Thursday, 26 June 2008

Media, mode, materiality

I think I had a go at this before, but I'm going to do it again. One of the issues working across disciplines is defining terms. As mentioned previously, my main problem is the word 'image': to a novelist, an image is created in the mind of the reader; to a designer, an image is an original artwork or reproduction of that artwork (where artwork could mean photograph, drawing, digital image, etc). Media, medium and materiality pose similar problems, but this time from art and communication theory. The media could mean the press, it could refer to paint or clay, it could distinguish between print or digital. Materiality could be form or it could be content. Ugly, I know.

Rather than trying to clarify this mess, I'm just going to state how I'm using the terms through an example.

1. An original pencil drawing on paper. The media is drawing (it is made by the act of drawing), the mode is visual (as opposed to verbal), the materiality is lead on paper (the surface it exists on, how we access it). It is a drawing.

2. When that original drawing is scanned, the media is now digital (it is made by pixel data), the mode is still visual, but the materiality is screen (pixels appear on the computer screen). It is a digitized drawing.

3. When that digital version of the original drawing is reproduced in a book, the media is now print (it is made by mechanical printing), mode is still visual, materiality is ink on paper. It is the reproduction of a drawing.

Anyway, the main point is that I can change the media or materiality and I still call it a drawing (though qualified with original, digital or reproduction). However, if I were to change the mode, and 'interpret' a drawing verbally or perhaps musically (ekphrasis), the it ceases to be a drawing and then becomes and interpretation of a drawing.

Does that make ANY sense? Maybe I have media and materiality mixed up? And is that actually faulty reasoning because the difference between a 'reproduction' of a drawing and an 'interpretation' of a drawing are not actually that different? I have a feeling like this is either quite important or absolutely irrelevant (which is a micro/macro feeling to the entire PhD).

4 comments:

astrid said...

it makes sense to me. i don't think you have media & materiality mixed up at all, tho i would add that materiality can be attributed to the less-tangible aspects of text too, such as cadence & syntactic texture, but i am aware that the textual materiality that exists notionally is a slightly different area to your inquiry. i'd also make mention of the materiality of text-on-page being worthy of discussion alongside image-on-page -- in your example the variously qualified drawing.

Zoe said...

Hi Astrid -- I think how text 'looks' on a page (its materiality) is very important to reception of that text. Johanna Drucker's work is great for this.

astrid said...

oh, johanna drucker, *swoon*.

Zoe said...

Yep, she's unbelievably great. I keep coming back to her stuff.

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