Paul Levinson’s article The First Digital Medium defines the concept of a ‘Media Ecology’ as the study of human beings and their relationship to media and the environment these forms media create. His article focuses on the changes in media ecologies and how these changes affect our understanding of society and the world around us. Our relationship with our television, our phones, social media platforms and the news is what builds our media environment. Stemming off from McLuhan’s theory that all media technologies are extensions of human capacities, it is this relationship between technology and humans that form media ecology.
This concept can be interpreted in many ways and Levinson cleverly uses the development of the alphabet as an example of the tricky concept, which made it a lot easier for me to grasp. He compares the changes and developments in language and the written word to the changes brought upon by continuously developing media ecologies, otherwise known as our media environment.
The term also involves the concept of technologies. Every time we engage with a medium, we are altering the environment around us and at the same time, our perceptions are being influenced. For example, rather than choosing to buy the paper and read the news in print, I rely heavily on online articles. This change in our attitudes and habits reflects the effects of media ecology as it continues to shape our society as advancements in our media environment continue to take place.
Like many, I broke away from all the text and took to YouTube to find a more visual interpretation of the concept of media ecologies. I came across this short video of Lance Strate sharing his own knowledge of Media Ecology.
Levinson, P (1997) ‘The First Digital Medium’ in Soft Edge; a natural history and future of the information revolution London: Routledge:p11-20
As media continues to emerge, we can’t help but notice not only an extension of various information technologies, but an extension of the interactions between humans and these machines. The reading for this week, ‘Theoretical Frameworks’ by Andrew Murphie and John Potts (2003) explores the relationship between technology and society and aims to determine whether media technologies are the tools that impact, shape and change the way we perceive and understand culture, society and the world we live in, or whether it is society and culture that affects the way we use these technologies. This blog will focus on the ideas and theories of Marshall McLuhan who believes that all technologies are extensions of human capacities that determine society and he therefore proposes that “the cultural significance of media lies not in their content, but in the way they alter our perception of the world” (Murphie & Potts 2003, pg. 13) McLuhans theory reflects not merely the importance of the content being delivered, but rather the characteristics of the actual medium in itself as being the initiators of cultural change.
This belief ties in with McLuhan’s theory of ‘technological determinism’. The viewpoint of this term holds that “a successful technical innovation, if implemented on a sufficiently wide scale, will generate a new type of society” (Murphie & Potts, 2003. Pg. 12) and is demonstrated though examples of such emerging societies including the information age and the age of electricity. (Murphy & Potts, 2003)
McLuhan theories also focussed on the idea that that all technologies are extensions of human capacities and he therefore proposes that ‘the medium is the message’. I found this idea particularly interesting and in order to gather an understanding, I thought about the ways I use certain media technologies and the reasons for which I use them.
In today’s society, new mediums such as Facebook now facilitate connections between people, businesses and social environments and it is these social connection that have become the message. We find ourselves constantly creating and sharing things that define who we are to the people we want to see it. Although we may be forming these connections through social networking mediums, at the same time we are isolating ourselves from each other. It is these mediums that are impacting the ways we connect in person, proving that these mediums are in fact undermining the reasons and goals for which we’re using them and therefore I agree that the way we use the medium is what matters and holds responsibility for the message and the way it is interpreted.