Picting, not Writing, is the Literacy of Today’s Youth


Is a picture really worth 1,000 words?

Two interesting observations:

  • In the K–12 classroom, today’s youth spend 90 percent of the time with text-based materials and 10 percent of the time with image-based materials.
  • Outside the K–12 classroom, today’s youth spend 90 percent of the time with image-based materials and 10 percent of the time with text-based materials.

(CN is saying that ES is exaggerating (again). OK, OK … The percentages aren’t exact —but they are absolutely in the right ballpark.)

Let’s start with Snapchat, the social media service where pictures users send to each other disappear after being viewed for 10 seconds (though a “story” — made up of sequences of pictures — last 24 hours). Why do the pictures disappear on Snapchat? Just as verbal conversation disappears, so now picture conversations disappear. Snapchat embodies the ephemerality of conversing — but in pictures.

Who is “picting,” then: Roughly 30 percent of millennials in the United States visit the Snapchat app 18 times per day and spend roughly 30 minutes a day using it! Here are some more provocative stats about Snapchat:

  • Number of Snapchat users: daily 158 million, monthly 301 million
  • Average number of Snaps per day: 2.5 billion
  • Percentage of Snapchat daily active users that are in North America: 43 percent
  • Average number of photos shared on Snapchat every second: 9,000 snaps per second
  • Percentage of Snapchat users that use it because their content disappears: 35 percent
  • Average number of times per day Snapchat daily users visit the app: 18 times

From the SEC filing for Snap Inc.:

  • “Snap Inc. is a camera company … “
  • “In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones … “

Ahhh … It is called Snapchat — not Writechat. Picting is primary; writing — adding a note to a picture — is an add-on, is secondary.

But wait, Snapchat has a “story” function; maybe millennials are learning how to create a “story”? Ahhh … no. A Snapchat “story” is just a sequence of images — that’s it. One records a series of images that ostensibly “tell a story.” But a good story has a beginning, a middle, and a point. However, a Snapchat “story” is like the image version of  the experience we all have had listening to a friend who can’t tell a “story” — who just talks in run-on sentences that make no point.

Not to be left behind, Facebook is positioning itself as a “video first” company. No one wants to read — let alone write — so, Facebook is now a video-based social networking site.

Bottom line: No question about it: picting is the new literacy. For better — for worse: “It is what it is.” When will the U.S. Congress express laws in images? When will venture capitalists express business plans in pictures? More immediately: What is K–12 going to do?

The article has more supporting evidence to offer.  Read the entire article by Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway in THE Journal at https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/05/08/picting-not-writing.aspx

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