June 8, 2009

An Accessory

In reading the "Happy Days Blog" from The New York Times web site (although I am mad at the NYT company for threatening a 23% wage cut for Boston Globe employees, I still read it, which makes me a very ineffective protester), I came upon a very interesting quote from journalist Pico Iyer, "... my tools of choice, written words, are coming to seem like accessories to images." It made me think: are images trumping words? Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the poignancy of a photograph as much as the next person. Iyer's point is that the general public seems to derive greater pleasure from images rather than a written article, which in turn threatens his livelihood (yet another nail in the coffin of journalism, perhaps). His hyperbolism is not completely off-base. Who doesn't love to look at pictures? We do it all day long on the news sources, celebrity tabloid web sites, reading graphic novels, etc. Images are everywhere. They are beautiful and powerful. But do they stimulate our mental activity in the same way an expertly-crafted article or essay might? Sure, images are provocative and conversation-stimulating, but are they really challenging our minds in a way we deserve? If we rely solely on images for our news and information, are we selling ourselves and the subject of the photograph short? I believe that we would be short-changing intelligence. I will go a step further, and say that too many photos and not enough written word might lead to the intellectual degeneration of our society. How's that for a hyperbole?


  1. This is so interesting! Andrew and I were discussing the pros and cons of our "instant gratification" society, especially in relationship to words. Applications like facebook, twitter, and texting, seem incredibly popular because they feed our desire for the surface stuff without any work involved. Work being spelling, grammar, or even a well thought-out comment. It's incredibly interesting thinking about our societies desire for the image over the word. Is it because an image doesn't press an idea upon us, or is it because an image is so much more digestible than a paragraph on the image? I'm sending this post to Andrew right now! So curious! Thank you for bringing it up!

  2. This is a really thoughtful post! I feel as if the written word has been crumbling over the past few years. Yes, images are great, and I love them, but I miss the days of beautiful sentences.

    A counter argument for the use of an image is that each person will perceive it in a different matter, therefore facilitating discussion. What do you think?

  3. I think you make a good point, Danielle! However, the same can be said for the written word (I am thinking more in terms of a piece of literature than a news article). My interpretation of Jane Austen's Emma could be completely different from yours. I do concede that images allow for more interpretation since the photographer's idea is not fully tangible through language but merely sits there for the viewer to consider.


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