It has been a while since we have posted primarily due to the crushing demands of thesis as well as the infamous job search. Below is a blurb I wrote for thesis that may or may not be incorporated in the final package but was an interesting rabbit hole to dive into. The image system is a way of qualifying the way images have been marketed toward us is complex and has continuously evolved. This evolution was exponentially increased by the internet and consumer platforms such as Amazon.
Role of the Image System
We live in a consumer based culture that uses the image system as its main tool of marketing. As described by Sut Jhally the image system is the tool that marketing uses to reflect our desires and dreams. The image system was not always the dominant mediator and creator of culture. In agrarian based societies other institutions such as family, community, ethnicity, and religion presided over the guiding hand influencing society. The transition from agriculture to industrial created a void within the institutions that previously guided society aspirations. A void that was quickly filled by the marketing of products and information. Information about products seeped into public discourse. More specifically, public discourse soon' became dominated by the "discourse through and about objects.”
The process of educating society on the image system was a gradual process that took place over two decades. The crucial turning point for the creation of our image saturated society took place in the 1920’s. In that decade the advertising industry was faced with a curious problem-the need to sell increasing quantities of "nonessential" goods in a competitive marketplace using the potentialities offered by printing and color photography. Whereas the initial period of national advertising (from approximately the 1880s to the 1920s) had focused largely in a celebratory manner on the products themselves and had used text for "reason why" advertising (even if making the most outrageous claims), the 1920s saw the progressive integration of people (via visual representation) into the messages. Interestingly, in this stage we do not see representations of "real" people in advertisements, but rather we see representations of people who "stand for" reigning social values such as family structure, status differentiation, and hierarchical authority. From the 1920s to the 1940s there was a gradual education of the consumer taking place as advertisements educated the consumer on the role of the image and how it should be interpreted. During this time period the advertisements transitioned from a combination of images explained by text to advertisements where the written became less explaining the visual and more of a cryptic form appearing as a visual puzzle or slogan.
In contemporary society the images system has become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. The messages promoting the object orientated culture have infiltrated all spaces of our existence. The public realm, social media, magazines, and the internet are all for sale to promote the image. One cannot simply exist in today’s society without being endlessly bombarded with advertisements. Advertisement role in guiding society has also gained complexity with the introduction of the internet and the almost instant stream of data flow. Fundamentally advertisement is a discourse through and about objects that tells us how things are connected to our lives and how we can become happy. In our culture the image system provides a particular vision for the world, created by marketing, a particular mode of self-validation that is connected to one’s possessions rather than to what one is.
Image System of Thumbnails
The image in contemporary society is perpetuated by the internet, social media sites and, consumer-based companies. This is the new form of advertisements and just like the images transition into advertising in the 1920’s one has been slowly trained to understand how to interpret it. It is not a stretch when comparing advertising budgets that physical marketing has become dwarfed by the virtual image that is projects through the screens of our devices. To keep up with the speed of our society it is vital to process the most amount of information possible. This leads to the degradation of the images that we consume as they become smaller, more precise and load at the speed of our scrolling thumbs. Our current generation has grown up with this new form of consumerism that can process one’s desires at the speed of light. Suggesting images that one may be interested based off the objects they have selected while taking place in a mindless derive of scrolling. The image system of thumbnails is the new market place existing in a virtual world allowing for one to scroll endlessly through images that are “recommended for you” to satisfy our dreams and desires yet in our actual reality we only have the pleasure of the images to sustain us in our actual experience with objects.