Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Measuring Instruments Reflect What They See Or Record - We Must Interpret It"

There are many types of measuring or registering instruments and devices that we use - some more frequently than others. Some of them we may not even consider as such a device, but that's exactly how we use them. Nevertheless, they are neutral. They reflect or show us exactly what they perceive or see.

What types of devices fall into this category, and how do we use them? They are more than we might think.

For assessments, perceptions, general interaction, and navigation through life, our eyes are the most common type of instrument that we use. Again, what they see is not positive, negative, or in any way rated. It's up to us and our life experiences, training, knowledge and personal filters that we apply to what our eyes tell us that we are seeing that allows us to interpret the scene in various ways - to avoid injury to ourselves or others, to suggest improvements for our clients, to order items off the menu that look appealing, to choose our wardrobe for the day that goes together well, to reduce clutter, and so much more. This all begin with an image that our eyes bring to our brains, and then our work of processing and utilizing this data begins - thousands and thousands of times a day.

Cameras - actual handheld devices created for the purpose of capturing images of film or a storage disk - or what many of us use for recording images - a smartphone or tablet that has a camera application on it - record what they see and let us interpret what has been captured after the fact, Those images that are captured - photos - sometimes are better than we expected, coming out clearer, brighter with good contrast, with great composition, and even containing objects in the frame that we didn't see when we took the photo.

Sometimes photos disappoint us because they are blurry - we didn't hold still or the subject moved - or both. Sometimes the picture is a little dingy, lacking in contrast and definition. Occasionally something will enter the frame as we take the shot and spoil what we wanted to capture or block part of what we wanted to show.

Other types of devices that we use in our evaluations and assessments include tape measures and checklists. Again, what they show or record is neutral - until we add our interpretation to what is observed. The width or length or something that we measure is just a number, a statistic, until we apply our guidelines or other spatial information to determine whether a particular space allows enough room for what is desired. What we record on a checklist is an entry until we begin analyzing the totality of what we have observed and put it into context.

What we see through windows or mirrors similarly is neutral as far as the glass is concerned. It simply allows us to see what it reveals. Then we interpret what we are seeing and make a determination about it being satisfactory or needing improvement - making recommendations where necessary.

The weight that we see on a scale is just a number - we decide if it's a good number or not or if it's holding steady, increasing, or decreasing. The elapsed time on a stopwatch likewise is just a number. Ambient temperature (as well as body temperature), blood pressure, pulse, and so many other physical indicators as recorded by their measuring devices are just numbers until we add our interpretation to decide how to use the information and what it means to what we are doing.

We use many measuring tools and devices in the course of our business. They collect, show, or reflect the information we need. Then it's up to use to analyze, assimilate, or interpret that information for any action that might be indicated.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.