The Screen Revolution: Visual Learning, Literacy and Liturgy
COMMENTARY: As the screen culture increases, our method of assimilating and processing information is changing.
by FATHER DWIGHT LONGENECKER 08/17/2015
You may have noticed that the screen is ubiquitous. Everywhere you turn, people’s noses are stuck to a screen. We gaze at our tablets, smartphones, billboards, televisions and computers. Some restaurants allow you to order on a screen; books are read, accounts completed and correspondence is done with the screen. The screen is everywhere and will continue to be omnipresent in our lives.
Furthermore, as the screen culture increases, our method of assimilating and processing information is changing. Those of us who were born before the screen revolution learned through reading. Education was text-based. Teachers had a few visual aids — remember those film strips? Some of them even had a record that went with it! Our noses weren’t stuck on a screen: They were stuck in a book.
The present generation is not illiterate, but it is un-literate. They can read, but they often don’t.
The screen revolution has not only shifted text from the page to the screen, but an increasing amount of information is not communicated through text at all. Short videos, film, television shows, documentaries and feature films all communicate visually what was once communicated verbally. The impact of this on the learning process is only now being studied.
If learning is done visually, how is the mental process different than verbal learning? I suggest that visual learning is much more visceral. It operates at a gut level — and emotional level — much more than verbal learning. When we learn with words, there is a rational and intellectual step between the experience and the learning. The experience is filtered through the words, and the words interpret the experience. With visual learning, the experience and the emotion can be much more immediate.
How does this impact our use of words and written learning? In one sense, the visual and visceral learning can be more powerful, immediate and experiential. Ever since the invention of moveable type and universal education, the learning process has been wedded to words. The approach has been academic and scholarly.
Education was rooted in students sitting at desks, reading books and writing papers. With tablets, WiFi, Internet and e-books, learning is portable, visual and immediate. It is possible, therefore, that schools, colleges, libraries and universities as we know them will evolve, grow, change and maybe even disappear altogether, as new modes of learning grow up around the new technologies of learning.