Recently, there is a popular joke about a lion sustaining a company. It is related to a Kakao character named Ryan. He was behind the huge success of Kakaobank, an internet-based bank which gained 3.9 million clients in just two months. When requesting for a credit card, people could choose one of the four Kakao characters and 53.4 percent chose Ryan. It even has the nickname of “sales managing director” because it attracts many people with its appealing looks.
These days, people are moved by the charm of images. It is easy to find people who enjoy sharing and communicating through images rather than in written forms. The Argus looked into the cultural phenomena of people actively making use of images and looked for their causes.
How people apply images to their lives
People talking with images
As images are more convenient than texts, people nowadays tend to express their feelings and convey their thoughts with emoticons.
Emoticon is not a new concept. In fact, their history is quite long. In the old days, when people texted or e-mailed, they used simple lines and figures like smiling faces to vividly express how they feel. In contrast, people now use moving emoticons on mobile chatting apps. The use of emoticons to replace the text itself has recently become noticeable. It is now unimaginable to think of people talking without images.
“It seems more effective to use one emoticon than writing several words when I express my feelings. So I talk with emoticons,” said Cho yeon-young, a college student.
People sharing their lives with images
People who want to show their lives by sharing images on social platforms are becoming more prominent than the past. Such changes are being reflected through diversification of image-based platforms and addition of new functions.
One exemplification of this is Snapchat, a mobile messenger specialized for sharing photos and video clips. Its feature that people can only view contents sent by the other party only for a specified period of time attracted users.
Other social media are adding new functions to their apps. Instagram updated a new function called a story in 2016. Taking advantage of Snapchat, it allowed users to upload short videos and share them for 24 hours.
“I travelled to Taiwan and I wanted to share my experience with friends. Instagram stories came in handy in the sense that I was able to show what I did in real time,” said Choi Joo-hee, an undergraduate who uses Instagram often.
“I sometimes want to tell people how I spent the day, but it is annoying to write down all the things to explain it. With image-based social media, this has become very simple. Showing images is a way to share one’s life more colorfully,” said Kim So-yeon, a university student.
People getting information through images
Voice assisted searching was introduced several years ago to supplement the traditional method of text searching. Now, image search is available and its functions are expanding. More and more people are using image searches in their daily lives.
Google, the world’s leading search engine, already introduced image searching years ago. Based on Google’s huge database, people can find a lot more from a certain image ─ where the photo was taken, who took it, and what kind of camera was used. Image searching is constantly developing. It is a breakthrough especially for people who wonder about things that cannot be searched only with text.
“I used image search when I was curious about the brand of clothes a celebrity wore and it was really convenient,” said Choi Joo-hee, a college student.
Kakao introduced flower searching last year and Korea’s search portal Naver officially started its image searching system named Smart Lens in July. With Smart Lens people can now easily get information they need through images on their mobile phones.
Why people use images
People began to communicate, share and search for information with images, rather than text. The reason is primarily the nature of the image itself. Images can attract more attention and express thoughts in more colorful ways than letters can. Taking advantage of this, some companies supplied image-based products to their customers. People used it, felt the convenience and as a result, its demand increased. Witnessing this phenomenon, for their own benefit, other companies started to offer similar or more advanced services. Consequently, more consumers were able to join the crowd of people who use images.
The efficiency of an image itself
Images can go beyond the limits letters have, and the characteristics of images are more efficient than those of writing, so people continuously make use of images.
Image searching is a game changer. In the past, when text was the main type of information, text-oriented search methods were enough to obtain the desired amount and quality of information. However, with the increase of various multimedia materials, searching only by text had its limits. Image searching provided the tools to overcome the hardships by directly letting users upload images in the search box.
In addition, images remain longer and stronger in memory than letters do and they easily grab people’s attention. According to a thesis written by Kim Min-su, a professor of Visual Culture Studies, images have excellent functional properties that imprint the shape and style on our memory for a long time.
“Images come first in my mind with just one glance, so an image is more convenient to express my feelings instantly,” said Jung Kyo-yoon, a university student who often uses image-based platforms.
Increase in demand due to supply
Several companies in the market provided services utilizing images and made a profit off of it. Once customers used the services, the need for them increased because they have used them and figured out the advantages.
Before the launch of a certain product, people did not regard them necessary, but once a handful of companies started to supply their image-based products, people gradually became dependent to them. In this way, an item that did not even exist a few months before became a lucrative item for a business. The reason Kakao introduced an image searching system can be understood in this context. Messenger has nothing to do with getting information through images, but many people needed this kind of function. Thus, messengers too, have gained the image search.
Instagram also epitomizes this process. Before the advent of Instagram, most people were using Facebook, so they did not particularly feel the need for a new communication platform. Once people started to use Instagram, they were attracted to the fact that they could easily share their lives with images, rather than with words.
Using human psychology to imitate others
If a few companies provide products making use of images and get positive responses from customers, others want to make a profit by doing similar things. Customers too, tend to follow people’s behaviors when making decisions.
This inclination of people explains how actively the use of images has spread throughout our society. For example, someone who never used emoticons when chatting can change if the other side uses emoticons often. Plenty of people who join Instagram or Snapchat have done so to catch up with others.
“I did not use Instagram before, but one day, I realized that all my friends were interacting with each other posting images on Instagram. I wanted to share my life with my friends, so I joined,” said Shin Ga-hyeon, a college undergraduate.
Veblen, a sociologist and economist, explained people’s tendency to imitate others’ behaviors with mob psychology, which refers to just following the choices a large number of people made without any reasonable suspicion and proper information.
The bandwagon effect is similar. Rather than rationally asking themselves, “Why should I buy this?” people just buy something because everyone else bought it.
A photo named “The Kiss” is famous for well-expressing people’s joy at the end of the war. In the picture, a navy man is hugging and kissing a nurse. Just by looking at the image, we can almost feel how happy they were at that moment. As such, people have been using images and photographs for a variety of purposes, and images helped us learn many things. If an image were centered on photos to record fleeting moments, the purpose of an image goes beyond that today. People interact with each other through images and they desire doing so as well. How people will utilize images will be watched with keen interest, and in the future, it seems the ability to make good use of images might be important.
Reporter of Culture Section