The Necessity of Time in Perception of Three Dimensions: A Preliminary Inquiry

Michael Mahan
Bridges London: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2006)
Pages 231–236


In working with 3-D computer models I came to realize that there would not be much advantage to presenting them as a three dimensional representation rather than on a flat screen. In either case, they would have to be manipulated, over time, in some way to offer much information. This paper is a non-rigorous exploration of why that is true. It begins by presenting some of the mechanisms by which we orient ourselves in space and how we perceive it. The most important of these are visual, but they do not yield much information in a static situation, since they are vulnerable to misinterpretation and illusion. The paper then goes on to examine the importance of a changing point of view in the perception of space, how points of view have been depicted in art, and how time affects point of view. The example of motion pictures provides foundation for the idea that certain perceptions are essentially free of time, while others occur over time. It goes on to discuss time and how it becomes essential to the perception of space. Finally, it offers some insight into the perception of time.