10/2/2020 0 Comments
On talking in visual images
No sooner have I liked the idea of Instagram making artists of us all than I read Nathan Jurgenson’s “The Social Photo,” in which he argues against reading images on social media in terms of art criticism, and sees the criticism of Instagram images, or “social photography” more generally, as banal and lacking in aesthetic interest, as missing the point: “To treat social photography in terms of its aesthetic quality is analogous to judging all written language on its poetic merits.” At once I completely capitulate. I don’t even want to judge all poetry in terms of its poetic merits (although, when judging a poetry competition, then I do). In fact social photography perhaps is less like all written language (in contrast to the subset of poetry) than it is like language in general (in contrast also to the subset of only written language). It is a new form of conversation, “a kind of visual speaking,” Jurgenson writes. I was reading about animal languages over the summer, and one of the questions most central to animal language studies is whether animal communication ever has a grammar, rather than just consisting of a series of coded sounds (or gestures, or other forms of symbol). It seems that some animals certainly can learn to communicate grammatically, and some animal languages do seem to have a form of grammar. But is there an Instagrammar? What would that mean? And what would it mean for our communication amongst ourselves to be increasingly conducted in a mode which doesn’t have a grammar?
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These are paragraphs without essays or books to go in.