Spoken words and written text cover a large portion of the spectrum of communication people use. However pictures are as much a part of our set of idea exchanging tools as text is. We generally believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. And we find this is often true. For the information a single image provides, easily replaces elaborate description. As it provides a visual framework. A concrete reference for describing or explaining ideas. Or the operation of various concepts.
Pictures have many forms and venues of expression. As the medium which depicts the image changes; so will the way we perceive it. Along with how we receive it. If, in fact we do consider it. Since any illustration we make will have a cultural aspect to it, of some kind. But the potential composition of a visual representation is limitless. Whether it is a photographic reproduction or abstract art. Or other symbolic forms; each have and present a message.
Visual representations even allow for sharing ideas. And concepts which do not yet have words to describe them. Or devices which do not yet exist. This advantage can transmit information faster than the spoken word. And also faster than reading a text. For a picture speaks to others even when they don’t know the same language. Thus providing a path for commonality, and mutual understanding. Which, in turn, may improve the chance for cooperation.
When the portrayal is of a single object or form; the message is often clear. The image expresses information about this vase; or that tree. Or this person. And while there may be a lot of information the likeness; it is usually about one subject. As the number of discrete items in illustration increases, the amount of information in it grows exponentially. So the right picture may convey far more than just a thousand words.
But although pictures provide a lot of information at a glance, that information on some occasions may not always be clear. Or easily understood by the viewer. Just as a bird’s nest can be obscured, in a picture of a forest with many trees. Or the ever elusive Waldo, in his many images. In fact, images are sometimes crowded with so many elements; that any message is confused or lost. This can mean sending the wrong message; or an unintended one.
In our current society, pictures are an integral part of our communication. We strive to communicate faster. And accomplish more and more in shorter amounts time. Images provide a shortcut which enables this desire. Our dependency on them grows over time. As with cash registers with pictures on its keys. Or images with more data packed into them, like Google maps. These changes occurred as part of an effort to save the user time. And allows the presenter to use less space.
However, there are many occasions where text has an advantage over pictures. An image shows all of its’ information at once. Writing text lets the author layer information; and present it in a given order. Pictures have a different set of rules of construction; and presentation. Skills which must be mastered separately (as with writing). An image feeds data to the brain like a dose of refined sugar. While reading text incorporates the information more slowly, like chewing a carrot.
So although reading a composition takes longer; it also gives one more time to consider ideas. As well as digest new concepts. Each form of communication has its advantages. But reading has a distinct perspective, which looking at a drawing cannot match. It is a perspective of presentation and point-of-view. And it is well worth the investment of time it takes to learn, master, and use it.
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J. A. Stubbs, Editor-In-Chief
Forgotten Lore Publishing, llc