February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
February 4, 2010
The word “mediation” has a number of connotations relevant to the purpose of this blog. Firstly, mediation pertains to the concept of media, the plural of medium, a substance or channel through which a signal passes. A sound wave travels through the medium of air before reaching the ear; an image of a flower is reproduced via the medium of digital photography. The relationship between the medium (or form) a signal or message passes through and its content is hard to pin down. Media theorist Marshall McLuhan is well-known for his aphorism “the medium is the message”; for him, there was a strange, even mystical sense in which form and content, channel and signal, medium and message are one. McLuhan further reminds us of the multivalence of the word “medium”: significantly, it also refers to a psychic reader who “channels” the spirits of the dead. But, being a devout Catholic, he would also note how “the medium is the message” is a profound christological formula. In Christ, the communicated Word takes on the medium of flesh, in a perfect coincidence of the human and the divine, of content and form.
Today the various types of artificial media – music, painting (sometimes in “mixed media”), radio, television (both forms of “mass media”), streaming web media, portable media, rich media, hypermedia – carry an array of messages. The “age of information” and of Internet connectivity is often described as “media-saturated,” an “immersive environment,” as in Jean Baudrillard’s dystopian vision of a “proliferation of screens and images.” Thus the way in which ideologies, cultural narratives and even spiritual truths are mediated to us through communication technologies is well worth examining from a Christian (christological) point of view.
Mediation, however, also carries the idea of a peaceful resolution between two conflicting parties. In the twentieth century, many Christian communities defined themselves within the “Christ against culture” typology described by Niebuhr (although often without realizing it). When it comes to the media, Christians are characterized as having an antagonistic stance, a feeling which may be mutual as far as some producers of electronic media are concerned. The reality is that Christians (in the broadest sense of the word) are among the consumer/receivers of media in the contemporary situation, and so do not stand entirely outside of culture but must “negotiate” a place for themselves and their message within it. As Stuart Hall has noted, “negotiation” is at the heart of all communication; the consumer of media does not just passively ingest but engages with a media “text” (film, TV show, game, song) to create meaning. There is a sort of “mediation” between the producer and consumer of media, with texts as the locus of meaning-formation. And similarly, there must be a means of mediating between Christ and culture, “Christian” media-watcher and media text, church and media conglomerate, all the while recognizing that the lines between producer and consumer (let alone “Christian consumer”) are becoming more and more blurred as technology moves towards greater interactivity and “open source” subsistence.
The purpose of this blog is to explore media from a broadly Christian perspective in order to illuminate something of the complex, image-saturated culture in which we “live, move and have our being.”
Brett David Potter