of René Magritte or the artists of the Fluxus movement, who made use of the poetic strength of the seemingly random. Spot 24 should be viewed in the light of this. If two words are linked by some objective formal relationship, in this case their word value, we are spurred to find some sensible connection in terms of content in much the same we see faces and human figures in random patterns. Thus the alphabet becomes a code, a concealed pattern, which can contain cryptic messages [2].

How Spot 24 works
The applet in Spot 24 is based on a simple concept. When the website is accessed, the nouns (from list II with word values between 27 and 181 [1]) are read into an internal dictionary. The letters between A and Z are numbered 1 to 26. The word value is the sum of the numbers of the letters. Spaces, punctuation marks and other symbols are not taken into consideration; capitalization is unimportant. As soon as the user enters a word, the word value is determined, the coding given and the word added to the internal dictionary. The word appears on the screen together with words with the same value. Doublets are removed and the word appears on the first line. If the word is not yet contained in the dictionary, it is placed in inverted commas. Then all the words with the same value are searched for. Should the program find more than two related words, two of these are chosen randomly and displayed. It is quite possible that entering a word repeatedly will result in new combinations. When leaving or reloading the page, the program forgets the newly-learned words.
Further experiments with Spot 24
Give your curiosity and sense of play free rein. For example, you could discover connections between numbers written as words and their word value or, instead of nouns, investigate various activities by entering verbs, make connections between words from different languages or enter short sentences such as proverbs or sayings.

[1] Reder C, 2000
Wörter und Zahlen, Das Alphabet als Code
Springer-Verlag Wien
[2] Singh S, 1999
The Code Book
The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
Fourth Estate, London
[3] Miller G, 1991
The Science of Words
Scientific American Library, New York