The power of images has never been so big:
This is the era of images. In a world of short attention span, their power has never been so big.Patrick Chappatte, “The end of political cartoons at The New York Times”
It is so big in fact, that a single cartoon can completely blow up an editorial space in a major media outlet like New York Times, which is a source of concern.
We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow.
It is noticeable that Patrick stresses the power of images in the context of a very troubling moral setback, yet I don’t think we can blame images for it. However, there is another tech driven, so far invisible trend looming in the horizon, which is directly related to the rising dominance of images.
For quite some time, I have been speculating that, as long as we continue our steady technology march without any significant disruption, it is only a matter of time before writing dissapears. Once we can store, retrieve and search audio recordings as easily as we do today with text, writing will be over in a couple of generations. It will become a specialized tool for some very specific activities.
For centuries, people have learned to write and share words, mainly offline and one-to-one or one-to-some. Writing made ideas transportable, simplifies concepts and enables learning. For two decades people have been increasingly telling stories via edited images and videos, sharing them online and often one-to-many.
Mary Meeker quotes Instagram co-founder, Kevin Systrom:
People have always been visual – our brains are wired for images. Writing was a hack, a detour. Pictorial languages are how we all started to communicate – we are coming full circle. We are reverting to what is most natural.
I fully agree. Writing is a hack, a detour. What we don’t know is how we and society will change, once we fix the hack. We must admit that we are not very good at projecting long term trends, and for the time being we have no idea.
Featured Image: La Pileta (Malaga), Wikimedia Commons