Image vs. Print Culture

One of the fundamental issues concerning the disparity between print and image culture is the notion that “print culture foregrounds answers and pushes questions into the background.” I tend to balk when one thing is contrasted—at its very essence—to another thing, when lines are drawn and values are assessed. Personally, I found that books foregrounded information and pushed questions into the background until I began reading critically. So, is this a problem of the medium the information is delivered in or a problem of the consumer of that information? There are those that see images, a graph or a politically-charged image, and immediately assume it is indisputable information.

Information, whether image or data, will always be interpreted differently, but I think the important thing here is that the information is “as question-agnostic as they can be.” Print and image culture are capable of asking and answering the same questions. They merely perform the task in different ways. The idea that the scholar is able to “see emergent patterns in the chaos of data” is integral to new expanding new projects and facilitating current ones, but ultimately those emergent patterns will be read, analyzed, and processed by a skilled critical eye. The tools and languages we have learned about seem to facilitate and organize, but the print culture and the print critic are still necessary in order to make use of those tools and languages. I found the brief introduction to how databases actually work to be quite interesting and quite useful concerning how I go about to my own research. Of the many useful tidbits I’ve picked up, I find that digital humanists have an incredibly scientific approach to building a set of queries. I often forget the traditional inductive approach in favor of allowing my interest in a certain subject govern my research. Not only do they build hypotheses scientifically, but they also collect and organize that data in a necessarily logical pattern. I see the appeal of performing traditionally subjective research in a quantitative, scientific way. I grew up in the age that saw Dead Poets Society—jumping on chairs, reciting poetry in one’s whitey-tighties*, and chanting carpe diem—as the definition of English, so it is a nice breath of calculated air to entertain the prospect of rigor in research and eidetic certainty in our results.

*Don’t act like you didn’t have a pair.