In our group conversation on morality I found it particularly interesting to learn that in the general division of levels of morality there are moral concepts I had never really given much thought to – particularly sanctity vs degradation. Although it’s extremely difficult for me to think of a case in which I feel any degree of moral anger of unease when it comes to degradation, there are some very specific situations when I can at least understand why someone may have a moral outrage at degradation. One instance that comes to mind was a piece of art that was exhibited at the brooklyn museum in the min 90s that used elephant dung as one of its materials. While I don’t personally have any sort of moral response to this, I can at least feel an understanding with people who do. Being able to empathize on this may be because of an innate association we have that feces are disgusting, negative, unclean – and so by having a common set of associations with the offending material, I can at least understand why someone would feel that an image of a sacred religious figure made with this material would be upsetting.
Religion in particular is a realm that seems to come across the sanctity/degradation question more often than other aspects of life. One common topic in the news these days is the “sanctity of marriage” and the way in which same self couples degrade this sanctity. In contrast to the conversation surrounding Ofili’s painting, I find that I have no ability to empathize with the belief that marriage is sacred. As a highly empathetic person I found this fact to be really interesting. When a person loses the ability to empathize (or never has it in the first place) its extremely difficult if not impossible to change their opinion on moral issues. For me at least, its the fact that our opinions have even a modicum of wiggle room that makes conversations worth having. When there’s no hope that anyone is going to open themselves up to the possiblity of changing their minds then it feels like the conversation is no longer worth having.
In class we had a conversation about how the internet may effectively expose you to a wider range of opinions than you would have previously had access to – however I question the degree to which these anonymous voices actually carry any weight when it comes to people changing their opinions. This lead me to thinking about who I listen to that might effectively change my mind. In thinking about it, I realized that I’ve created a kind of fragmented heirarchy that weighs how important different voices are on different topics – my mother, family, friends, professors, NPR, Jon Stewart all the way down to the random blogger on the internet all get different degrees of attention when it comes to deciding who I’m gong to listen to and base my opinions around.
Advertising is a world that has long been aware of the value of a voice that can convince you to believe what its telling you. Don LaFontaine for example, was a voice actor responsible for more than 5,000 movie trailers. I spent some time looking for apps/programs that would allow me to change my voice to a favorite celebrity (I thought a reasonable place to start) but unfortunately the only programs I was able to find would simply alter my voice without necessarily being able to make it sound more like a recognizably famous voice. Ideally however, I’m less interested in using famous voices, than how the voices of people you trust may (or may not) encourage you to change your opinions on different issues. How would your feelings/opinions change if your best friend said that they believed in the sanctity of hetero marriage and outlined it’s most convincing points?
Installation audio piece by Barbara Kruger -physiological impact of audio.
In testing I’ll compare the audio recording of someone presenting a moderately controversial idea (that the test subject doesn’t agree with) and compare their response to a recording of a friends/family member reading the same text. I’m also interested in priming the user with images and/or smells of people they know before answering questions with a “strongly disagree” “strongly agree” sliding scale.