Friday, January 14, 2011

The medium is the message and instrument

It's that infallible aphorism from Marshal McLuhan.

Marshall interpreted the future at a time when the second wave was yet to come; the first was the 60s, where the likes of Allan Kay, Vannavar Bush, Alan Turing, where either establishing themselves or had done so.

Theirs was the processing revolution; the onset of miniturisation - diodes and valves becoming antiquated, combustion engines enough to fly a man to the moon

It was a fertile period for the development of TV too; hence his saying. It came at a time of pending transition from film to ENG, accompanied by a change in social philosophy.  

The riots of Paris 68 crystalised self-expression, individualism. Euro Cinema was mounting a fight back.

The 1960s was truly big sociological lab.

Today, the epistomology is along the lines of digitalisation, interactivity, hyper-management. The medium may still be the message but it has acquired new purpose. It has become the instrument.

TV's medium shapes an aesthetic and semiotic which to that extent fixes what we say and hear. The Net does otherwise- a rebounding echo; symetrical, multiple pronged.

Is it any wonder we're unsure of its thingyness - or to give it its academic term hacceity has no fixed form. Everyone's a producer and consuler. If TV and video was the medium with corresponding message, in the digital realm of video, it's become the medium that is expressive, malleable, hyperised.

You can take a video of a dog; it's barking, happy - the message is clear and unambigious, but with the subteltly of art, a faster camera, a wide lens, a melancholic sound track, the message changes. The video has become an instrument to extract different emotions.

Curiously, its the reason why video, news, cannot be neutral, that realism is always questionanble, because of the subjective involvement of the author.

I wonder today what McLuhan would have made of it all.