I'm about to start a new term at the theology school and my focus this time around will be theology and media culture, divided into two sections: television and digital media. So I have been mentally gathering thoughts and ideas and genrally scouring corners for ideas and materials to supplement my own thinking. I have spent the past couple of years thinking a lot about the interface between technology and faith, I think we have underestimated the link in terms of how technology reframes the way we look at the world.
Yesterday I wrote a blog about Twitter and Facebook, encapsulating my thinking and feeling about their various contributions to my self-understanding and how I interact with them, but in the course of that blog I also confessed to being a bit of an Instagram addict. I love imagery, always have, in all the modes they come to us, painting, two-dimensional, three-dimensional, photography on and on. I live in a world shaped by my relation to imagery, in fact, I do much of my thinking using imagery of one form or another as a starting point.
I came across this image and I think it is pretty interesting. The photography archive at The Library of Congress is a tiny square, a single pixel in a huge sea of Facebook and other digital media repositories (now we can't discuss this in terms of quality, it may not necessarily play out the same way on a graph if we were to apply quality or style etc. to the issue). I'm thinking about this in terms of what it says about our broader cultural context, and what it says to me is that we are living in a time where there are new literacies emerging and one of them is a new visual literacy, perhaps we might even say, hyper-visual literacy. We are awash in images, it's part of our 'new normal' to follow on from another recent blog post. There was a recent iphone ad that talks about the number of photos taken everyday with iPhone 5,
What does it mean that so many images flood our lives, well, I think it means that the meaning of the images themselves has changed--they have shifted from being artistic artifacts or some sort of representation of reality and they didn't really contribute much to the structuring or constructing of meaning, that was left to text, but these days it seems that our visual literacy is different and we reagrd images as expressions of reality rather than simple representations, and they make meaning, or at least we use them to make meaing of our lives whether text is present or not.
The conversation about the rise of the image and the fall of the word, of text, has been around for a while now, but we may actually be closer to that reality now, in terms of how we think about various and ascendant/descendant forms of literacy, than when those conversations began and essentially ended. Like many ideas, it may have been slightly ahead of its time, and now is a better time to think it through.