Saturday, October 11, 2003

The Medium is the Message

In my observation of our class blogging and how the discussion has grown, I've noted that how being new to blogging and not having much knowledge about it's nature and purpose, has forced us to look critically at how we use communicative tools especially as between the use of phone vs. emails, which actually became more instructive once I started comparing the effects of those two media vs. weblogs.

I think that each medium is used for a different purpose, and the nature of the medium influences the type of communication that can be carried on with each meidum. The phone is oral/audio (we put it at our ear). It is an extension of speech, of communicating, of relating. Email which is an extension of mail, is an extension of text-based linear language, which is an extension of thought/thinking (we use our hand, and fingers to write).

Therefore, the discussion of use of the telephone causes us to think about connecting or relating. Most phone conversations are based around, "Hi, how are you, what are you doing, what can I do for you?" We want to relate to the other person, and feel satisfied when that is achieved via the telepone. (I made a connection with Tammy with one phone call that was much more meaningful than all the communications in the blogs that we have carried on for the past two weeks with all its engaging, profound thoughts, or information loaded interactions).

On email, we need to retrack a bit to the use of snail mail. Writing letters is thinking our thoughts on paper. It's "This is me.... what do you think?" The recipient reads our thoughts silently is his mind and chooses to react or not. There is some degree of illusionary connection with another self, but the writer is actually at a deeper level writing to his/her own self. (A good illustration of this is the famous "Letters to a Young Poet", by Rainer Maria Rilke which is so powerful because when we read it, we feel as if he were writing especially to us. And Rainer achieved this because according to Stephen Mitchell, Rainer was probably writing "across time, directly to his younger self".)

With the invention of the email, some characteristics of telephone communication was transposed into written mail form. Relating and thought has made some connection? But the result tends to be... as Bernard has shared his observation with us, email leaves us with a lot of open communication left unsolved.

Blogs are text-based (we write them with our hands), it is not oral and yet seem to carry some degree of orality like the email. However, to me it appears to be a form of expression that is closer to mail than to phone. It clearly shows our thoughts, and even more our thinking process. We are sort of thinking "aloud" having the public comment on our thoughts.

When I came across "Blogging thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool" by Torill Mortensen and Jill Walker in the process of searching for more understanding about blogs, I have also reached a level of understanding how "the medium is the message" by understanding how writing blogs eventually causes us to think about our thoughts, and to think about how we do our thinking. The medium we choose to use for thinking will effect our thinking. Writing blogs will eventually effect our way of thinking. And this is Tammy's insightful observation passed to me on the phone, "studying McLuhan has allowed me to critically think about how we use the medium" and eventually about how it affects us.

And I think that if blogs are expressions of our thinking, our blogs can only be successful if we are first writng for ourselves not the public, which is different from journalism. So when I write this blog, I should not actually be expecting anyone to respond, but should hope that my blog has sparked some thinking in its reader and the discussion is free to be carried on elsewhere, anywhere (which is actually like public writing). And if my thoughts have been well-liked, it will be linked to.


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