I really like framework concepts—ideas that create a framework for understanding (or for shifting our perspective on) the world. Books remain the best and most comprehensive way of communicating those types of concepts (which is partly why I continue to scoff when people suggest that books are soon to be done away with).
Recently, I’ve been considering that as we shift from the Television to the Interactive Age, the whole set of metaphors we use to discus and engage in public discourse are also transforming. One of our new major operating metaphors is “the network.”Connected is an excellent introduction to the concept of Social Networks—the real life connections and interactions that we are involved with, not the mere platforms that seek to transform our interpersonal interactions into products that can be sold to advertisers.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman is one of the most cogent books in the tradition of orality-literacy communications theorists (others include McLuhan, Ong and Paglia). I first read this book when I was 16 and have returned to it repeatedly. Together with another of Postman’s books, Technopoly, the concepts put forward in discussing “The Age of Show Business” continue to be highly useful in understanding many of the shifts taking place in our world—particularly as we are in the midst of moving to a new dominant mode of public discourse.
It’s easy to discount the modernist obsession with trying to develop universal grammars for everything. That’s not a debate I’m interested in anymore. That said, I do think that such frameworks do at least provide us with a way to look at, examine and make sense of various modes of communication or expression. Kandinsky’s Point and Line to Plane may have over reached its thesis. Nevertheless, the parsing, chronicling and examining of various parts of visual expression make it possible to discuss and make sense of things in a particular way.
Kress and Van Leeuwen’s Reading Images is a more contemporary approach to examining visual media, looking at it as a cultural artifact and without the pretence of universality that Kandinsky holds.