April 2009

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I’ve been puzzling over what I was getting at last year when I was writing aboutflourishing.” And for a while I’ve been more clear about what I was getting at… and realized it wasn’t the right term. Now I’m trying “mixpression” on for size.

What I meant by “flourishing” is the act of extemporaneously mixing other media besides verbal or written-text language in our communication. That is: people using things like video clips or still images with the same facility and immediacy that they now use verbal/written vocabulary. “Mixpression” is an ungainly portmanteau, I’ll admit. But it’s more accurate.

(Earlier, I think I had this concept overlapping too much with something called “taste performance” — more about which, see bottom of the post.)

Victor Lombardi quotes an insightful bit from Adam Gopnik on his blog today: Noise Between Stations » Images That Sum Up Our Desires.

We are, by turn — and a writer says it with sadness — essentially a society of images: a viral YouTube video, an advertising image, proliferates and sums up our desires; anyone who can’t play the image game has a hard time playing any game at all.
– Adam Gopnik, Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life, p 33

When I heard Michael Wesch (whom I’ve written about before) at IA Summit earlier this month, he explained how his ethnographic work with YouTube showed people having whole conversations with video clips — either ones they made themselves, or clips from mainstream media, or remixes of them. Conversations, where imagery was the primary currency and text or talk were more like supporting players.

Here’s the thing — I’ve been hearing people bemoan this development for a while now. How people are becoming less literate, or less “literary” anyway, and how humanity is somehow regressing. I felt that way for a bit too. But I’m not so sure now.

If you think about it, this is something we’ve always had the natural propensity to do. Even written language evolved from pictographic expression. We just didn’t have the technology to immediately, cheaply reproduce media and distribute it within our conversations (or to create that media to begin with in such a way that we could then share it so immediately).
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