Visual Technology Changes Us

Saturday, 9:15 to 10:45

Sheraton Hall C, Lower Concourse


Sorin Nastasia, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Employing New Technologies for Improving Visual and Cultural Literacy

Kevin Moloney, Ball State University

Digital Disruption and Democratization in Visual Communication

Martin Smith-Rodden, Ball State University

New Possibilities in Engagement of Empathy

Paul Martin Lester, University of Texas at Dallas


The title of my bit comes from Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner.

Rutger Hauer plays a murderous replicant and gives a brilliant poetic end-of-life performance. After recounting significant events that his character, Roy Batty witnessed, it/he states,


“All these moments with be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”


It has been called “the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history.”


Rutger Hauer died last month. Tears in rain.


Roy Batty is the ultimate Artificial Intelligence being—an organic-based machine that is self-aware. But not the first—my favorite: Jack Haley’s “Tin Man.”


Is the future of visual technology AI? Imagine, if you will, a scenario in which you

walk through the crowded streets of London and tell your eyeglass or implanted camera to take pictures in the style of Henri Cartier-Bresson or Ross Taylor. Anyone concerned?


History of Visual Communication is a History of Technology

What is technology? Learning to use a planet’s resources.


And how has visual technology utilized resources?



The Story of Visual Technology is Long and Relentless

Beetle Patterns on Wood: 150 million years ago.

Ochre Stone Carvings: 80,000 years ago.

Cave Walls: 40,000.

Clay Tablets: 5,000.

Papyrus Scrolls: 4,000.

Camera Obscura: 2,500 years ago.

Paper Substrates: 2,000.

Wood/Clay/Metal Type: 1,800 years ago.

Moveable Type: 600.

Etching: 220.

Metal/Paper Images: 180.

Film: 130.

Television: 100.

Computers: 80 years ago.

Electronic Camera: 45 years ago.

Consumer AR 10 years ago

Consumer VR: 5 years ago.

Consumer AI: 4 years ago.



My Theory of the Birth of Awarians

Early humans noticed and were inspired by

beetle patterns left in tree trunks behind the bark.


Interestingly, there are estimated to be 33 million species of beetles on Earth which is 40% of all insects and 25% of all known life forms. Noah was busy. There are eight mentions of beetles in the Bible. This is my favorite: Exodus 8:20, Jehovah said to Moses, “I am sending against thee, and against thy servants, and against thy people, and against thy houses, the beetle, and the houses of the Egyptians have been full of the beetle, and also the ground on which they are.” When biologist John Haldane was asked about god’s preference among his creations, he answered that the metaphorical being had “An inordinate fondness for beetles.” Use the keywords “Beetle Wood Markings” in Google.


Visual Technology’s Circle Dance

So, beetle spruce led our ancestors to rock and cave drawings and paintings and We Got Woke and awarians were led to symbolic images: pictograms, ideograms, and logograms and

Led us to writing systems and the alphabet and

Led us to narrative stories on pottery, papyrus, paper, tapestries, and books and

Led us to interchangeable letterforms in clay and metal and

Led us to lithography, illustrations, photography, and the halftone and

Led us to art movements and

Led us to motion pictures and

Led us to television and

Led us to computers and

Led us to smartphones and

Led us to VR, and AR and

Led us to AI and

Led us back to the beetles.


What is the Price of Technology?

Forgetfulness (Reduction of Generational and Inherent knowledge).

Isolation (Foods and goods delivery, Online classes, Texting, VR/AR/MR,

Pay channels, Gated communities, Class superiority, Intrenched opinions,

and Apathy).

Threats (Lawlessness, Climate catastrophes, Natural disasters, WWIII radiation,

and Fascist roundups).


In the end, some of the only animals that will survive after humans are gone will be beetles (probably within the forests outside Puebla, Mexico). They will tell their stories, as always, under the bark of fallen trees. Will future awarians rediscover their drawings and start the cycle again?


For now, as educators, we must go beyond the obvious—the technical considerations of a medium. There are huge societal issues—climate change, renewable energy, immigration, gun control, abortion rights, death penalty, crumbling infrastructure, pay inequities, unequal educational opportunities, prison reform, drug abuse, poverty, health care, the end of newspapers, and misogyny, sexual assault, bullying, political and economic corruption, racism, fascism, Trump and his minions.


Students need to use technologies to explain at their local level these and other issues. However, the stories should be driven, not by the latest tool or technique, but by curiosity, critical thinking, passion, spontaneity, inspiration, tenacity, and perhaps most of all, empathy.


Teach students to observe, to record, to share, to care.




All these moments with be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Time to live.