Thursday, May 28, 2009

revisting the medium is the message

(This is a little jumbled and is a sort of practice run for something else I'm working on so please feel free to comment/share/critique-thanks.)
"...the medium not only structures what one will see and believe, but is in fact, inseparable from what one sees and believes."(101-Postman/Weingartner from Teaching as a Subversive Activity) AKA the medium is the message.I think this is brilliant on all kinds of levels and that it has been largely forgotten how much the medium is actually the message which is a distinct problem in an era where the medium of the web/Internet is so prevalent (esp. in the use of the metaphor of the word "web").
however my focus is slightly more lighthearted in that this idea of the medium structuring what one sees and believes plays out in Barnes and Noble (B&N) on a regular basis for me. It typically happens right when I walk in the first set of double doors into the postage stamp size foyer which hold, as I have termed them, "the stealable stuff". (These are called the stealable stuff bc they are on the other side of the sensors thus implying, in my mind, that if you really want to steal something from B&N this is what should be takend b/c it is already halfway out the door. Admittedly this is not a hip title so I'm open to suggestions) B&N puts out two types of items into this area. The first being gift-type books i.e. books for Father's Day, books for Mother's Day, books for your cat's birthday, etc. (I'm using the word "book" in the sense that there are paper/plastic pages of text/images between two cardboard/conglomerate of other materials occ. w/ dust jacket. Any other relationship of these items to books that actually contain real content is purely coincedental.) The other type of book is the castoff, the books have been tossed off even the clearance rack space and are now awaiting their final resting place at the bottom of some Chinese garbage pit.
How does the medium of location effect how we look at these books? Consider that these
books are placed closer to the door(s) then they are to their topically-related companions who are being sold for much higher prices. Ironically the logistically closest books to these items are, at least in this particular B&N, the new books. The attitude of the placement of these books is one of departure. The point of this display is to structure the buyer's pereception, whether or not the store means to, that these books are pretty much worthless and the possible reason they are out here is because there happened to be some shelves built in the foyer and there were not quite enough gift books to fill them so the selected "filler" is the stealable stuff. Please note that I have rescued at least one (maybe two my memory's faulty here) Douglas Coupland hardcover(s) from this shelf; a hardcover that would have ordinarily retailed for $23.99 I scored for $4.98. One has to ask does the location of the book in the medium of the stealable stuff affect the buyer's view of the book?
What I'm trying to say is that I believe placing legit books in this section, such as Douglas Coupland, in w/ titles that are consigned to this stealable area affect how we/I see and think about them. The context (or medium?) deteremines how we see or how we read situations. This is important because much of the time, if not all the time, we don't realize it or think about this transparency of medium, unless of course part of your living is based on the sale of purloined gift books and castoffs. We/I see through our medium(s) particularly, if not entirely, the medium of language. I.e. above mentioning gift books you probably have a good idea of what I'm talking about but I'm assuming you share a similar language/metaphorical frame of reference(s) w/ me. We experience it and talk around it rather than talking about the medium in which we are operating which can cause some interesting issues especially when interacting w/ certain types of media w/in a particular medium.

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