Thursday, January 22, 2009

Visuality Creeps Into Email Conversion

A few months ago we outlined the concept of visuality as explained by New York Times contributing writer Kevin Kelly.

Kevin Kelly discusses the modern-day Gutenberg revolution, or "how the moving image is upending the printed word." Kelly sees the proliferation of video technology (and amateur video artists) fueling our collective visual appetite. We are pervasively and resoundingly moving away from the word. We are becoming a people of the moving image, where literacy gives way to "visuality."

In my personal experience this article has provoked a critical reaction marked by disbelief. The sentiment is:

"How are we moving away from the word? That's just not possible. How could I possibly send someone a message of all photo and video and get a my message across with higher fidelity and greater succinctness than the written word? We cannot escape the word."

The article was meant to provoke a reaction, certainly. And when speculating about the coming visuality era, we are talking about an unknown point in the future so of course, it all sounds a bit like hyperbole. But already there are signs that hints of visuality are creeping into digital communication. Consider this simple email line from a friend:

It was the 17th hole of the Buick Open, where everyone parties anyway, and Kid Rock was there with overalls on and a tallboy on the ready for Daly to tee up.

Pretty straightforward. But the idea is that this ability opens the door for a second, visual conversation. By bringing the visual into the textual a meta-conversation develops. The process is irresistible. It's easier and easier to search for the photo or video we want. Consider this email from another friend:

Rumor is Parker could take us for a walk in the college forest!

The sentence as is and the sentence as is with visual are saying very different things. Things get a little more interesting...

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