Three Visualization Waves in Estonian Newspapers: Past, Present and Future

Roosmarii Kurvits (University of Tartu)

In my presentation I will review how the degree and the role of visuality have changed and are changing in Estonian newspapers and analyze the reasons for the changes. The visuality is understood as the use of line-art illustrations and photographs. In the 19th century, the visuality of Estonian newspapers constantly decreased; in the 20th century the visuality increased. The rise has not been continuous. The degree of visuality has developed in three “leaps”: in the second half of the 1920s, in the second half of the 1950s and during the 1990s–2000s. Until the 1990s, the role of visuals was to illustrate the verbal content. Then they became information mediators and thereafter, the determinants of verbal content. I argue that the increasing visualization and changes in the role of visuals are caused by the competition between different media. Every new medium that appears in the news market (radio, TV, online) is a competitor to newspapers and in response to increased competition Estonian newspapers abruptly increased their visuality. In recent years, the degree of visuality has stabilized. I argue that the visuality has currently reached the maximum level; it is impossible to increase the visuality in the future without decreasing the verbal content of Estonian newspapers below a reasonable minimum.

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