Structure is the message of all media

‘The medium is the message’, a motto coined by communications researcher Marshall McLuhan, means that each medium, such as art, movies, television, newsprint, magazine, ritual, or buildings, embeds itself in the messages it could convey. Various media thus enable certain messages, and disable others. Each medium forms a symbiotic relationship with its content, and influences how the message is perceived, much like editors and peer
pressure do. My career in trade and technical publishing had taught me that some stories write and sell themselves, while truly new stories are hard to tell, and hard to sell. I have the same task in stoneprint, in demonstrating content that we are not in the habit of seeing in building plans; but rather in the habit of ascribing to imitation of other media, such as grammar from language; stereotypes from astrology; stick figures from astronomy; a grid from geometry; equators and poles form cosmology; sequences from calendars; episodes from myth; altars from ritual; buildings from religion; and time-frames from history. These equations of content and media are pervasive. We are adaptively blind to the axial grid of irregular angles, and irregular radial lengths; to eyes with two constant exceptions; and other quirks in our behaviour. This invisibility confirms that perception is not objective. If we did not see the structure in culture, as demonstrated 130 times in this book, then we see what we expect to see. And we expect media to say what their users intend them to say.
The ‘medium equals message’ phrase was introduced in McLuhan’s book, Understanding Media: The extensions of man (1964). He proposed that we should study media itself, not just the content they carry. Every medium affects society by the content it delivers, restricted or amplified by the characteristics of the medium. Thus we also have a paradigmatic or general bias about what culture is, and about what culture should say about us.
McLuhan’s later book was titled The Medium is the Message, where he views communication as a kind of social therapy. We generate individual therapy in dreams, ‘massaging’ our minds; and we generate collective therapy in myth, legend, and news, as Freud had found earlier. For McLuhan, every medium differently shapes “the scale and form of human association and action”. This view implies that sciences, with their restrictions, formulae and citations, are also cultural media, and thus crafts; and may contain archetypal content invisible to our conscious minds.
McLuhan had also proposed a hierarchy of media: “the content of any medium is always another medium”. Writing carries speech; print carries writing; buildings carry social behaviour. Art appears to carry myth, legend, history, ritual, calendar, concepts, and ideals. However art subtracts the time sequence (which is somewhat arbitrary in the other media), and adds its own visual grammar. Thus art is more like a supplement than a translation (see several versions of Solomon’s Judgement on Art and buildings inevitably add to what each other, and myth and ritual say. They also enable some therapy that other media could not activate. Buildings have predisposed content………..[order the book Stoneprint at $30 plus postage from Four Equators Media, via ‘[edmond at syrex dot co dot za], payment on Paypal …………..


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