Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Hegemony of the Written Word

I have spent most of my live studying and then working with moving images. I am also an avid reader. I often ask the question - which is better ?

In our world as it stands at present the written word is still held to be pre-eminent. Children are encouraged to read, but not to play on their games machines or watch television. Those are Bad things.

But are books such a good thing?

The power of the written word stems from a time in ancient societies where the role of the storyteller was powerful as he went from settlement to settlement; it was only when printing in its modern form was invented that the written word became dominant.

Of course, rich genres such as theatre and poetry have evolved from this. However, the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words stands. The written word is most emotive when combined with sound to create music, or with visual actions to create theatre.

There is no doubt that the written word has a value. Governing without written rules would be difficult.

However, any of you who have tried to use the written guides that come with modern electronic devices will have suffered frustration that the abstraction of the written word. I have often longed for a video guide that would take me through the process of setting up the new DVR or such device that I have just bought.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, the literal interpretation of 'the Word' has resulted in the rise of fundamentalism, whilst tv news has resulted in the world increasing its consciousness about war famine and human rights abuses. Which is the better medium in this context?

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