The human being is first and foremost a visuo-cultural system (and/or organism) that operates using a set of rules :

  • Zipf’s rule : the length of a word is closely related to the frequency of its use ;
  • Miller’s rule : the short-term memory retains only some five or six recent items that were presented ;
  • fragmentation of reality by the visual system, etc.

The written uses reason ; images use resonance.

In this new society in which culture emerges and is based on images-on-screens, what one sees is what one believes.

Today, we live in a culture in which everything is portrayed on screens. This new culture is another step in the long conquest of our environments :



The parietal image was used by hunter-gatherers to own the animals they want to hunt. Prehistoric images were primarily used to describe events that conjure up destiny. This is the first act of a long historical conquest of space.
Pre-logical reading; a magic whereby reading through intuition enabled hunter-gatherers to survive for thousands of years.

Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The ideographic picture accompanied the rise of writing that streamlines the efforts of the builders of the first city-states. The princes and high priests used writing to frame their power (see, for example, the Code of Hammurabi dating back to 1750 years BC).
Rational reading. It testifies to an intelligence which becomes increasingly rational, linear and analytic over the centuries

The industrial era

Film and television images were used to conquer not only new real spaces, but also imaginary spaces.
More comprehensive reading, and much more emotional than before because of interactivity. It shows a will to conquer space through movement and color.

The post-industrial era

At this point, smartphones and tablets introduced the general public to cyberspace, a new and much more virtual space-time. It has come to be called cyberspace. Next came 3D and immersive capabilities (chapter 3, no 6).

Reading becomes more personal. Because of the many choices available, it is a form of reading that hyper-stimulates humans, is much more demanding on human attention, and therefore more stressful.

The schema below depicts the growth of an increasingly important use of images, visual signs and symbols during each major societal shift :

The society in which man lives and arises as a human being is nothing but a vast and complex system of signs,
Umberto Eco.

It is into this long historical continuity of communications that we insert the images-on-screens capabilities of the Web :

  • cave paintings in prehistoric times ;
  • stained glass windows of cathedrals in the Middle Ages ;
  • engravings of encyclopedias during the Renaissance ;
  • cinema at the beginning of the first part of the industrial era ;
  • TV at the second part of the industrial era ;
  • images and Web content-on-screens that announces major change in society (chapter 3, no 11).

We forge our tools and they forge us in return,
Marshall McLuhan.

Only a couple of decades ago the Kodak company ruled our industrial society (Kodak Was the World’s Record-keeper) :

The largest factory image in the world today is the Hollywood machine; Hollywood and its production of images made our myths and modes into American icons, distributed around the planet (It’s their soft power). The second image factory is Bollywood (Bombay-Mumbai).

[expand title=”Landmarks”]

1902 A Trip to the Moon, created by Georges Méliès, is the first commercial success of film special effects.
1928 Mickey Mouse was created by Walt Disney, is his first short film to success and Snow White, in 1938, his first feature film.
1936 Goebbels’ propaganda machine pushed Germany into Nazism.
1960 During the US presidential campaign (Kennedy-Nixon), political ideas are analyzed for the first time via the TV.
1960 Humanity sees the Earth from space for the first time.
1969 Apollo II with NASA (moon landing of Neil Armstrong) is the first global use of mass media.
1991 During the Gulf War, the public release of images is controlled by the military authorities.
1994 The first images of galaxies by the Hubble Telescope reach us from the depths of the universe.
2006 Tweeting and telephone voting during television broadcasts.
2012 Google Glasses and Sony’s virtual reality headset[/expand]

There are images that have become icons, such as the unknown Tiananmen protester (taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, June 5, 1989 and relayed by YouTube) :