The explosive growth of technologies available to the public at large, especially those of the multi-media variety are obviously having profound affects on the global life. It would be easy to say that a multi-media world is most predominate in suburban American culture, yet the ever-present technology, almost constant drumbeat of images, sound and motion are just as easily accessible to the wider world by their very nature. There is something almost seductive about a multi-media world that loses its power to a small degree with every exposure. The least common denominator factor of the multi-media age has contributed partly to what is known as the world becoming flat.

Ken Myer’s of the Mars Hill Audio Journal has referred to these things as the “Image Culture” where consumer technologies (such as on-line tools, iPods, phones & PDA’s, etc.) instead of producer technologies that use raw means like data-processing and manufacturing systems. In a sense, for one of the first times in history, non-real technologies, things that have little physical substance are driving the culture and daily life. Most concerning for Myers is how a multi media based technology culture affects our experiences and expectations for how we live and what we think of what particular place we live, or our place in this world.

It is hard to step back from the constant nature of the multi-media world that I have personally grown up in and ask why things have ended up the way they have. It is much, much easier to be a multi-media technology evangelist in a since, or to simply take things as they are.

Christine Rosen, in an article in the New Atlantis, called “The Image Culture” uses for example the use and misuse of multi-media during the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and how it affected the public’s and government’s response to the crisis to demonstrate how pervasive images are in shaping our view of reality and really away from a word and thought based view of reality that was prevalent in the West until the last 50 years or so. What Rosen brings to the concept of how an image culture has changed us is that multimedia has lost power due to its ever present ability and gained power in the way that it has replaced written words and direct speech.

The rise of a multimedia culture has not necessarily advanced in realism or truth in how we understand the universe. And that may be the biggest danger for the consumer, that by embracing a constant stream of images over written words, the user will have greater access to realism, truth and reality. The problem is not that TV or any multimedia is inherently bad, or worse than any written word, the real problem arises when consumers embrace multimedia over everything else and in the process become less precise and with a diminished ability to communicate to each other.

The promise that a multimedia culture would produce access to the masses to images and sounds previously only available to the elite has now become a bit of a false promise, as language deterioates and only the sounds and images of our culture remain, the consumer is less able to make distinctions. From day to day life involving meal purchases or an afternoon’s diversion to larger issues that shape our view of the world, such as our faith, how we use the surrounding multimedia culture is something that we should daily consider and evaluate.

Rosen’s New Atlantis article is a great starting point for those looking for questions to engage the surrounding multimedia culture and ways to effectively (or not) harness it, instead of allowing it to harness you. In the next few weeks, as college football fans will tote satellite dishes and marine batteries to parking lots, anniversaries of national events like Katrina or 9/11, and as the constantly developing media culture advances, developing responses and thoughtful approaches becomes essential to participating in the world we live in.