A picture’s worth the same as words online

4 11 2009

I’ve never read graphic novels, but I read my share of comics and comic books when I was young. I don’t at all believe that text is the “currency of storytelling.” Rather, I think that both text and image are equal partners. More often than not text is a more efficient, effective way of telling a story (and more easily distributed, even in the digital age), but that shouldn’t at all devalue the impact of images in storytelling.

When thinking about mainstream forms of storytelling, I see text and images taking different roles. In most online journalism, text drives storytelling while images are complementary. In broadcast journalism, images drive the storytelling while text (as audio) is complementary. The same goes for movies. As distribution methods become more accessible, I believe that images (whether they be graphics, illustrations, movies, etc.) will become more prevalent. Already, the Web’s largest storytelling site – YouTube – is all visual and contains relatively no text.

Drew’s question about how the Web interface affects the user experiences is a relevant one. It allows for infinitely deep, non-linear experiences. Every story can become a “choose-your-own-adventure.” It creates greater opportunities than traditional print storytelling mediums to include imagery of any form.  Amateur storytellers are using photos on blogs, Twitter and Facebook to tell their stories, especially when digital cameras and smartphones provide easy ways to upload photos and share. News sites are creating rich graphic illustrations to explain, for example, urban architecture proposals or the anatomy of a virus.

Graphic novels are a primitive form of telling stories with imagery compared to the possibilities today, but both reinforce that images are a primary rather than secondary force of storytelling.

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