Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Seances, Channeling & the Media

I just started teaching a course this quarter called “Principles of Interactive Media.” It’s the third or fourth time I’ve taught it over the past three years. It’s a canned course that was created by someone else and handed to me, the instructor, to teach “as is.” And every other instructor at the university who teaches it for other sections uses the exact same material and course shell. I suppose when an institution offers multiple sections of a course year after year, a canned course is one way to insure that every student who takes it receives the same basic information. It also, though, tends to squelch any creativity or initiative on the part of the instructor.  
Since the material was already proscribed, I never took the trouble to actually investigate the word “media.” Until today.
I mean, why should I have questioned it? We all know what “media” means, right?
Not so much, as I just learned.
We think of “media” as content outlets like television, radio, print and the Internet. But the word “media” is the plural of the word “medium.” And “medium” basically means “middle” as in sizes (small, medium and large) or doneness (rare, medium, or well-done).
Edgar Allen Poe at a seance.
Of course, a “medium” is also a type of psychic who channels messages from spirits in the ethereal world to flesh-and-blood people in the material world.
So how, then, do TV, radio, print and the Internet (all those things we commonly refer to as “the media”) relate to the word “medium”? In two ways, actually. First, as “in the middle.” TV and radio stations, print companies and Internet web sites are glorified “middle-men.” They take information (text, images, video, etc) from authors and content producers and package the content into a form (or technology) that they can then disseminate to their customers (readers, viewers, surfers, etc.) They are, in all practical terms, in the “middle” of the chain from content creation to end-use. The media, therefore, are actually content mediators (yes, it’s the same word root; a mediator is a middle-man between two parties.)
It’s interesting, especially in the case of TV, radio and Internet that we think of these media outlets as offering multiple “channels,” or avenues to present the content to the end-user. The word “channel” takes us to the second way we can think about “media.” Psychically. Media outlets are channels, not so very distant from occult psychics. Although the content producers are real entities in the material world, the media basically listens to their voices, and then channels their messages to an audience… not a heck of a lot differently from a typical séance, although the technology used is much more tangible and explainable.
And in the Internet world of cyberspace, information is now a lot more ethereal than it used to be. The information we want is “out there” to be had, if we can only find the right “channel” to bring it to us. “The right channel to bring it to us?” It sounds like we might be looking for modern day “mediums” who can “tune in” to the particular content we want.
It’s something to think about.

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