Is the medium the message?

In reading the various materials covered this week in relation to post-colonial literature and the ever-evolving visage of the publishing realm, a number of inferences seem to float to the surface. One of which is the importance of the platform or channel through which one receives a given set of data or information.

Both post-colonial articles can be found on the blog, which discusses specific concerns in relation to the broader subject of the digital humanities. While the post, titled “Founding Principles,” is perhaps an attempt to calibrate readers and bring them up to speed in regard to the areas they wish to explore, the presentation and reading is slightly less pleasurable than one might imagine the experience of reading content from a larger publisher like the LA Review of Books. While I found the content amusing and important, the medium in which the site operates seemed less interested in reaching a broad audience. The smoothness of the platform should not necessarily dictate ones interpretation of the credibility or quality of a given content. Though, on an editorial level, the content contained spelling mistakes and was geared towards an audience that already understood the ongoing conversation. The beauty of academic, peer-reviewed content is that one is able to grant a certain amount of trust and credibility to the authors given the schematic that it operates within. One of the major points within the conversation in regard to the dystopian future of the death of print journalism is this same notion—without credibility, one is left in a world without fundamental truth or rigor. The democratic notion of equality between all mediums of information acquisition equates to tabloid news being presented alongside academic research being presented alongside pornography. Is this the ideal?

The Johanna Drucker article, on the other hand, is succinctly written, invites a broad spectrum of readers, and is, generally, pleasurable to encounter. Editorially, no spelling mistakes or odd syntactical choices make the reading less so, and the institution from which it springs forth is generally considered to be well researched and reviewed by those in the profession. According to Drucker, “Scholarship, good scholarship, the work of a lifetime commitment to working in a field — mapping its references, arguments, scholars, sources, and terrain of discourse — has no substitute.” What I found lacking in the previously mentioned source was this good scholarship, rigor, and focus on quality content. Ultimately, my reading experience was formed by the platform and its implications. Blogs do not necessarily equal well-funded and heavily edited journalistic output. Slightly ironic, then, for the content of this supposed criticism to appear on the platform for which such criticisms might be applied.

One thought on “Is the medium the message?

  1. Emily Donahoe

    “Ultimately, my reading experience was formed by the platform and its implications.” It seems like an obvious point, but it’s one I haven’t thought about while reading our course material. I think you’re right. What’s more, the medium shapes our experience of reading even when we don’t consciously recognize that it is doing so. Though blog posts are more easily accessible and appeal to a wider audience than other mediums of expression, I can’t help but feel they lack some credibility, even if they are produced by scholars–after all, anyone can (and everyone does) make a blog. And the internet, fueled by social media, is a breeding ground for misinformation. But I wonder if our attitudes about that will change as scholars move out of traditional academic publishing practices and into new mediums. Will the blog post written by a literary critic ever speak from a position of authority that matches the authority of a printed text?

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