A picture is worth a thousand words…
Or sometimes just 3: “I remember that!”, “I love you,” or even “What the heck?!” Whilst the origins of the expression are unknown, as our legal department would be more than happy to point out, it’s probably more accurate to say that a picture is worth up to one thousand words. Nevertheless images are evocative and efficient at conveying information, and living as we do in an increasingly visual age, are becoming more important in our daily lives.
It’s arguable that contemporary society is beginning to come full circle. Prehistoric cave dwellers painted images of the caves they lived in, though most anthropologists consider this to be art, rather than communication. However, images, in the form of pictographs, made up the very first syntactical messages in Sumerian language tracing back to around the 4th millennia BC in Mesopotamia—modern day Iraq. should the urge for a Sumerian (rather than a summer) vacation suddenly strike you. This communication style lasted in common usage for at least 2000 years, probably helped by the lack of a 140 character limit.
|As far as I can tell,|
this means #yoloswag in Sumerian.
|It connects to LPT1:.|
Drivers only work on Windows 95.
The famous Egyptian hieroglyphics are another example of a pictograph system. But the Egyptians gradually introduced the concept of associating pictures with sounds, further tying together written and spoken language. Over time, starting around 800BC in China and the Middle East, pictograms gradually phased out, in favor of archaic scripted symbols, the precursor for the modern alphabets. From its introduction, scripting became the favored means of written communication until the first movable type press was introduced in the Middle Ages.
Of course, images never lost their impact; the first Gutenberg bibles were as admired for their fine artwork as they were for the technology used to mass-produce them. Painting and other decorative arts continued to be cherished, but from 1450, until way after the advent of moving pictures, the written word became the primary basis of human learning. Photography, introduced broadly around 1800, gave imagery the same popular boost that the printing press had given, but the latter remained at the core of academic study until 20 years ago.
Many argue that the ease of use of photography has turned the tide, but this may be less important than two other factors; the feasibility of mixing pictures with other media and storage options. Certainly moving pictures, or those mixed with sound (with some of the other senses coming soon,) have been able to convey ideas differently than just words alone, for many years. However, only in the last couple of decades, has the ability to do so been easily and cheaply available to everyone, thereby broadening both the range of visual material available and the ability to create your own.
Of course a picture can describe an object or situation alone far better than words in some situations; take a pizza (just don’t take mine.) Dough, sauce, cheese, pepperoni.
|Heck yes!||No. Well, actually, who am I kidding?|
Still yes. But less yes!
Obviously touch, taste and smell would even better convey which pizza is more desirable (and a phone lens in focus would help too!). Still, a picture is better at describing an object concisely.
In terms of storage, it takes far more space to save a single image than three paragraphs of text describing the same thing. But in terms of the effort needed by both, the producer and by the consumer, the image is far more efficient. With storage capacities increasing and the cost to buy storage devices decreasing, saving images is much less a concern than even a decade ago.
It’s small wonder than we’re turning into a more visual society.
So with the holiday season coming up, pick out some of your favorite pictures and use them to make your own gift cards. It’s a wonderful, personal way to share a memory, an idea, or just keep images close to your heart all day. They convey emotion, information and convenience to an ever more visually-literate world. And we’re working on some of the other senses, too. Though I promise you we’re not working on smell. Honest. That would be gross.