“The medium is the message.”
-Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
To write and teach about and through various media means to engage in innovative and long-established practices. These attempts can be illuminated by the far-reaching critical impact of this pivotal claim by Marshall McLuhan. If the medium is the message, then how information is presented determines what information gets presented. That wisdom proves true for the oral apparatus, print literacy, visual rhetoric, the shift to electracy, filmmaking, digital composition, etc. Therefore, as the very definition of writing changes, we should realize that discourse itself has been in ages-long historical flux from medium to medium. The message shifts and remains the same.
Throughout history, literacy has shown a circular habit: what happened long ago shows a striking similarity to what is happening now. The proliferation and increased usage of new media has burgeoned in the 21st century, and should therefore undergo some observation. For all agents in this shift, there may be a sense in which we fail to recognize the need to question its proliferation. In academic disciplines and social institutions alike come a set of what seems ‘new’ ontological questions–yet all of this has happened before. A scribe who glossed took part in an advanced act of composing; by using literacy to comment on literacy. We here can do the same: we can use electracy to comment on electracy. By reflecting on the shift from orality to literacy in literature and the arts, we can denote phenomena that occur now when it happens again.
We at Medium/Message wish to engage in the changing literate, electrate climate as it unfolds in all aspects of our lives. By reflecting on the ontological questions which define the change from orality to literacy, we can begin to investigate our shifting age of electracy occurring now. Poets once sang with lutes but then wrote with tools. Throughout this history, we as composers have witnessed the onslaught of print and digital media change what we know of composition. Thus, discourse transforms–but it also transforms us. Networks of discourses begin to redefine how we compose. We generate content through web-writing tools now that echo the change from orality to parchment. In addition to historical reflection, digital literacy allows for parsing. We can critically examine the ever-entangling associations between media and media users.
Such vast subjects allow us to write about literature, philosophy, theory, and education in a hopefully summative way. With individual and shared research interests in postmodern literature, medieval studies, philology and book history, our aim is to create content that both observes and analyzes this increasingly important shift in our time. We hope that visitors to our corner of the conversation will experience thoughtful interaction with issues pertaining to media composition. May this space offer a medium to many messages, as it analyzes the message through multiple media.