pervasive media, twitter and the ‘medium is the message’


Following on from this post I thought I would share some thoughts and reflections after a day I spent with the BBC a couple of weeks back.

It was a pervasive media day, a day of innovation and invention, working with the Learning and Development team. It was good fun, was facilitated by the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol and overall was a great day.

What the heck is pervasive media I hear you ask?

For more than a decade, scientists have promised a world of devices and services that infuse the landscape of our daily lives with experiences that are designed to fit the needs of the situation. Beyond the laboratories, computing and communication technology has created a world in which people carry small, powerful, wireless computers and phones that are connected to the internet almost all of the time, from almost anywhere. From gaming to outdoor displays, performance to public transport, Pervasive Media is delivered into the fabric of everyday life, tuned to the context at the moment of delivery. It sits at the emerging intersection of mobile computers, media technology, networks and sensors and offers significant opportunities for new types of digital media content and services, especially those linked to an awareness of place and location.

and what does that actually mean?

To me, it means that the mobile phones we all most of us have, work as an extension to a whole lot of functions we (think we) currently have, need or want.

Just as Marshall McLuhan described the motor car as being an extension of the foot, the light bulb as an extension of the eye or even a chair as an extension of the bottom in his ‘Extensions of man‘ theory, a medium is “any extension of ourselves” and a tool such as twitter is no different.

quoting from the wikipedia page for his Understanding Media book we read

McLuhan says that the conventional pronouncements fail in studying media because they pay attention to and focus on the content, which blinds them to see its actual character, the psychic and social effects. Significantly, the electric light is usually not even regarded as a media because it has no content. Instead, McLuhan observes that any medium “amplifies or accelerates existing processes”, introduces a “change of scale or pace or shape or pattern into human association, affairs, and action”, resulting in “psychic, and social consequences”;[1][2] this is the real “meaning or message” brought by a medium, a social and psychic message, and it depends solely on the medium itself, regardless of the ‘content’ emitted by it.[1] This is basically the meaning of “the medium is the message”.

It is the focus on the content, generally exclusively, that McLuhan argued was flawed; he believed that media (regardless of the the messages it carries) have effects in that they continually shape and re-shape the ways in which individuals, societies, and cultures perceive and understand the world. Each media adds itself on to what we already are.

Each new form of media, e.g. twitter, shapes messages differently, thereby requiring new ‘filters’ (or cognative processes, social constructs and so on) to be engaged in the experience of viewing and listening to those messages.

Twitter is far more than sending a 140 character message, twitter is a medium that has become (in some circles at least), pervasive. As twitter is a medium (as much as it is messages), understanding its role at say an academic confernence, church or indeed life, needs a new, revised or different set of filters to understand what it means, what its implications are and how it acts as an extension of us (or me).

So, what does twitter mean? Does anyone have a view on it? Or how about blogging… for blogs or blogging is a medium regardless of the content. My blog is me working out my faith and my life in a public sphere. What I might have done before through face to face conversations, letters, private journaling (or maybe not even noted down at all) I have now added public diary keeping as a medium.

How does the medium of a blog change the communication experience for you?

Finally on this rambling disjointed post, one of my projects at work is exploring the use of online forums in health care, some of the conversation is fascinating and often it comes back to talk of online or IRL (that’s in real life if you were wondering) yet, online is IRL, just because a connection is made through the medium of a blog, or of twitter doesn’t make it any less real that a connection made in the pub, or at work, or at church.

Am hoping this makes some sense and perhaps one day I will get this into some kind of coherent structure and repost!

grace and peace


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