Bags of Bran

Media Ecology is Helpful
July 15, 2015, 11:35 am
Filed under: Apologioi, Bible

The other day I wrote a facile little introductory review about a brain-stretching article I had read on media ecology. For those not aware of it, media ecology is a rather abstruse field of learning that examines how media shape their message.

Let’s start small and work our way up. “Media” is plural for “medium,” which, in this discussion, is kind of a technical term. It refers to the means by which a message meets a recipient. Examples really help here, so I’ll provide some.

If someone wants to tell you a story, he could do it in several ways. He could simply tell you using his voice. If he was in person, waving his arms around and making eye contact, this is a whole lot different from if he were reading it in a flat voice over a conference call. He could tell you the story using a falsetto voice and marching in place.

He could write it down. He could write it and have it published in a book with pictures, or he could scratch it in the paint of other people’s cars.

He could make a movie out of it. The movie could be animated. The movie could include seductive-looking actresses. The movie could use strange camera angles and weird lighting.

He could make every line rhyme. He could make every line have exactly ten beats. He could work in an exceptional quantity of references to cabbage slaw.

None of these differences would change the fundamental elements of the plot of the story. Each of these differences affect the medium, or the “how,” or the packaging, of the storytelling.

But they would also change the way one receives the story. Is it easier to follow or more difficult if it is told in person vs. written? Do you take it more seriously or less seriously if the speaker has funny mannerisms? Would a rhyme pattern be off-putting or helpful to a reader? Would all those references to cabbage slaw affect the overall story? What if, while telling you the story, the speaker stopped every few minutes to try to get you to buy things?

These are overly-simplified versions of the kinds of questions that media ecologists explore.

You’d perhaps (or perhaps not) be surprised to discover that most of the pioneers in media ecology are, if not born-again evangelical types, firmly committed to a Judeo-Christian way of looking at the world. If there is a God, nothing can be relative because there is a default value judgment, His, that bears on everything that man does. Everything that He created was very good: every arrangement of the original creation that we make falls somewhere on a spectrum between vicious and virtuous.

And how we tell our stories is a very important way in which we arrange created things.

Oh yes: here is the link to the facile introduction I wrote yesterday.


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