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Lecture 7

COMS 240 Lecture 7: Week 7

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Concordia University
Comm. Studies
COMS 240
Peter Van Wyck

Week VII: Media as Extension Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility,” in The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility and other Writings on Media. Ed. Michael W. Jennings et al (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), 19-55. Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message,” Understanding Media, (Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 7-21. What is the broad sense of media effects? - “communication” (Peters) - homeostasis (Wiener) - limited effects (L&M; Schramm) - masses (Mills) - publics; counter-publics (Habermas; Fraser) - change in perception (Benjamin; McLuhan) In this chapter: - media as extensions of ourselves (our senses): what happens to perception in a mediated environment? - change in methods of perception (media systems) alters social conditions - examines the particular qualities of a media technology - media technologies may bring about different forms or patterns of human and social organization - how particular media technologies affect sense perception and re-organize our experience and understanding of space and time, individually and socially - in other words, medium theory suggests that the key function of media technologies is to mediate reality, and thus alters our perceptions of the world around us 4 senses of the term, mediation, as a process: 1) interceding or coming between (filter) 2) abridge 3) a negotiation 4) a transformation towards greater technologization 5) communication as a process involves some element of all four of these definitions of mediation. Mechanical reproduction - permits us to see that which is invisible (extends what we can see) - destroys the idea that art has a unique existence or history in time and space (aura, authenticity, authority) - replaces ritual or cult value with exhibition value “The way in which human perception is organized (the medium in which it occurs) is conditioned not only by nature but also by history” (W. Benjamin, p. 23) “the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the sphere of tradition” (22) “in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition” (22) “The way in which human perception is organized—the medium in which it occurs—is conditioned not only by nature but by history” (23) Aura - tradition; cult value - unique existence - “strange tissue of space and time” (23) Technological reproducibility - repeatable; transitory - exhibition value - reaches the masses on their own terms Change in aura is the consequence of the changes in perception achieved by reproducibility (especially film) To have given this development [the superiority of exhibition value over ritual value] its local habitation constitutes the incomparable significance of Atget, who, around 1900, took photographs of deserted Paris streets. It has justly been said of him that he photographed them like scenes of crime. A crime scene, too, is deserted; it is photographed for the purpose of establishing evidence. With Atget, photographic records begin to be evidence in the historical trial. This constitutes their hidden political significance. They demand a specific kind of reception. Free-floating contemplation is no longer appropriate to them. (Benjamin 27). Mechanical Reprodu
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