On Media and Messages

A medium, by definition, is "an intervening agency, means, or instrument by which something is conveyed or accomplished; one of the means or channels of general communication, information, or entertainment in society, as newspapers, radio, or television."  Since it is impossible to transmit our ideas and emotions directly from mind to mind, we are are forced to use a carrier substance - language.  Often that language is then floated along in a secondary carrier, paper and pen, radio waves, cathode ray tube, tweet, text . . . . so that in the end the essence of what was thought or felt or dreamt is squished and squeezed and folded and deconstructed and reconstructed to fit the confines and purposes of the conveyor.  Thank you, Mr. McLuhan.

I love language.  I love polysemous words, the nuance of context, the subtle shift between shiver and quiver that opens up a whole new world of understanding and interpretation.  I love that we are unable to directly convey our thoughts and must pour them messily into linguistic containers and carry them on media's shaky cafeteria trays from table to table.  I love the work of analysis and interpretation that comes with deeply reading a text and I work everyday to pass that love on to the students I work with.

This love translates directly into a love of graphic novels.  Talk about nuance!  There is so much to synthesize!  As McCloud discusses in Understanding Comics, comics require the very active participation of the reader.  The reader must buy-in and construct meaning from the myriad linguistic and artistic tools employed by the author/illustrator - from words to pictures, from blank space to camera angles.

Perhaps because I love a good double-entendre, I take no issue with the idea of media impregnating our messages with their own.  Two messages for the price of one!  It is when we stop recognizing this that problems arise.  When we take for granted that the containers and conveyances are passive and idle, then we fall into the trap of assuming (wrongly) that we can use tools without them using us.  Thank you, Mr. Postman.  Tricky stuff, indeed.

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