As years, even decades pass, we must consider the consequences of emerging technologies on visual practice. Today, the torrent of images we are exposed to on social media – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, profoundly affects how we understand, know and interact with the world. Schwarz notes, since 1826 people have made more than 3.6 trillion images. The effect of the conversion from film to digital has dramatically affected the primary characteristics of photography – observation and expression.
The human eye and brain are the two most complex organs in the body. Over millions of years human consciousness as evolved. We learned to control and refine motor skills, our capacity to remember things increased, we invented symbols to communicate and language emerged, and we figured out how to use cave walls, parchment, and now computers to create external memory so that we could store and share our thought beyond what is in our head.
Could being exposed to an trillions of images create a sort of new evolutionary pressure on the brain?
We do know that our capacity to process visual information is changing. Researchers at MIT has discovered that the human brain can process an entire image in about 13 milliseconds. Does this mean that our capacity to understand the significance of each image is getting better. Probably not. Fiona Loughnane contends, “Despite our exposure to ever increasing amounts of photographic images, it could be argued that we notice them less and less. Where once photography was seen as representing modernity and speed, it is now often characterised by its slowness and stillness, more marked today as the moving image becomes increasingly accessible.”
Perhaps what we are experiencing today is the brain adjusting to changes the visual environment – one that may very well represent another breakthrough in the evolution of consciousness. Ultimately, what this suggests is that human beings are in the process of developing a more complex perceptual system of selecting and perceiving.