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Language in Motion


Feb 22, 2013 0 Comments

Your language is dying. It’s not in the ground yet, but the warning signs of old age are here and here to stay. If your language uses an alphabet, it’s ready for retirement. The signs are everywhere. Signs like declining literacy, ebbing grammar skills, shrinking comprehension levels and slowing book sales. All during the rise of the personal computer. Everyone of a certain class has an electronic keyboard, but the population is losing interest in the finer points of text-use. It’s even straining the storage capabilities of our species, with endless text data, and search variables that make it a mess to sift through. But don’t worry, another one is coming. A language that will be global in nature, one that reverses the occidental Tower of Babel prophecy-myth from many languages to one. How do I know this? I watch movies, where anyone can spot an ascendant language at its beginnings, made from visuals in motion. It’s coming right out of the celluloid (and now pixel). And I can already see that a visual language compresses much more data much more simply and reaches across far more borders than any alphabetical system ever could. Think about all the innovations in information the computer age has brought to us, language is merely the next stage of technology’s reach. Want to take a peek at the coming language revolution? All you have to do is peer closely inside game-changing blockbuster films, where gestures begun in silent film have developed into a universal system. A system designed to reach as many eyes as possible, generating repeated viewings for as long as possible. At its beginning, filmmakers like D.W. Griffith knew it, so did Soviet directors Eisenstein and Pudovkin. All three wrote about the potential for film to revolutionize language by creating one all its own. They knew, and now, so do you. [Eisenstein Cinematograph Principle and the Ideogram 1929]

To raise the curtain further: Film and soon videogame are emerging, next-generation, structural, motion-based languages that access the human brain, if only rudimentarily at this stage. It operates unlike any spoken or written alphabetical-text-language. Consider the amount of tears shed collectively in the dark for Gone With The Wind, as an emotional experience it compresses days of reading into a few hours. Storytelling primarily through images not words. Obviously using eyes and ears differently than reading or hearing text, film forces the brain to develop distinctly different memories than text since its data is received in flowing, ideally uninterrupted motion. Film also has an advantage in how it is shared collectively. The medium entrances audiences to remain rapt as it directly employs, accesses and mutates visual forms guided by voice and gesture, augmented by music.  Archetypes, symbols, metaphors, all in their expressively visual forms, advancing inter-culturally through a manner purely oral or textual media encrypted onto pages or into voice by alphabets cannot. Film’s advantages over oral-performance and written, text-based storytelling are perhaps elemental, affecting memories no alphabetical encryption can achieve. We may soon discover corollaries with brain structures, maybe even biogenetic structural guidance inherently coded to archetypes and their relations in symbols and visual metaphors. Some pretty basic examples: lightning to neuron firing, the glint of gold referring to the abstract concept of knowledge. Your brain on movies.  Few directors are conscious of the vast potential lurking in the dark, yet the film-narrative as an art form unmistakably, knowingly employs these metaphors and symbols. They’re arrayed somewhat unconsciously, somewhat collectively, sometimes hierarchically. The 20th century convergence of the hero’s epic-narrative from printed or oral-text to motion-visual is a revolution only a century old and is the beginning of a global narrative language that has only just begun.

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