Summer is always a good time to catch up on some off-the-usual-track reading. For me, that means reading a couple of books that look beyond the superficial surface of the Internet and related digital media to the deeper ways that these phenomena have affected people and moved us all to a post-industrial way of thinking and acting.
The books both demonstrate and elaborate on the ways that visual images, rather than text, are the ascendant medium of human communications in this Internet age.
The best of these books is Stephen Apkon’s “The Age Of The Image: Redefining Literacy In A World Of Screens” (2013). Apkon is the founder and head of the Jacob Burns Film Center, just north of New York City. The film center has a wide variety of programs, including education of children in visual literacy.
While just 263 pages, the book describes the history, the language, the business, the techniques and the social and educational impact of visual media. Apkon’s overall theme is that the dominance of visual media in this century means that all of us (not just children or digital natives) need to become visually literate.
As he states in his introduction:
“The power of visual media has been with us from the beginning of our species … With today’s visual technology, our work lives will be changed forever, and soon it will be as unfathomable not to know how to make a video as it is not to know how to send an e-mail. The vocabulary of Hollywood is becoming the vocabulary of Main Street. We must embrace these powerful tools …
“After each revolution, political or cultural, we can look back and see the elements that came together to make it possible and even inevitable. Those who understand and prepare for these revolutions thrive, and those who don’t are left behind. We are at one of those moments with regard to the ways in which we participate in society, democracy and the global economy, and visual images and story are at the heart of this historic change.”
A few weeks ago, I was involved in a radio interview with the author that is available on iTunes and also at
A somewhat related book is “The Art of Immersion: How The Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, And The Way We Tell Stories” (2011) by Frank Rose, contributing editor at WIRED Magazine. The focus of this book is much more on millennials and on the business impact.
Together these books are thought provoking and provide a richly detailed image of the world we now live in.
© 2013 Norman Jacknis