Images behind Words

In the Scan 160510029-2 of Western civilization human communication has begun with  signs.

We can trace the first attempts back in the Prehistory, when short hominids draw in their caverns images of animals, weapons and hunts which in fact represented the environmental space where man could experiment his primary skills and tools. The last population to use visual signs as written language were the Egyptians that decorated palaces, tombs and temples with images of birds, scarabs or eyes which concealed a percise meaning and are read in a sequence.


The Rosetta table, discovered in the Egyptian desert by the French army under Napoleon made  the transcription of hieroglyphics  possible  as it is the first evidence of translation between languages.

stele di rosetta

Βασιλεύοντος τοῦ νέου καὶ παραλαβόντος τὴν βασιλείαν παρὰ τοῦ πατρòς…

(The new king, having received the reing by the father…)

  1. A dracma from Athene
  2. Ancient Greek inscriptions

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The Role of Images: Visual communication in the Web


With the Introduction of Rgb pictures haven’t changed their systematic role, they are still employed for pleasing, informing, illustrating and telling stories.

What really has changed is the way they are accessed. According to Manovich (2009) in the 1990s, many countries have applied to the concept of the ‘global world’ adopting themselves Western policies. This contribute into the digital shift from internet as a publishing channel to a communication medium. Since pictures are coded on the basis of their content they are easily copied and moved from their original sources without issues on the form (Wesch,2007).

This way images have come to surround us always. The internet which has become a platform for the sharing of professional and ameteur content has extended the use of images, form what can be defined as an empowering function to the written message, to a definite role in communication. When the decorative explosion typical of the baroque style of the16 century was translated into writings like the Adon by G.B.Marino(1623), one of the longest poems in the history of Italian literature, the results were a triumph of adjective that quickly degenerated into boredom. The description of things, (in a urban planning for example) is essential, but it won’t be communicative to describe the materials, measurements and stages of a construction with words. Some information require other expressions.

kings cross

King’s Cross Station


In Web 2.0, the network  of the social media the use of images has been literally absorbed into the whole system of ‘hyper-communication’.


This is evident on comments of photos, which often are visual answers (pictures, videos and links). When entering a web page is almost impossible not to come across explanatory and decorating pictures. Entrance pictures functions as a token.

 “All cultures practice the exchange of tokens that bear and carry meanings, communicate interest and count as personal and social transactions.”

(Chan, 2007)

This way, according to L.Manovich (2007), comments on pictures that are carried out trough visual answers open a two way conversation: one commenting  the picture ane the other addressed to its user. On the web, the original purpose of the material under analysis gradually loses its meaning because replaced by another interest

The shift is super, hyper quick and gives the pictures a digital platform of their own. It creates another, complete level of communication, that one of feelings.

One of the most recent trend of Web 2.0 is the ‘Design for hackability’ or ‘remix’ (O’Reilly, 2005) which as perpetuated the concept of postmodernists into the web. Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Pinterest, Souncloud customize data packages for the consumer for him to create new applications. From a consumer centred market of culture we are shifting to a consumer-supplier method of exchange. .


SoundCloud Mixer

The user accesses professionals pieces of work, and is allowed to customized it according to his tastes.

On the web, a cultural ‘inflation’ is taking place because consumers population is provided with a lot of primary materials ( which are others, professional and refined works) to manipulate, reshaping, customizing and re-sharing like their own, personal creation.




Manovich, L. (2009). The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production?. Critical Inquiry, 35(2), pp.319-331.

YouTube, (2016). The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version). Available at: [Accessed 7 Feb. 2016].

Marino, G., Sanvitale, F. and Scoto, L. (1679). L’Adone. In Amsterdamo.

Chan, A. (2007/2009), “Social Media: Paradigm Shift?” Avaiable at:

O’Reilly, T. (2005) “What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next

Generation of Software,”