Wired’s Kevin Kelly on The Overthrow of the Book

The Sunday New York Times Magazine of November 23, 2008 is called “The Screens Issue” and carries a number of brilliantly insightful articles about the media revolution of which we are all both active participants and hapless victims. The most arresting piece of all is Becoming Screen Literate by Wired‘s Kevin Kelly and I can’t commend highly enough.

After more than five hundred years of domination by printed text, Kelly says, “Now invention is again overthrowing the dominant media. A new distribution-and-display technology is nudging the book aside and catapulting images, and especially moving images, to the center of the culture. We are becoming people of the screen.”

The collective mentality of today’s social networking generation – what Kelly calls the “hive mind” – is utilizing cheap and ingenious digital tools to produce movies, videos, anime, 3D computer models and other wonders. The “author” of these works is not an individual but, rather, a cultural community. It is even bigger than what the French call the auteur, the unifying human vision that infuses a motion picture. The hive’s human components do not necessarily know each other but contribute anonymously and selflessly to the creation of a media event that is not only greater than the sum of its part but possesses immense global reach and impact.

‘After all,” writes Kelly,

“this is how authors work. We dip into a finite set of established words, called a dictionary, and reassemble these found words into articles, novels and poems that no one has ever seen before. The joy is recombining them. Indeed it is a rare author who is forced to invent new words. Even the greatest writers do their magic primarily by rearranging formerly used, commonly shared ones. What we do now with words, we’ll soon do with images.”



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