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March 15, 2011 / graceunsw

Media Ecologies

As a third year Journalism student, one of the most significant things imbued in me has been the importance of the media in society and culture. It permeates nearly every aspect of our lives, and yet, as was described to me this week, is “highly complex, unstable and somewhat mysterious” (Murphie 2011).

 

Media ecology, the concept introduced this week, is described by the theorist Neil Postman on theĀ Media Ecology Association website as “the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival.”

 

“It tries to find out what roles media force us to play, how media structure what we are seeing, why media make us feel and act as we do” (Postman 1970).

 

The dynamism inherent in the contemporary mediascape, and the ever-blurred distinctions between what constitutes public and private life are testament to the validity of media ecology as a metadiscipline. I would argue that this metadiscipline, whilst certainly useful in explaining aspects of the power of technologies to affect all societies, holds enormous relevance for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in particular.

 

The proliferation of user-generated content and the potential for literally anyone to engage with the media has had implications for Postman’s concern with affect and perception. Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube, WikiLeaks and a myriad of other platforms made available on the Internet (including this very blog) have made tangible the ecosophic media Felix Guattari once deemed an “impossibility” (Anon 2008). Milissa Deitz (2010) stated that “the concepts of transparency, participation and collaboration are all producing profound culture change – information that was once protected by insiders and vested interests is now potentially available to all. Big Brother is us.”

 

With that being said, I believe we should view the current mediascape as being in a state of flux. As such, each of the examples, affects and interactions media ecologies engender are highly specific to the context they are found in and the relationship between user and technology, which is something most of the theory related to this area neglects to explore. I can see some merit in pursuing this idea alongside an exploration of reality and perception, in order to fully comprehend the nature of media affects.

 

References:

Anon 2008, The three ecologies – Felix Guattari, Media ecologies and digital activism: thoughts about change for a changing world, accessed 15 March 2011, <http://mediaecologies.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/the-three-ecologies-felix-guattari/>

 

Deitz, M 2010, The new media ecology, On line opinion: Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate, accessed 15 March 2011, <http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=11410&page=1>

 

Murphie, A 2011, Media ecologies, social ecologies other “ecologies” [Lecture notes], accessed 15 March 2011, <http://www.arts3091.newsouthblogs.org>

 

Postman, N 1970, What is media ecology?, Media Ecology Association, accessed 15 March 2011, <http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/>