The way in which we communicate and share information with one another is constantly evolving and, thanks to the internet, innovation and our ever-decreasing attention span, it is going at break-neck speed. But where does this leave the written word?
Over the last few years, the written word has taken on an increasingly diminutive position, both in form (think texts, tweets and status updates) and in character as the ability to self-publish via blogs or the comments sections of websites has wrestled power away, not only from the professional writer or opinion-former, but from the editor and the publisher too.
As citizen journalism - where everyone has something to say and a means to say it - has taken hold, so too has the dominance of the crowd, whose ability to share knowledge and communicate with others in bite-sized form has dismantled the autonomy, and the authority, of the individual writer (not to mention his lengthy prose).
In today's world, it is the message, not the manner in which it is expressed nor the person who expresses it which is important, and this has affected us all as readers too, because why would you read a whole article, when you can just skip to the comments and find out what people really think?
Our quest for faster and more effective means of communicating is led, of course, by technology and as this changes and develops so too does the role of the written word, which - if the new capabilities of video are anything to go by - looks set to slink yet further into the shadows of modern exchange.
Whether it's the recent alliance between Facebook and Skype, in which friends on Facebook can video call or message each other; the launch of Google+, in which a video chat feature called Hangout's allows people to chat face-to-face online; or the mind-boggling statistics, released by Google this year, that YouTube now attracts 48 hours of video uploads every minute and a whopping 3 billion views per day (a 50% increase since last year), it seems that video has reached a watershed moment with its value as a tool for communication growing greater each day.
So what has led to this tipping point? Firstly, we have better mobile video technology, which - sophisticated enough to create powerful short films such as those seen at the new Nokia Shorts Competition at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival - allows everyone (including the rank amateur) to make quality videos. Added to this, we have improved means by which to share our videos with new applications such as SocialCam.com or Bambuser.com allowing users to share live and interactive videos (for free and without having to connect to a computer) to the websites of their choice via their mobiles, webcams or DV-cameras.
While in a social context, videos allow us to talk face-to-face and share moments with one another more effectively than a letter or an email, professionally, businesses, business leaders, politicians and personalities are embracing video as a new and more powerful marketing tool than any centred around the written word. Whether it's David Cameron broadcasting via the WebCameron on the Conservative Party website, BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward making a video apology after oil spill in 2010, Finnish broadcasting channel YLE adopting Bambuser as an alternative platform for its online reports and news broadcasts, or actor Jim Carrey's online video diary broadcast from his personal website, video is increasingly deemed as the best way to promote a brand or communicate a message.
As such, PR companies are also using video as a spearhead device for their campaigns. Recently, Response Source, the press release wire, launched a video news release service, "giving PR professionals the ability to get messages across to journalists in a more engaging way." Meanwhile, Steve Thomas, MD of Tribe Media, a specialist in producing video content for businesses, notes that video can help to: build trust in a more effective way than a text quote; create a visually engaging tool around which to centre campaigns; manage a crisis (think Tony Hayward); add content; share events with people around the world; present a call to action; and reach a far wider audience than a simple press release (ie. by 'going viral').
Journalistically, the new capabilities of video once again hand power to the not-so-humble citizen, who can make and share video footage from the heart of a story (just think of the video of the Hackney woman confronting looters during August's London Riots), which, without the power of video, may never have surfaced at all.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then a video must indeed paint ten thousand. As we start to embrace it as the new mode of communication and tool for sharing information, the place of the written word will become ever-more fragile - will there come a day when technology ousts it once and for all?
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