Monday, December 8, 2014

Communicating in Pictures

I never read, I just look at pictures.
(Andy Warhol)

When I was in elementary school, our music teacher had a session on the Beatles. Hours and hours we studied the lyrics of songs, listened to stories of how they rose to fame from a small pub in Hamburg, Germany, and heard a few songs on tape. One girl in my class got quite upset and said that she was sick and tired of hearing about a band that no longer exists. She asked, why we don't study the teenager heart-throb of that time. The teacher had a big argument with her and claimed that when she is a grown up, she would still remember the Beatles but the latest fad would be long forgotten.

The story came to my mind when the boys asked me whether the song "She loves you" is from the Beatles. "Well", I said, "let's Google it!" We watched a life performance from 1963 and while the boys certainly liked the energy and the rhythm of the four rising stars, they were absolutely taken in by the mass hysteria of all the girl fans. They had never seen something like that before. Afterwards I tried remembering the band that the girl in my class had defended so vigorously and then it came to me, it was Smokie; you might recall their hit, "Living Next Door to Alice." I googled their performance of the late 70s and there also were four handsome boys with long hair but after their performance, fans just politely clapped their hands; no one cried and no one fainted.

So while my music teacher definitely won her bet, my realization was how blessed we all are having today's technology at our fingertips. Within instants I could pull up images that told the entire story of the Beatles mania in three minutes. Our music teacher after hours of preparation couldn't communicate the power of that short performance. Today everyone has this information at their fingertips. And if we need to explain anything to each other, we send videos, music, pictures, quotes and little stories. A lot will change in coming decades with the help of this technology. Just like the ancient Chinese we communicate now ideas with the help of symbols. But these don't need to be studied any longer; we just communicate in an universally accepted, intuitive language.

As I wrote this note my son pointed out to me a marketing slogan of Dunkin Donuts, "America runs on Dunkin" when we stopped for coffee and donuts. The slogan shows  a map of the U.S., a symbol of a runner, an "on" and "DD", the trade image of Dunkin Donuts. This may well be our mode of communication in coming centuries. Hope you have a creative mind and hope you are an artist at heart and you will be all set for the future.

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