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The Rise of Visual Information
Apr 1, 2003

Interpreting many events into visual information has become the dominant way of perceiving and learning in many fields: from psychology to chemistry, and from medical science to astronomy and computer science. Given this new reality, the conventional written-based learning and thinking is being converted rapidly to visual-based learning and thinking. This is creating a paradigm shift in how information is collected and synthesized.

It is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of perceiving visual information. Throughout history, written and visual information (shapes and pictures) have been used together to perceive, think and, communicate. The discovery of the camera in 1895 enabled pictures of objects to be stored permanently. Photographic techniques also accelerated the development of science and industry.

In 1895, Roentgen discovered x-rays and developed a method to show a person's bones and internal organs. This gave visual information-based perception more importance. In the past, we tried to sense and understand the surrounding world by using the naked eye within a narrow band of energy originating from the sun. Later on, we realized that we could see only a fraction of what was there.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality environments make perceiving and learning easier and more effective. Events that are expensive and require a long time to perceive and learn can be perceived and learned with less effort and less cost. For example, a virtual reality environment enables a person to tour the ocean's bottom and deep space within several minutes. In addition, it reveals formerly unseen micro- and macro-objects visible to the naked eye, just as if they were being seen in a dream or were real.

The most powerful visual information techniques are in the advertising, marketing, news, and entertainment sectors. The virtual reality environment is just one cutting-edge development. To gain self-control and learn effectively, an individual can be placed in such an environment, which fully replicates the real world. Such environments are used, for example, to train pilots and doctors. Another suitable use would be to train Muslims for Hajj and Umrah. Such an experience would familiarize them with Makka and Madina, thereby lessening the potential for unexpected problems and better prepare them intellectually and spiritually for these holy voyages.

Visual information and education

The techniques of making objects visible started with discovery of the microscope and the telescope. When combined with multimedia technology, they have an important place in modern education. The correct and effective use of visual information and written information-based perception is improving the quality of education. Similarly, popular Web pages have been transformed into marketing environments that convey their messages through the combined use of scripts, images, sounds, and animation.

Surrounded by these visual tools and techniques, the media has a greater influence upon society than ever before, for it controls the visual information. Educators should teach their students how to analyze and criticize visual information, for producing fake computer-produced images in a visual information-based environment is almost as easy as producing fake written information with a copy machines. They must learn not to believe everything that they see, just as their parents learned not to believe everything that they read in the newspapers.


During the last several centuries, humanity has been led to believe that seeing is believing and don't believe in what you can't see. However, advanced visual processing techniques prove that not everything that we see is correct. In fact, such techniques might actually misled individuals, for they can produce images or virtual reality environments very close to the real one.