Posts Tagged ‘Neil Postman’

Maybe McLuhan was right

December 14, 2007

During the 90s my brand positioning statement was “The Medium is NOT the Message” — directly contradicting Marshall McLuhan’s famous apocalyptic remark about where we were headed.

My point, then and now, was that the message is what’s important. Content trumps conveyances.

Here’s a video by Mike Wesch, a cultural anthropology prof at KSU that perhaps you’ve already seen… over 5 million folks have watched it on YouTube but it was new to me until Ken Christie called it to my attention through his blog.

Web 2.0: The Machine is Us/ing Us (final version)

This articulates as well as anything I’ve seen what Neil Postman warned us all about, and McLuhan before him: each medium carries with it a powerful bias as to the kind of information (or noise) that it disseminates. Each medium has a strength, and a corresponding weakness, just as sight and sound, taste, smell and touch each have their own unique strength. Web 2.0 is so hard to define because it carries within it the ability synthesize all of the media, resulting in either crystallinity or mush. And as usual, the way each is used, and perceived, depends on both the sender and the receiver.

Perhaps Web 2.0’s greatest impact comes from the degree to which this mega-medium puts most of that power, not in the hands of the sender, but the receiver. More than ever before in history, beauty (and truth) are indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Video guys (ugh)

November 16, 2007

I’ve never thought of myself as a video guy. And I don’t want to be thought of as one.

What is a video guy? To me, a video guy is someone who loves the medium of video, who wants to make videos, who likes technology, who enjoys operating cameras, who thinks its fun and glamorous to have a big camera and a big tripod and big lights and sort of be the center of attention at a scene.

Some video guys are “film guys”. They are identical to video guys except they look down their noses at the video medium and want to only shoot film or perhaps a high-def video camera that LOOKS like a film camera because of its lenses, follow-focus requirement, and matte box in front of the lens.

As I said, I am not a video guy. I don’t like to be obtrusive, though I’ve often said I’m not doing my job if I’m not obtrusive and intrusive. But I hate that about the medium. I hate to have to be so obviously part of a scene in order to capture what’s interesting and important about the activity.

I also hate the technology. The late Neil Postman, my favorite modern essayist who I would rank on a par with Francis Bacon, said that “the form excludes the content”. What he means is that TV/video are in a moving-picture form, which is great for observing action. However, the observable action form excludes, by its very nature, the unseen ideas that lie behind the action. The video medium thus focuses on the presenter rather than his or her words. It creates celebrities simply by putting faces on the screen, regardless of what they say or do or believe.

As a medium, video focuses on what the actor does rather than revealing why, the true motivation behind it. It is no accident that the ancient Greek word for “actor” is “hypocrites” — from which we get our word hypocrite — a person who thinks something different than he says or does.

ORK looking like a film guy So please do not think of me as a video guy (or a film guy). Professionally, my goal is to help colleges communicate the truth about themselves to the prospects who, realistically, would benefit from and enjoy the experience that institution has to offer. Period. If I could do this by a mind dump, or a post card, or a chalk board, I would do so. Instead, I have to use the medium, the cave wall, which has the most currency in our culture. And so I have to use video.

I greatly enjoy what I do, because what I am doing is capturing authentic people saying what they believe, and transmitting their facial expressions and actions and words and music to another audience in a way that is fun, inspiring, motivational, and serious all at the same time. To me that’s a useful thing to do, but it’s a lot harder than being a video guy.