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media is inhibiting our ability to dream

more thoughts from Flickering Pixels by Shane Hipps...

The invention of the camera, rotary press and the telegraph birthed the Graphic Revolution. We quickly realized the power of images to generate needs in humans that don't naturally exist.

Images make us feel rather than think. They pin the logical side of your brain to the back of your skull, which is why image-based advertising is so effective.

Our brains process printed words & images in different ways.

Printed word = left-brain (logic, sequence & categories)
Images = right-brain (intuition & holisitic perception)

What are the consequences of television on our brains?

It has nothing to do with the programming - whether you've got a Baby Einstein video playing or the latest in reality TV, it's the medium, not the content, that changes us. Believe it or not, the flickering mosaic of pixilated light repatterns neural pathways in the brain. These new pathways are simply opposed to the pathways required for reading, writing and sustained concentration.

Reading is brain protein. It demands concentration & sustained neural energy. We develop patience by reading. Televeision invites long periods of focused time too but it encourages a catatonic state rather than an engaged one.

Hijacking Imagination

Written words stimulate and liberate the imagination. Images usually captivate our imagination.

When we read something, our imagination fills in the holes. When we see an image, it typically communicates all the details. Our imagination is no longer required.

In a very real way, image culture is eroding and undermining imaginative creativity.

A weakened imagination means it will be increasingly hard for us to solve the problems that confront us on a daily basis. Our minds become lethargic and passive beneath the torrent of images, simply awaiting fresh stimulation.

This malaise even affects what we might call spiritual imagination. This is the kind of daring imagination that helps us expand our experience and understanding of God.

Has the normalcy of image inhibiting our ability to dream big?

Can our brains even see the possibilities of God because we've stopped using our imaginations?


guy m williams said…
it's going to take a little while for me to get to this book, so thanks for sharing so much here, Jenny.

2 things:
1. another excellent analysis of the role of the medium in forming our brains is the Atlantic essay from last summer, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (

I'd heard Shane Hipps' message at Mars Hill Grand Rapids on iTunes ("the spirituality of the cell phone") and appreciated having an introduction into this when I read the essay.

2. for preaching, I've begun (in the contemporary service) trying to pick out a large single prop and prefer that over use of video. still open to some use of video, but careful and limited. a prop is live and not flickering, and can therefore create brain activity (what's s/he going to say about that? how does it relate to the sermon? ...ah-ha! also, this...) and interact with the spoken content. Dave Ramsey's use of big props is a great example in his FPU videos.
jenny said…
Guy - great example of a practical next step with this concept! Many are so quick to jump to video without thinking through what we're really communicating. What does it mean for the church to accept media/technology, use it with excellence but also in balance/tension with its effects?
guy m williams said…
thanks - yes, a fun one I used not long ago, again--easier to swing in the contemporary, though can do in traditional if there's flexibility on the use of the altar, was a backpacking tent on stage when preaching on John 1 -- "the word became flesh and tabernacled among us". connected it to the tabernacle being among and close to the people vs the Temple being located in one place, predictable and controlled (not overplaying it I hope). Referenced the image of the tabernacle as God "tent-camping" among the people. Other than that, just let the over-sized prop just be there as an image. What was fun was the curiosity on the part of my friend who I'd called to ask for him to bring and set up the tent. He was excited to contribute and curious to see what I was going to do with it.
mail said…
Hey Jenny, thanks for posting this. I found a link to your blog through FB. Does Shane Hipps provide footnotes for this part for the book? He is making a series of really bold claims here about the science of perception and learning. I'm interested to know his sources.

There are other viewpoints. In particular, Bernd Schmitt argues in Experiential Marketing that images and "thinking" juxtapose in many interesting ways. Although Schmitt doesn't say this, I'd suspect based on his book that he'd claim that to position image against thought is a false dichotomy. I know I would say that.

What images do is not arrest thinking but promote a different kind of thinking, one which I believe, when used right, actually encourages, rather than squelches, creativity. Image-based thinking is inductive, rather than deductive. It discovers rather than judges. It is relational rather than analytical. It invents rather than critiques. It offers us a chance to explore meaning. It encourages ambiguity and mystery and invites an exploration of multiple meanings. In other words, image, and in a broader sense art, serves as a conductor to creativity. Based on what you have written, and I haven't read his book, Hipps confuses thought in general with modern thought, or the scientific method. To say that images, or visual art, diminish thought is absurd.

Honestly, and I need to read the book to know, I get the impression that much of this book is just Postman for a new generation. These ideas are tired. Certainly there is some mindless video. But there is also the opportunity through image to explore a whole new kind of thinking. For an excellent alternative view, read Mitchell Stephens' The Rise of the Image, The Fall of the Word. Or just go see a good film.

- Len Wilson
jenny said…
Len, Great points. I have to say I'm new to this discussion and his book is one of the first I've come across. I would appreciate some suggestions from you that would propose other sides.

I think the author would agree with your assessment of what images do for us. I know my blog post didn't do his book justice. I would be really interested to hear what you think of the book if you read it sometime. Thanks for the push and the conversation!

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