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Here is the text only copy of a recent article i wrote for a business technology blog. Request a PDF copy with images.




A background brief history of Image & Word :

Technologies have a propensity to merge, with transport think of a box & a wheel, a sail & a boat or a propeller and a wing. With communication think image & word, they have had a long history of mergers. In the beginning was the image. For thousands of years the image existed independently as the sole communication artifact, the earliest known to date is the engraved stones found in the Blombos caves in S.Africa dated to 70,000 BCE.

Petroglyphs & pictograms are nearly universal as generated images for hunter gather tribes who inhabit rocky areas, but it is not until the exquisite paleolithic pictures we find in the caves like Lascaux in France & Altamira in Spain that the image assumes a real power to communicate something profound.

The written word appeared around 5000 years ago with the invention of the alphabet as a communication technology in Tigris Euphrates delta in the middle east. The early Mediterranean civilizations of the Minoans, Greeks & later Romans brought the image and the word into a closer proximity, on murals & in texts, but it wasnʼt until the printing press was invented in the early 1400ʼs that the drawn/painted image cemented its bond with the written word as a medium for communication.

We can thank the Irish monastic community for elevating text & image into works of art such as the Book of Kells in Dublin.

Then a new technology appeared at the end of the 19th Century – Photography.

Drawn illustrations began to be replaced with photographic images and as newspapers grew in circulation what all editors & readers alike were crying out for was a photograph.

You didnʼt have a readers attention until you had a picture to go with the story, indeed the picture was the story.techno-cultural assimilation more profound than any of the other encounters the word has ever had with the image.

It has taken social media and wifi to combine the image & the word into a new powerful communication information experience, i say experience, because i want to suggest 3 things you should know about this recent merger that can improve the communication experience for yourself & for others.


Understand that we decode words in a linear sequential fashion. It is primarily a left brain function, we derive meaning word by word from an array of symbols arranged syntactically. Reading is a higher brain cognition it requires that we hold a concept in our minds eye. But when we look at an image we take in the whole picture at once assessing micro details within a gestalt. It is primarily a right brain function. Meaning is derived instantaneously. On mobile devices this is an important consideration.

Then in recent years, almost in the twinkling of an eye another merger has occurred, a


You want to get your message across quickly use more pictures. Write less. Lead with an Image then add text as an interpretation or comment. The power of emoticons + a short message is way under estimated.


The information content of Videos is 80% visual & 20% auditory. Text is often dismissed as we are not engaging linear word cognition when we watch a film. For one thing our brain wave patterns are different. We generate slower alpha-theta brain waves watching a film and faster beta brain waves when we read. Film tends to trance us out but opens deeper emotional connectivity, when we read words on a screen it tends to invoke our more critical rational faculties.


It is no accident that a camera was integrated into a communications talk/texting wifi tool. Image & word can co exist in one device. The number of camera apps is increasing and now you can edited videos taken by your camera. So everyoneʼs a film maker? yes & no. Learn something about montage theory before you slap some images together, just because you have seen a thousand movies doesnʼt mean you can make a film. Donʼt turn a video into a complicated Power Point presentation. These days social media wants short dynamic audio visual content not a mass of words on a screen. If you do add text to a video keep it simple and in a clear bold font. Have a good reason to appeal to reason, if you add text to a video.


Human information transfer is decoded as 7% words, 38% tone of voice & 55% body language. People make up their minds about you based on what they see you do rather than what you are saying. This has big implications for texting & emails where you donʼt have the cues of the non verbal cues of empathy, rapport & motivation.

Acknowledge an email by the acronym M.R.U. Message Received & Understood. This lets the other person know his or her email has arrived ( a big stress in business comms ) then if you are the recipient you can take your time to reply as the sender knows the email has been received.

If you donʼt understand the message then seek immediate clarification. All communication breakdowns can be traced to when the 1st person didnʼt fully understand a message.

With phone texting, make this a last communication resort to be used only for quick tactical messages, if the clarity of the message is disappearing with someone in sms communication, phone them to clarify.

After 3 phone conversations on any project you should arrange to meet face to face to realign, if that is not possible use skype, there at least you can read facial gestures.


With an email if you add an emoticon add it before the text as this more approximates the way in which we listen to someone. A feeling about someone based on emotive body language arises before you analyze what they have to say. Donʼt be abrupt or terse in an email, even if you are sending a stream of emails always address the other person by name before your reply and sign off with your name. This gesture avoids appearing cold and impersonal. Where possible show a visual of what you are talking about, Google Images is a great resource.

accompanying body language cues to illicit empathy, rapport & motivation. Without non verbal cues the chances of miss communication is increased.


The Noble prize winning dramatist George B. Shaw once said ʻThe illusion of communication is that it has been accomplished.ʼ meaning we all assume that we are being understood, that our message has been interpreted the way we had intended. It simply is not true, communication breaks down all the time, which is why we should all pay more attention to the recent merger of the Word & the Image in our mobile devices.

Consider these statistics:

There are 50 million tweets per day, there are 1 billion photographs uploaded to facebook per month.

An estimated 294 billion emails per day were sent in 2010, but up to 90% were spam & viruses. There are around 2 billion genuine email users.

There are 2 billion video views per day on YouTube, 35 hours of video is uploaded every minute. More video is uploaded every 60 days than the 3 big major US television networks produced in 60 years.

This is a staggering number of images & words being exchanged around the world.

As more and more of our communications will be initiated on mobile devices we should make an effort to learn new audio visual skills, that include design aesthetics, photographic composition, basic cinematography & a new screen word literacy that devices will amplify into a truthful reality.

We would be wise to study what zen has to offer in this matter of clarity. The reason for this is the sheer glut of information that is been transmitted will drown us, unless we learn to say more with less, that applies to the word & the image. This is another communication zen posting.

The thing we cannot forget be it image or the word is :


The word & the image are map makers. A map is only a representation, it is not reality, be it a word description, a photograph, or a video it only represents the real.

How well we represent ourselves, each other & the world around us in communication, will depend on how we learn to use the image & the word in new technologies.The recent merger of image & word on mobile devices can serve us greatly in communicating the business of life, or it can amplify our angst and frustration to degrees we have never known before.

The beauty of technology is that it gives us a better, faster more complete map making machine in which to deploy the image and the word. It amplifies our senses in ways we have never had at our disposal. The image will continue to seek the word and the word the image, how well they dance together when they meet in this new medium, is totally up to us.


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