Worth a Thousand Words

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One of the most noticeable innovations fostered by the Web was the ability to mix text with other media such as pictures and videos, which led to the birth and success of companies like Flickr , imgur , Instagram , YouTube and DailyMotion.

Worth A Thousand Words: Using Graphic Novels to Teach Visual and Verbal Literacy

The ability to publish multimedia content has been a driver of other paradigm shifts in our behavior, such as online shopping; where would Amazon be without product images? However, it is easy to overlook the fact that text still dominates online information exchange. The vast majority of activities we do online are still fundamentally based on reading text: social media, news, search, e-mail, product reviews and many others.

Reading is time consuming and can easily overwhelm us. Our visual system evolved to process images essentially in parallel, whereas text, which only appeared a few thousand years ago , requires our visual system to scan individual characters, one at a time, recognize them, and piece them together into words, then sentences, and so on a similar process occurs with ideographic languages.

One could say that a story is worth a thousand words, and that a video is worth a thousand images.


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But from the point of view of how we process information, there is a fundamental gap between text and images. Our biological penchant for imagery partly explains why the use of multimedia has become so ubiquitous online.

What's the meaning of the phrase 'A picture is worth a thousand words'?

However, just as words cannot really turn into pictures, pictures cannot replace words in terms of their ability to convey clear, mostly unambiguous information. And thus we are stuck with an online experience in which we have to suffer through large amounts of text to find out what happened in the world yesterday, what people think of the restaurant around the corner, or what our colleagues are discussing by email. This problem is not going away, but luckily there are some things that can help.

Recently I learned about Spritz , another really exciting company that also aims to make reading less time-consuming. They developed technology that provides a text stream of words that appear sequentially at a fixed location. Through extensive testing and refinements they hit on a particular configuration that requires the least amount of effort to read the text stream at an increasingly rapid pace. The Spritz site claims that users can easily double their normal rate of reading, and some subjects can train themselves to read up to words per minute — roughly 4 times the normal reading rate — while still understanding what they read.

After playing around with Spritz I found that I could get up to the WPM limit in their demo without too much trouble. I applaud Spritz for tackling a fundamental problem of how we deal with online content. In fact, I would argue that the prevalence of text is one of the largest problems we face in publishing and consuming information online. And, obviously, all those filters clearly make things pop. Nearly any event — like the recent Superstorm Sandy - seems all the more epic once it's been immortalized with Instagram photos rather than words.

Why a Visual Is Worth a Thousand Words

Certainly, that speaks to the increasingly visual nature of our society, as images replace words as a means of communication. Maybe a thousand likes, but not a thousand words. Any economist will tell you, that when a market has been saturated to the degree that the digital photography market has been, the price of anything gets pushed down. Maybe that's why all those filters are so popular - they are an attempt to increase the valuation of a commoditized photo. Photos are now cheap and disposable, even when you mess around with the latest photo filters that give photos an aged, vintage and expensively distressed look.

The Google Map and, to a lesser degree, the Apple Map has been elevated to a real-time interactive element embedded with meta-data worthy of ten thousand words.


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  • Maps are able to illustrate complexity. Maps have the ability to polarize any conversation immediately. Nearly years after the time-worn adage about pictures being worth a thousand words got started, maps will become the way we will make sense of the world in the near future. Controversial map names CEOs of companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

    Big Think Edge For You. Big Think Edge For Business. Preview an Edge video. Videos Lateral thinking: How to workshop innovative ideas. Videos The looming superbug crisis: Politics, profit, and Big Pharma. Why a great education means engaging with controversy Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates. If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism.

    Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise.

    2. A visual is a slide in your “presentation”

    Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like — which is more often a rant than a healthy debate. Keep reading Show less. Are these people killing the planet? Just companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.

    ON LANGUAGE;Worth a Thousand Words - The New York Times

    This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs. The climate crisis may be too complex for these people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start. SpaceX catches Falcon Heavy nosecone with net-outfitted boat It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.

    Saying hi is worth a thousand words - Emma Rosman - TEDxUppsalaUniversity

    A part of its nosecone — known as a fairing — descended back to Earth using special parachutes. A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.


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