The New Visual Imperative

Photos, once slices of a moment in the past — sunsets, cappuccinos, the family vacation — are fast becoming an entirely new type of dialogue. The cutting-edge crowd is learning that communicating with a simple image, be it a picture of what’s for dinner or a street sign that slyly indicates to a friend, “Hey, I’m waiting for you,” is easier than bothering with words, even in a world of hyper-abbreviated tweets and texts. “This is a watershed time where we are moving away from photography as a way of recording and storing a past moment,” said Robin Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard University, and we are “turning photography into a communication medium.”

Disruptions: Social Media Images Form a New Language Online -

In a time of possibly unnecessary hand-wringing about the demise of language literacies at the hands of social media, instant photos and short videos are fast replacing text for all manner of announcing our status and even subtle social messaging through visuals.

It’s unclear whether greater literacy in visual communication will be a threat or healthy complement to written communication. Adolescent competition between the two could ultimately hurt both. The trend might make dogmatists irrelevant anyway.