Words once existed only as an oral tradition — storytelling, poetry, song — until mechanical reproduction allowed for wider distribution of text and efforts grew to promote literacy among a wider population. As Berger points out, art also was once an exclusionary form of language that belonged only to the elite, until mechanical reproduction allowed art to be seen by the masses. Since Berger wrote this essay, our ability to create and reproduce images has multiplied exponentially. You could say that posting an image to the web creates an infinite reproduction.
I think an abundance of images encourages a visual literacy and a confidence that allows anyone to create visual “statements”, just as exposure to text supports the writing arts. As with words, a larger visual vocabulary enhances our understanding and our ability to articulate experiences. Imagery often connects us more viscerally to experience than words. Knowing how to interpret and use images in an image-saturated world is as important now as interpreting a written text.
An abundant access to images can blur the boundaries of art and ephemera, leaving that categorization open to the viewer. Unless you prescribe to the notion that art only resides in the realm of the academy, the museum, or the collector, this abundance can be both liberating and overwhelming. It has forced the established institutions to redefine what “art” is and acknowledge that it has become more of a moving target that can no longer be contained within four walls. And it has created space for a wider acceptance of what can be deemed art today.