The Era Of Writing Is Coming To An End
Politics and Activism

The Era Of Writing Is Coming To An End

The Rise Of Images And What It Means For Society

Gates AP Government And Politics

Whether you’re a historian with multiple PHDs or you hated history in school, everyone can agree on certain moments in history as being pivotal, revolutionary even. The dropping of the first nuclear bomb. The invention of flight. The creation of the internet. The impacts of these events expand so far that many could and have in fact dedicated their lives to studying them. Now while simplifying the creation of nuclear weapons, flight, and the internet into single moments is only a romantic hyperbole with literary purposes these events did, in fact, change the world. However, there is one turning point that rarely goes discussed. In fact, these this event has shaped the world we lived in for centuries. The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. Although revered by historians as incredibly influential(even as the most influential man of his millennium) his achievements are rarely discussed outside a few academic circles. However, his invention of the printing press brought about the end of millenniums of oral tradition and culture that were suddenly able to be preserved in text more easily. It ushered in massive advancements in science, economics, politics, religion, and history as ideas were able to be recorded and shared more easily than ever before. The printing press revolutionized the world and allowed for the mass transformation of information unlike anything else previously seen.

However as impressive as Gutenberg's influence is it may be on its last legs as the world enters a new and dangerous era, that of images. With the invention and rapid spread of the internet and mass media technology such as movies and television over the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, images are more prevalent than ever. In fact, new studies estimate that your average individual can see up to 5,000 images a day, largely due to social media. Until 2016 book sales had been declining for years. Communication has even turned towards images as things such as Snapchat, Vine and Emoji replace conventional text-based platforms for communication and social networking. Now this phenomenon is not entirely harmful. Increased access to images has allowed for easier cataloging of memories of thousands of individuals and contributed to successes in medicine and history similar to those of the printing press. However, this transition has been dubbed as a transition to post-literacy where the ability to read or write is no longer necessary for an individual and it’s not seen as entirely benign. This idea has been discussed and played out in many books such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury where novels are banned and images dominate society. Although dystopian in its legal banning and burning of books looking at the digital billboards that cover Time Square and the disgust most students have on their face when it comes to reading books the basis of the post-literacy of Fahrenheit 451 doesn’t seem far off. This trend has been noted by several authors such as Neil Gaiman, Philip Roth, and Chris Hedges.

This decline in literacy and reading threatens society in a number of ways. Some are simple and pragmatic, for example, how are we to understand the laws of our country such as the Constitution when reading ability among voters continuously declines. How long until some bullheaded Congressman or Senator begins to make wild claims about what Article II Section III really means? Now although that seems like an unlikely and impossible situation ask yourself, have you ever read the entire U.S. Constitution and if so, when? Other issues raised by the transition to post-literacy are deeper and more philosophical and arise from the nature of text itself. Unlike viewing an image reading is an interactive process between a reader and a text. If you get up and go to the bathroom the movie won’t stop unless you tell it to however a book moves at your pace. That forces a sort of logical progression into books where a reader may be forced to dwell on a line or paragraph for an extended amount of time before moving on. This, in turn, breeds critical thinking and analyzing skills as readers are forced to look for meaning in the words rather than being present with an image that instantly registers with one’s brain. There are even some potential disturbing correlations between the number of incarcerated individuals in an area and the reading scores of that area in the past. Philip Roth perhaps delivers the best succinct explanation in saying “I do not believe the novel is dying, I said the readership is dying out. That’s a fact, and I’ve been saying it for 15 years. I said the screen will kill the reader, and it has. The movie screen, in the beginning, the television screen and now the coup de grâce, the computer screen.”

Now this isn’t to say that all images or movies are bad. There are some incredible movies out there that are far better than many books. However, I do think that we as a society should be aware of the direction we’re heading and if we stop reading books do it consciously rather than as a subconscious reaction to an increased bombardment of images. So text time you sit down with nothing to do and decide to turn on the TV to “see what’s on”, consider instead picking up a book and giving your brain an old fashioned workout. It’ll thank you for it.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Everyone remembers the first time they went to one of the Disney parks. Spinning in teacups and having Goofy wrap his arms around my 8-year-old self were some of my fondest childhood memories, and I'm surely not alone in that.

Keep Reading... Show less

These Superfood Beauty Products Show Kale And Matcha Work For SO Much More Than We Thought

Just another summer's day with a cold glass of kombucha on my face.

I've been vegan for about six years now, so a love for fresh vegetables and superfoods has now become a core part of my being. Don't get me wrong. I love my indulgent, creamy pastas and truffle fries more than anyone. But I keep most of my focus on eating clean and healthy so I can indulge guilt-free.

But I'd say about a large part of my diet has always, unknowingly, included superfoods. Being Indian, lentils, beetroot, garlic, ginger, and whole grains have been core essentials on the family dinner table since I could digest solid foods.

Keep Reading... Show less

Now that college is around the corner for most if not all young adults, students once shook by a pandemic now have to shift their focus on achieving their career goals. As if we thought we had it together already! As an NYC girl, I have always seen myself as a hustler, hungry to advance my career in journalism by having one skill: working hard.

Keep Reading... Show less

5 BBQ Essentials Every Vegan Should Bring To Avoid Summer Cookout FOMO

You'll have your whole family drooling when you bring these goodies over too.

All vegetarians and vegans can relate when I say this: summer barbecues aren't fun when there's nothing you can eat.

Keep Reading... Show less

Kourtney Kardashian has decided to leave "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" after nearly 14 years and although we saw this coming, it breaks our heart that she won't be there to make us laugh with her infamous attitude and hilarious one-liners.

Kourtney is leaving the show because it was taking up too much of her life and it was a "toxic environment" for her.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

We Asked You How You Felt About Resuming 'Normal' Activities, And Some Of Your Answers Shocked Us

The New York Times asked 511 epidemiologists when they'd feel comfortable doing "normal" activities again, considering COVID-19. We asked our peers the same thing, for science.

Last month, the New York Times surveyed about 500 epidemiologists asking about their comfort level with certain activities once deemed normal — socializing with friends, going to the doctor, bringing in the mail. That's all well and good for the experts, but they are a very niche group, not the majority of the population. What do "normal" people feel safe doing? In certain states, we've seen how comfortable everyone is with everything (looking at you, Florida), but we wanted to know where Odyssey's readers fell on the comfort scale. Are they sticking with the epidemiologists who won't be attending a wedding for another year, or are they storming the sunny beaches as soon as possible?

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments