Monday, March 28, 2011

'The Rise of the Image, The Fall of the Word'

On pages 84-5 of “Image-Based Culture,” Sut Jhally discusses the speed at which images come at us in our visual society, noting that this “speed-up” replaces narrative and rational response with emotion and feeling. “The generalization of this speed/fragmentation strategy to the entire domain of the image culture may in fact mean that this is the form that thought increasingly is taking at the end of the twentieth century,” he says.

This had me searching for the name of a book I read for a graduate-level journalism class nearly 10 years ago: “The Rise of the Image, The Fall of the Word” by Mitchell Stephens and published in 1998. (The class was called Journalism and Cyberspace; the idea that they offered a class about this crazy little thing called the Internet in 2001 or 2002 says a lot about how the mindset has changed in less than a decade.) Stephens’ theory is that during this Information Revolution / change to networked communication, the print world will die off and be replaced by visual, moving images. He theorizes that we will become so accustomed to processing images, our brains will learn, grow and adjust and will offer us more options for communication, learning, education, entertainment, etc. (An oversimplifed summary, to be sure.)

While I disagree that the printed word will die I would agree that our brains are adjusting rapidly to processing visuals, and I think it’s only grown more obvious in the years since this book was published. Watch a TV show, a commercial or especially a music video from 20 years ago and it will feel slow and boring -- a sign, I think, that our brains have adapted to processing faster cuts and more changes. We’re evolving to learn how to gain more from the changes in our media technology.

And while I agree with Jhally that images can be loaded with emotion, I’m not certain the deluge of images has transformed our thought processes just yet.

I also thought I’d bring up this book in case it helps anyone with source material for their final papers ...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kathy,
    Your post made me think of some articles I read when I was conducting research for an advertising paper. Some people think that with all the ways we receive advertising now, along with the number of ads we are exposed to, eventually it will come to a halt because people won't be able to take it anymore. We've become so scatterbrained, that I think there is the potential for a media rebellion. I like what you said about the difference between TV shows 20 years ago and now. That is so true.

    This isn't the best article to illustrate my point, but it's something...