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Becoming the medium

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The original mediums were not texts or technologies; they were ritual actors performing acts of mediumship. Mediating between determined norms (the status quo) and emergent trends (change), they invoked divine

The original mediums were not texts or technologies; they were ritual actors performing acts of mediumship. Mediating between determined norms (the status quo) and emergent trends (change), they invoked divine authority to conjure meanings that proved adaptive, nonadaptive and/or maladaptive. With the advent of the written word, ritual became formalized and codified. The medium became a communication device, something abstract and external to the human condition. It then became possible to speak of "media effects" imposing influence in a logical deterministic manner. Yet with the advent of new media, we are witnessing a return to modes of cultural discourse that are spontaneous, interactive, communal and unscripted, all hallmarks of ritual action. This "ritual return" centers on the emergence of the "prosumer" (producer/consumer), a figure actively engaged in mediating practices. While resembling the original archaic "medium" in some respects, the prosumer is a "literate ritualist" allied with a multiplicity of cultural tribes. Thus the "new media" has given rise to "the new medium." The pages that follow focus on acts of contemporary mediumship, examining related concepts such as "ecology," "niche," "role," "affordance," and "trope." Each section considers how specific mediating practices afford and constrain modes of ritualized behavior. I call this practice-oriented approach to media studies "praxism."

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  • 2011