The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word / Edition 1

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For decades educators and cultural critics have deplored the corrosive effects of electronic media on the national consciousness. The average American reads less often, writes less well. And, numbed by the frenetic image-bombardment of music videos, commercials and sound bites, we may also, it is argued, think less profoundly. But wait. Is it just possible that some good might arise from the ashes of the printed word?
Most emphatically yes, argues Mitchell Stephens, who asserts that the moving image is likely to make our thoughts not more feeble but more robust. Through a fascinating overview of previous communications revolutions, Stephens demonstrates that the charges that have been leveled against television have been faced by most new media, including writing and print. Centuries elapsed before most of these new forms of communication would be used to produce works of art and intellect of sufficient stature to overcome this inevitable mistrust and nostalgia. Using examples taken from the history of photography and film, as well as MTV, experimental films, and Pepsi commercials, the author considers the kinds of work that might unleash, in time, the full power of moving images. And he argues that these works—an emerging computer-edited and -distributed "new video"—have the potential to inspire transformations in thought on a level with those inspired by the products of writing and print. Stephens sees in video's complexities, simultaneities, and juxtapositions, new ways of understanding and perhaps even surmounting the tumult and confusions of contemporary life.
Sure to spark lively—even heated—debate, The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word belongs in the library of millennium-watchers everywhere.

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Editorial Reviews

Marty Linsky
...[A] fascinating, counterintuitive tour de force, driven by Stephens' belief that we are at the beginning of a communications transformation as fundamental as the introduction of writing 3,500 years ago....If he's right, this book review may be a dying art form about a dying art form —and we have reason to be hopeful about what will take their place. —WQ: The Wilson Quarterly
Library Journal
The Information Revolution is upon us. The world of the printed word is dying, and moving images are gaining ground. MTV, "Sesame Street," and the old stand-by "Laugh In" have thrust "multiple fragments" of fast-cut images in our faces, and we enjoy, learn, and revel in them. Such is the philosophy of Stephens (journalism and mass communications, New York University), solidly explained and delineated with powerful insights into the classics of literature, film, and television. Although he foresees the "fall" of the printed word, Stephens says it will not be so bad. The "New Video" will bring us joy and great avenues for learning, teaching, and appreciating the world. As in his A History of News: From the Drum to the Satellite, Stephens paints a much broader picture of mass communication and where it is heading, citing examples such as Flaubert, Shakespeare, and even "Ally McBeal." Easy to read and fascinating to think about, this is a keeper. -- Kay Bowes, Wilmington Institute Library, Delaware
Marty Linsky
...[A] fascinating, counterintuitive tour de force, driven by Stephens' belief that we are at the beginning of a communications transformation as fundamental as the introduction of writing 3,500 years ago....If he's right, this book review may be a dying art form about a dying art form -- and we have reason to be hopeful about what will take their place. -- WQ: The Wilson Quarterly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195098297
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mitchell Stevens is Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, New York University. His books include A History of the News, and Broadcast News. He has written on media and contemporary thought for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

preface: "A Transitional Period,"
1 Introduction: "The Next Room," 2
Pt. I Suspicion of the New
2 "These Traditional Splendors of Letters": Writing and the Power of New Media 14
3 "Ignorance's Weapons": Print and the Threat of New Media 24
4 "Shrouded in the Traditional Form": When Media Are Young 40
Pt. II The Magic of Images
5 "By Means of the Visible": A Picture's Worth 56
6 "Fast Seeing": Photographic Reality 70
7 "Free ... from Human Immobility": Moving Pictures 84
8 "Multiple Fragments ... Assembled Under a New Law": Montage 98
9 "Gifts of Paralysis": Talking Pictures and Couch Potatoes 112
Pt. III The New Video
10 "A Forced Condensation of Energy": Fast Cutting 132
11 "Increasingly Complex Media": New Technologies 156
12 "Complex Seeing": A New Form 176
13 Thinking "Above the Stream": New Philosophies 204
acknowledgments 231
photo credits 232
notes 233
bibliography 246
index 254
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