The Transition From Text

by Matt Sitman

Pivoting off various news stories about Instagram, Ali Eteraz describes the rise of a world that leaves out the written word:

The virtual world that took off in the mid 90’s started as a place for words. Every person made a screen-name and then used text to communicate their ideas and feelings. But in an extremely accelerated manner the supremacy of text was weakened. First, by progressively smaller bursts of text (websites became blogs, became status updates, became 144 character tweets), and then through the enthronement of the image. Whether it is moving pictures (Youtube, Vimeo, Liveleak), or photo-sharing sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat, it goes without saying that we are well on our way to communicating with each other by way of pictures. And let’s not forget about selfies and nudity (where we communicate to our privates in pictures).

For many people this transformation hasn’t been jarring. After all, we are descendants of cavemen that told their stories upon stone walls by way of images. And we are descended of societies where the primary language was the hieroglyph, which is nothing more than words represented in imagistic forms. From this perspective we shouldn’t show much concern if our societies transition away from words and move to communicating by way of the image. And, in fact, most people won’t care. Language has only one use, which is to tell a story, and a story can be told in a thousand different ways. In fact, you only have to look at the billions of dollars that world’s various film industries earn to realize that maybe the transition to communicating by way of the image has already happened.