Nicola Mendelsohn of Facebook, speaking at last month’s Guardian Changing Media Summit, where she was described as the “most powerful media figure” in Europe, laid out the company’s vision for an “immersive, visual based web that makes communications easier in an increasingly frantic world”.
Marketing Magazine said that Nicola claimed that the growth of “seemingly trivial communications such as cartoon stickers had serious implications for brands”. Referring to the Despicable Me 2 sticker partnership where minions stickers were shared over 2 billion times she said “that’s 2 billion instances of people using brands to express emotions with friends” and called them a modern version of hieroglyphics that crosses language and borders.
Laporoscopic chief surgeon and writer Leonard Shlain would thoroughly approve that the “most powerful media woman in Europe” was welcoming in a new era. An era that he has predicted since the publication of his book “The Alphabet versus the Goddess” in 1998 – the year of Google’s birth and just 6 years before Zuckerberg gave us Facebook.
Shlain’s idea is that largely words are masculine and images are feminine. His enthralling argument is that the advent of literacy reinforced the brain’s analytical part – catalysed its development. This part of the brain is linear, abstract and predominantly masculine. This was at the expense of the other older parts of the brain which are holistic, concrete, visual and feminine. This made the balance between men and women shift, initiating – thousands of years ago – the disappearance of goddess worship, the abhorrence of images, the decline of women’s social and political status and “a long reign of patriarchy and misogyny”.
It is certainly true that for millennia information and power were in the hands of the literate (or their masters) – who for most of the last three thousand years have been men. Only in the second half of the last century did television mean that you could know a broad range of stuff without reading about them. He says “Since WW2, the technologies of information transfer have transformed the foundations of world culture, and in the process, helped it balance feminine and masculine. Iconic information proliferating through the use of television, computers… the internet have enhanced, and will continue to enhance, the positions in society of images, women’s rights.
The new season of Mad Men opens with a vignette of just how seriously ad men took ad women in the 1970s when Peggy and Joan get humiliated in a meeting by suits from the parent agency. At all of the conferences last month, a key question raised was the minority of women on stage. Fingers have been pointed this month at the 2015 Circulo Creativo USH ideas jury without a single woman judge.
A panel without women might be a very definition of a 1st world problem. It obviously pales into insignificance with continuing violence to women across the globe. However anyway you consider the situation in the first world there is still a long way to go. I hope Shlain and Mendelsohn are both right and that the Visual Web accelerates innate positivity to gender equality.