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The Axial Age of Media

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When 14 year old Philo Farnsworth looked out on his Idaho farm in 1921, he saw plows moving across the fields, back and forth. In his imagination, he saw an electron gun drawing an image much in the same way. By the time he was 21 he had built the first television, or image dissector as he called it and the way we consume media was forever changed.

That time could be considered an axial age, or a pivot point in history where the changes that follow are of significance.  History has pivoted once again and we are living in an age where your phone makes higher resolution images than broadcast cameras did 10 years ago. Multiple technologies like LED displays, CMOS sensors and high-speed connectivity are changing the way we consume media once again.

The professional side of media creation is also at a turning point. Cameras like the Alexa from Arri and the RED product line are creating cinematic imagery on par with film. Some may say even surpassing it. 5 years ago when you’d visit RED’s website they would brag about films that were shot on RED, a small percentage compared to film. Now, things are the other way around. There’s even a lower end market with DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) and DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) cameras that are worlds better than the best digital cameras were 10 years ago. Then there’s the high-definition camera we carry in our pocket.

There is a great spectrum of technological change upon us, for the high-end filmmaker to the teenager with the latest phone. Now everyone has access to content creation. But the biggest part of the uprising is that now everyone has somewhere to put it. Social media and high-speed connectivity give everyone an outlet for their thoughts and ideas to be recorded for posterity. We are now using video (and images) to communicate ideas to one another at an unprecedented rate across unprecedented distances. As an image is worth a thousand words, we now have a higher bandwidth of communication, using Instagram, YouTube, Facebook , Twitter, etc. to communicate our experiences to a personalized audience. Humans are doing what they’ve been doing for tens of thousands of years as far as communicating thoughts goes, but now we can do it faster. Unbelievably faster. So the question really is: what 14 year old is out there visualizing something profound? Are we living in an axial age of tech or is the real pivot point coming when that 14 year old turns 21 and changes the world as we know it. Let’s just hope it’s for the good.