On BBC iplayer I have recently watched the secret history of writing, a series that I was hooked on once I started watching it. I was most interested in the way that images have always been within our visual language of communication. What strikes me most over the course of this TV series is how technology has changed us. It raised some questions for me such as are we going to have more dyslexic people as images and predictive text takes over? It has taken centuries for us to use the text and writings we know of today, however are our technological ways pushing us backwards to a regressive image state? I have spoken with a younger family member (late teens) and asked them what is the main method of communicating with friends. The answer did surprise me, memes ,voice notes and emoji conversations, no written words at all but a whole page of memes expressing emotions and answers to produce everyday conversations.
I'm not surprised to some extent that everyday conversations have come to image messages rather than written text, however I am intrigued that with the need for instant messaging with our younger generations that letter writing and postcard sending has boomed since the Covid-19 pandemic. Sending something in the mail to someone who has to wait for it, days, weeks even to arrive gives the dopamine hit we need.
Images have always been a universal language and artist Xu Bing took this to another level using just emojis he was able to convey conversations with people from different language backgrounds and each of these people were able to read what the images meant just from seeing these images, images that appear so freely now on mobile devices, an everyday way of communicating. I suppose I want to question have/are we going full circle starting with image depictions to now using them more than writing. What does this mean for our future generations?
The series The secret history of writing on the BBC iplayer. (BBC four)