Dumbing Down

In our recent discussions on literacy, the general consensus was that literature offers a more involved experience, while media provides a less involved experience. Basically, comparing literature and media became a question of experiential quality versus quantity.

This is most likely the effect of the overabundance of visual media people experience on a daily basis through personal technology. But, as with all things, this surplus causes a backlash of depreciation. By viewing man-made imagery on a daily or hourly basis, each image becomes less and less valuable; the impact of each visual has lessened effect. Consequently, we are witness to visual simplification and a strong emphasis on graphic design in current mass media imagery. (The new iPhone OS for example.) With each image making lessened impact, imagery must communicate as quickly as possible. This is achieved through simplification: reducing the elements of the composition into graphical shapes that most effectively catch the viewer’s eye and communicate the message of the image. Unfortunately, with this visual simplification comes simplified messages, and in the capitalist culture that we live in, the focus of most of these messages are, “LOOK AT ME!” and, “here’s why you need this product.”

It’s no wonder that popular media is considered less immersive than literature, as there is less and less to “read” in media. By literally dumbing down imagery, people are commonly less exposed to more complex images, and as a result, they have become less visually literate. For example: the idea that applying an Instagram filter elevates a person to the illustrious level of Photographer.



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