Andy Crouch writes,

“We are entering the age of “visualcy,” the third great transformation in the way that human beings engage and interpret their world. The first was orality, when the most culturally (and theologically) significant information was communicated and passed from one generation to another in the form of oral tradition, especially stories. Oral cultures may have primitive or even fairly sophisticated systems of writing, but they only use writing for information of secondary importance. The second age was the age of literacy, when significant information was written down and oral information became secondary in importance. The Christian movement originated in the long period of transition between these two ages — Jesus spoke in parables to a largely oral culture, yet within a generation the church was being decisively shaped by Gospels and epistles, as well as the Hebrew Bible.

“But now the age of literacy is waning. Today the most compelling and significant information is communicated visually — neither through speech or in writing, but in still and moving images. To be sure, just as literate people do not cease to speak, visually oriented people do not cease to read. Even young Americans spend a great deal of time reading text messages, emails, and blogs. But as a culture shifts from literacy to visualcy, its members give greatest weight to communication that comes in the form of images.

“Visualcy poses challenges for a Christian tradition that both shaped and was shaped by the second great transition to literacy. It poses even greater challenges to the task of graduate education. Graduate school in the humanities is the very epitome of the age of literacy, built on reading and writing texts. What do seminaries have to say to a culture that orients itself to the image, not the word (or the Word)? Or to use a better verb, what do they have to show? Seminaries that move actively to foster “visualcy” in their communication, pedagogy, and study will have an opportunity to let the word, and the Word, influence the emerging visual generation rather than be swept aside by it. Film and the visual arts are deeply theological, and utterly essential, areas of study for future church leaders. And every seminary should be considering whether they are equipping their graduates to be excellent practitioners, as well as interpreters, of visual communication.”

See also “from oral to print” and The Future of Theological Education

1 Comment on from oral to visual

  1. It is for this reason, actually, that I find Christian engagement with TV and film to be a meaningful conversation. As we watch the new purveyors of information in these media, we need to be able to discern the stories being portrayed in this visual realm and compare/contrast them with our own stories. Additionally, we need to find GOOD filmmakers to be able to tell our own stories (movies like “The Blind Side” are one example) and be able to communicate those theologically significant ideas.