Monday, February 09, 2015

On looking - book review

A book I skimmed read last year towards the preparation of an article on ‘learning through observation’. As article development progressed, I took time to read the book in greater detail.

Horowitz, A. (2013). On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Book borrowed from the Christchurch public library. Positive review here and summary here.

Horowitz is an expert on dog psychology and this book came about through her observations of how her dog, ‘saw’ or rather smelled, a different world when out walking around the block. This book, with an introductory and 12 chapters, chronicles Horowitz’s walks with a collection of experts, to unravel the way experts view the world.

Walks are with an urban sociologist, artist, geologist, entomologist, physician, typographer and sound designer. There are also walks taken on her own to establish a base line  plus walks with Horowitz’s toddler son, her dog and a person with limited vision to provide diversity. Although the majority of the chapters are on how experts ‘see’ the world, there are also chapters studying other senses, notably sound and smell.

The writing style is conversational, allowing the complex ideas to be well communicated. The book has lists of references to follow up, in the form of an epigraph – a collection of references with pertinent headings. A comprehensive index is found at the end of the book.
The book is also a good example of the conduct of a form of ethnography and how to write up observations. The tempo of the book is well paced, with short chapters but each providing the salient overview of an aspect of ‘looking’. Overall, a good introduction to aspects of multimodality and a call to be more aware of how each individual sees the world. 

No comments: