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As the influence of the written word declined after World War II, images rode a crest of ever-increasing popularity. Although more books are being published in the 1990s than ever before, a larger number of them contain illustrations. Books once stood at attention on shelves, straight-up and spine-out. Now many rest supine on the coffee table, face-up, revealing their beautiful covers. These kinds of books are not meant to be read so much as perused, like the superb decorative works of the Dark Ages. At the same time that attendance levels have fallen at libraries in the countries that embraced television, museums have enjoyed an unprecedented surge in membership applications. Tickets to traveling exhibits of the work of masters like van Gogh and Monet are in such demand that they must be purchased far in advance, and visitors at these exhibitions walk about with the same attitude of hushed reverence that pilgrims displayed reading the Bible five centuries ago. On Times Square in New York (as in other cities), the early reliance on word-text billboards has given way to neon displays of eye-catching, rapidly changing images. Business presentations, legal cases, medical conferences, scientific meetings, and military briefings increasingly rely on colorful charts and graphics.

Police routinely use cameras, and the line-up, mug shots, and fingerprints are familiar icons of our culture. In a recent turnabout demonstrating how deeply photography and electromagnetism have penetrated society, citizens now use camcorders to monitor the police.

The effect of this image bombardment is everywhere in evidence. Dinner conversations, water-cooler schmoozing, and car-pool chit-chat are riddled with the lingo of TV, ads, sporting events, movies, and computers. References to poets and authors, common a century ago among the educated, are increasingly rare. The right brain is the home of puns, jokes, and double entendres. One of North America's premier literary magazines, The New Yorker, has elevated cartoons to an art form. From bumper stickers to T-shirts, coffee mugs to aprons, we are surrounded by clever word play. In recent years, homogenous print cultures that had boasted high literacy rates prior to World War II have discovered that an alarming percentage of their populations have become functionally illiterate. Educators are aghast; finger pointing and accusations are traded back and forth in the media. Most involved in the debate are unwilling to consider that in the age of the image, literacy will inevitably decline. While this is a source of concern, it must be balanced with awareness that intelligence is not declining.*5 Human society lived for 2,995,000 years without the benefit of writing, and there is considerable evidence that many preliterate cultures behaved in a more humane manner toward one another and toward their environment than the literacy-based cultures that followed.

Not since the jousting tournaments of the oral Age of Chivalry have sporting events played such a prominent role in culture. For entire centuries, hunter-killer values informed the most popular (and atavistic) sport of all-the hunt. Following the invention of Gutenberg's press, few people "played." During the period of Newton's influence, croquet, with its linear, sequential application of force on balls, enjoyed a boom among the genteel. In the heyday of America's print literacy, baseball-a sport characterized by one event following another, from the batting order to the way in which a player rounds the bases-became the country's national pastime. It was the perfect sport to complement alphabet literacy.* After television sets filled the corner bar, baseball began to lose ground to sports that are more involving for the eye, such as football, basketball, and hockey-all sports in which multiple interactions between players occur simultaneously. Fans track the mosaic, jerky movements of these events with their right brains, grasping the gestalt of the overall field or court.
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