The Colossus Crawls West

The acquisition of knowledge is not progression from point A to point B. There in fact, is no point B. The Colossus crawls ever westward, overlapping its own footprints, making new impressions in the Earth.

Introduction to a Visual Society

It may have been largely unthinkable at certain points in time for any written work featuring accompanying pictures to be taken seriously on a massive scale. News stories have long been accompanied by photographs by swift-fingered opportunists in an attempt to connect readers to the story they were reading about; but this wasn’t how people communicated. People sent letters and written correspondences and spoke blindly to others on the phone; we were not a largely visual society. With the advent of the internet, the tide came in gradually and then seemingly all at once. E-mail, for instance, began as a purely text-based form of communication, until people began sending chain letters and funny pictures to others using the service. Humanity then began to rediscover the lost art of communicating with pictures.

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Blogging began its life as basement manifestos written by strange or radical people. As the internet was not mainstream yet, blogs did not have the kinds of prestige of printed and officially published media. As the Internet became ubiquitous it became a given constant; it is now largely assumed that one has internet access, or can reasonably find it. Web sites are now largely visual, and as newspapers and magazines lose the mass appeal they formerly enjoyed, their format lives on in the lavishly visual news sites and professional blogs of today’s internet. The Verge, a news site largely dedicated to technology uses an almost completely visual interface as its front page.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 2.34.29 PM

So too have visual memes and animated .gifs emerged not only as modifiers of text-based communication, but as communication itself. The comments below articles on professional blogs and even on news sites are often populated with pictures expressing thought or feeling, excitement or derision. Sites like Reddit have entire sections dedicated to varying kinds of images, captured, created, or most popularly, altered. Users of the largely informal blogging site Tumblr often employ “reaction pics”, static or animated images, often taken from television or movies, which they use to express their approval or disapproval with the original post.

tumbr1This cultural trend towards the visual in tandem or even in place of the textual has led to a fairly recent consideration of graphic narrative as “legitimate” in academia. If our society increasingly relies on the words apparent in images, and we parlay this into a study of works which incorporate this spirit, we must then explore a kind of “close viewing” of the artistic elements of a story and what they can tell us about the story itself, the author, and the culture they come from. Through the next two posts I will examine two distinctive motifs present in the art of graphic narrative: Time in Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and Space in King City by Brandon Graham.

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One comment on “Introduction to a Visual Society

  1. genxtrekkie
    April 12, 2013

    Very interesting post! My brain is going a million different directions with this. On the one hand, as someone who studies television and film, I think it makes perfect sense to have a visual component accompanying text. Furthermore, for about the first 20 years of my participation in fandom, paper fanzines were a ubiquitous part of the scene and the illustrations were a big part of what sold a zine. I guess what I’m saying is I’ve always seen a visual element as a way to enhance a story.

    One thing that I think is really cool is how the .gif and the meme has become a kind of shorthand for social media. You can communicate so much information so quickly that way. My personal favorites are still the (de)motivaitonal posters.

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