Books and the Future of Understanding

By Jack DuVall, Open Democracy

The shift from written, textual language to electronic images in conveying information through media and publishing is changing the way that we absorb knowledge and gain understanding. It is also putting at risk the retention of analytical and narrative content about complex developments in our society, economy, environment and other systems that uphold the fabric of how we live and maintain our habitat. Images in videos and digital media have at best accessory value in learning, because they illustrate rather than explain causes and processes, and because they often satisfy sensory needs without fulfilling our greater need to comprehend events and how they reflect the consequences of previous decisions. We are at a fateful historical moment: we are still capable of limiting the cumulative global effects of 160 years of industrial and chemical manufacturing on our way of living, on other species, and on our atmosphere and oceans. But through...