The importance of art in a digital media environment.
The Egyptian book of the dead depicts Egyptian gods and hieroglyphic symbols that convey beliefs about the afterlife. This conjunction of images and symbolic text was immensely powerful for communication in ancient societies and continues to dominate the mediated world of digital communication. Scrolling any media app presents you with a mixture of images and symbolic logos that represents complex ideas and messages. The artifacts of society today convey in-depth information about us, our experiences, and our values as a society.
Symbolic representation has been a fundamental aspect of humanity for millenniums. Paleolithic cave depictions of animals and hunting reveal that humans have always been replicating and conveying their experiences. At the basis of all art, the human experience is expressed in one form or another. The arts, which can be boundless to time, culture, and language transcend boundaries of communication. The symbols expressed during the Paleolithic period still convey messages to generations now.
The number of visual images I encounter throughout a singular day is incomprehensible and inescapable. For most of us living in this digital media environment, the bombardment of content has become normalized. Between those addictively cycling social media apps on phones, working via computer screens, ubiquitous logo placement, and plentiful streaming services – there is obviously no lack for images.
However, with this overload of content, it is common for messages to be overlooked and lost in the vast flow of information. People tend to skim over large bodies of text if they even read it at all. In an information-centric society, quick and novel visual communication is the most efficient way to engage with an audience and break through unconscious scrolling. Symbolic indicators have the ability to represent and relay larger concepts.
In ancient times, there were limitations around the methods in which ideas could be conveyed. Carving pictures into stone was a consuming craft and meant there was a high level of care and necessity put into what was created. From artifacts of ancient Mesopotamia to Andy Warhol’s revolutionary influence on contemporary art, it is undeniable that art communicates. Visual images and symbols are powerful as they relay messages.
It is the act of creating that differentiates humanity from all other species. As a thought experiment, imagine a future time when an archeologist and art curators examine vintage Apple Inc. products and designs. What do these products and the applications reveal about humanity? Perhaps the power of all these images is greater than anyone realizes at this moment in time. The impact of all these images is not yet understood.