During my grandfather’s era, the village he lived in was run by five men : the priest, the lawyer, the notary, the school teacher and the deputy. These men of letters were leaders in their communities because only they could interpret the written laws, policies and codes which governed their world.

Today my grandchildren live in cyberspace and communicate via smartphone or tablet, increasingly through the use of images-on-screens. Additionally, they use a new communication style : mash-ups of diagrams, typeset texts and video images, which become messages marrying them with the dynamics of past oral cultures (see no 9).

Throughout history, human beings have tamed three different “civilizations of the image” and are preparing themselves to try to tame a fourth :

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Each civilization developed its own sensitivities to an altered time-and-space by introducing in its images the idea that the human being had and understood its reality. Each was in fact a conditioning by and of reality, a mode of representing things that facilitated their use and exploitation.

Today, a young American lives in a multitasking context – sharing with friends via the YouTube screen for 40% of the time, the television screen for 10% of the time, the iPhone for 25% of the time and the Xbox 15% – in addition there’s the noise of television infotainment. They work on homework in the 10% of time remaining.

The three stages

Because they are visuo-cultural, human beings live and make decisions based mainly on what they see ; the eyes are the main interface with the environments (82% : chapter 4, no. 6). This human interface has had to adapt to three mutations : static images (1900), moving images (1950) and new metaphorical images of the touch screens of mobile devices (2000) :

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We are shifting from a culture based on writing to a culture that is being based on images-on-screens :

A world wallpapered with screens

We have begun to live in a world that is governed less and less by text (a written culture) and increasingly by a culture based on images ; a world that we will interpret via three types of screens : televisions, computers and mobile devices. Internet 2 is becoming an integrated planetary digital video ecosystem which provides access to the user wherever he or she is, via images-on-screens published in videos and via streaming services :

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A new style of communication

Because of the emergence of this new form of media writing we seem to be moving from focusing on written descriptive communication to conversations seeking to create warm human and emotional connections between people.

We are moving from communications between people of power to conversations between peers and friends :

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Example of Mario in twenty years :

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The return of the image and the oral

The diagram below illustrates the constant use of image-based oral culture by the whole population since time immemorial. (modern man appeared about 50 000 years ago). Then 500 years ago, the appearance of written culture was imposed on all, to be used as the predominant mode of communication. Today this situation is up in the air, as 25% of the world population uses the Internet and shares the same cultural background : electronic communications that are half written text and half media images (in five or six years, it will probably be 50% of the population) :

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This diagram shows :

  • the difference between oral culture and story (based on memory, emotion and social empathy) and written culture (based on linearity, rationality and analysis details for their control).
  • that the evolution of media is constantly evolving towards a form of dematerialisation : from stone monuments, the walls of temples, the papyrus or parchment scrolls (the volumen), to the sheets of paper (the codex, that is to say the book) and multimedia projections and now to digital displays of images : TV + computer + mobile (see diagram above).
  • that the amount of information disseminated and quantity of readers grows significantly during each new era.
  • that the dominance of writing was intended by the political classes (because of the control it enabled) and imposed on everybody via compulsory education systems.
  • that the first societies that emerged were matriarchal ; they became patriarchal with the first appearance of cities, primarily because of the emergence and eventually widespread influence of written culture (chapter 5, no 2) :

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This explains the appearance of the ancient myths of Mother Earth, Gaia or Pachamama (chapter 9, no 6) and the recent discovery of a sixth sense in communication (chapter 4, no 12).

Repères : de l’image à l’alphabet

– 35000 Corrélations between the appearance of images and language
– 30000 Parietal paintings (in Europe) scratched on bones and using mnemotechniques to situate information.
– 15000 Caves of Lescaux and Altamira.
– 9000 Painted wood ( Azilien culture).
– 3300 Pictographic writing (Mésopotamian basin, Uruk).
– 3100 Hieroglyphic writing (Égypte).
– 2800 Cuneiform writing (Sumer).
– 2500 Cuneiform writing expands and spreads throughout the Near East.
– 1500 Hieroglyphic systems (Hittite, Chinese, Minoan, etc.)
– 1100 Phoenician linear alphabet.
– 900 Consonant-based alphabet throughout the Mediterranean (Phoenicians).
– 800 Greek alphabet (Greeks).

The human brain has evolved because it has been bombarded with information for thousands of years.

Media

At the dawn of history, the first societies were forged around the unifying rhythm of drums (collective dances), and through the use of images (parietal signs and symbols), voice (the spoken flows of thousands of verses transmitted orally) and the taming of space and time (Stonehenge and Carnac, for example). It is only recently, with the advent of alphabets that the tyranny of writing was imposed on all by the ruling classes (lists of gods, laws and kings).

Throughout history, with each major communications and cultural shift information was conveyed by different media at different speeds. With each leap into a new era, the accelerated our sense of time has accelerated and space and information have expanded :

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After 1960 (the year mainframe computers began to be marketed in earnest) our societies switched from the dominant use of paper images, or images on paper and celluloid (photograph or film) and television screens to digital images. In fact, the world now appears to us mainly on three types of screens : the TV, the computer and the mobile. These screens are starting to upholster our everyday environments : the office, the classroom, the living room and the bedroom, and public spaces.

At every stage, our communication is becoming increasingly visual :

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It is the shift in types of communication that is the origin of the changes, not economic crises or technological runaways (as claimed by the mass media).

This type of communication encourages new ways of thinking :

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Example of collaboration tools that now completely change how teams operate as well as the workspace :

(Time, March 9, 2015)

A major change

Historically, the present Anthropocene era (chapter 6, no. 11) looks just like the period when the printing press arrived on the scene (1440). The excitement gripped Europe in powerful ways. Princes and bishops were concerned : would they escape the power shift?

A flowering of writings of all kinds (translation of ancient manuscripts, pamphlets and satirical cartoons, book index, etc.) questioned the powers that be. Printers were imprisoned, pamphleteers exiled and thinkers and books were burned. But the development of the Encyclopedia spawned the Enlightenment.

Today we live in the same excitement. Will Google remain the new form of “encyclopedia” ?

The arrival of mobile devices without keyboards has increased not only the number of users of digital information but especially the exchange of information, ideas, and new dreams.

The people in power (less than 15% of the population relying on the written culture) currently feel significant pressure because citizens speaking out and interacting on electronic social networks challenge many of their decisions.

The text and images-on-screens are not more important one relative to the other, but they provide human beings with two interpretations of the same reality.

Written culture allows us to perceive and remember with a certain distancing. It is filtered by the language and the style guide. However, the often interactive images-on-screen culture does not present us with the same sense of reality, and instead obliges us to position ourselves so as to face it or confront it.