Media and the Message @InyofaceEnzensberger

I had the pleasure (not really) of reading the work of Hans Magnus Enzensberger called Constituents of a Theory of the Media (1970). Enzensberger is a pretty ingenious guy in that he affixes Marxism to communication theory and likens the mass media to the superstructure trying to keep a monopoly on the unparticipating masses/proletariat.

Is that a mouthful? Yes. Does he have a point? Sure, why not. I mean, before the Internet, it was much more difficult to become a participant in the mass media because the means of production were too expensive to own and distribute. However, this example shows where his ideas are flawed.

While raging against anything remotely technologically deterministic and announcing his deep-seeded hatred for Canadian communications theorist Marshal McCluhan, Enzensberer fails to realize that technology, and the means of production have progressed to such a degree in the past 40 years to render his points about revolutionizing media through purely social participation moot.

There are many ways to create, share, and re-share/tweet, or whatever. Much of it is due to social networking, but the catalyst for our newly empowered proletariat masses has more to do with technology than anything else. For example the only reason why people have changed their day-to-day behaviors is because of technology. Office meeting etiquette, prime time TV viewing, relationships, word of mouth, personal privacy, etc. have all been shaped by revolutions in technology by the likes Smart Phones with QWERTY keyboards, hulu, cheap video cameras, Facebook, and geo-location software.  And as anyone will surely tell you, correspondence using any of these technologies will mean different things depending on what you use (and also depending on who you talk to, but that doesn’t negate the fact that new technology has changed our approach to dealing with individuals and the masses as an individual consumer/producer).

Don’t believe that the medium is the message or the fact that the medium almost completely shapes the way we view things, thus making it a message in and of itself? Take this article in Wired as an firm example of why technology reins supreme. As in the article, depending on which of the semi autonomous creations of plastic and metal you choose, you’re experience will vary considerably

So what say you? Do we have more agency, or are we mostly shaped by our technology use? Before you answer, consider your interactions with your friends and family sans just a cell phone. I can see you twitching with stress already.

Constituents of a Theory of the Media

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