I sometimes work with local high school film students and I’m fascinated to see how technology has infiltrated every part of their lives, changing the way they view language and communication. Phones, iPods and other digital devices are practically fused to their bodies! The other day, two students sat in front of me having a conversation while both were wearing ear buds that were attached to their phones. Every time they got a text or a call, they instantly reached for their phones in a Pavlovian, knee-jerk reaction (insert digital etiquette lesson here). It’s incredible to see that, in just a few short years, the “born digital” generation is essentially rewiring themselves, particularly because they are exposed to this rapid evolution of technology at a time when their minds are so malleable – both physically and emotionally. When our iPhones complete our words for us (I hate this feature) and we either text abbreviations when we chat or send a video message, why should anyone think of language the same way again? Video technology in particular is changing the way we communicate and learn so rapidly that, in the near future, we might even look at the correlation between intelligence and illiteracy differently if video becomes the standard form of communication and personal expression.
While cave drawings present the first foray into the power of visual communication and storytelling, we are just beginning to understand how the human brain becomes an unstoppable force when trained visually. Peter Coyote is one of my favorite actors and he hosted a show on PBS called Brain Fitness 2. A powerful example of visualization they depict is a taxi driver in London: these guys (mostly guys) train for years studying maps and images to get the layout of London imprinted on the inside of their skulls. Using imagery over an extended period of time, these drivers have increased the size of their brains – the hippocampus to be precise. This is exciting. We’re already steeped in an incredibly visual time in history.
We’ve always said, video screens are the real estate for the 21st century. Everywhere you look there is a way to captivate people’s attention with compelling, entertaining and educational messaging. Video search companies keep popping up and electronic billboards are starting to feature face recognition. How long will it be before we can rely entirely on an image and visual representation, without the use of text and meta tagging? We have only begun to realize the true potential of video and it will be exciting to see how a new visual language evolves. Whether or not you were born digital, if you’re visualizing, sharing and communicating your thoughts through sites like YouTube and Flickr, you’re taking part in this extraordinary language experiment that is just as exciting as it it sometimes annoying.