Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg

THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE:  A VECTOR-RASTER ROLLER COASTER

Victor M. Ponce


Vector and raster are fundamentally opposite. Vector is light; raster is heavy. Vector is plain; raster is beautiful. Vector is specific; raster is general. Vector goes to the point; raster beats around the bush.

The human experience, from ancient times to the present, has been a vector-raster roller coaster. Prior to the XV century, before the widespread use of books, human beings were raster-minded; learning was accomplished primarily by viewing objects. After Johannes Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press (c. 1440), a fundamental change to vector thinking took place. Humans could now imagine things after reading a book (text is a vector for information) and learn by using their reasoning.

Starting around 1950, all that changed with the widespread use of television. [Philo Farnsworth invented television in 1927]. Television brought movies into the home, popularizing once again the raster experience. Now people could see things and not have to work on imagining them. Some argued that this was a step backward. However, the enormous popularity of television has effectively diluted this argument.

In the early 1990s, the worldwide web brought humanity back to the vector experience. [Tim Berners-Lee invented the worldwide web in 1989]. Within a relatively short period, the information superhighway was made available to almost everyone. The original web data was primarily in vector form (text). Thus, humanity turned once again to vectors. There were those who argued that this was a step forward; some were quick to predict the eventual demise of television. And, for a few years, television did lose some audiences to the worldwide web.

Yet the natural raster instinct of humans was not to be defeated. Since 2006, the increasing popularity of YouTube has made it possible for people to return to the raster experience which they had missed, briefly but significantly, for the past 10 years. [Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim founded YouTube in 2005].

Enter Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia which is written collaboratively by a large number of anonymous Internet volunteers. [In 2001, Jimmy Wales developed Wikipedia]. Over the past few years, the popularity of Wikipedia has grown steadily, with the site now boasting seven (7) billion visitors per month. Wikipedia is a success story by any account, having made free knowledge accessible to anybody with an Internet connection (about 3.6 billion people at last count). It may be argued that Wikipedia is doing wonders to return the human cognitive experience to the vector domain.


Philo Farnsworth

Philo Farnsworth
Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee
Chad Hurley

Chad Hurley
Steve Chen

Steve Chen

Jawed Karim
Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales
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