[-empyre-] First Theme and Guests - the Thickness of the Screen

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Thu Sep 3 17:42:40 EST 2009

I think this is a highly reductivist and materialist understanding of
mediality. If we always employed such an approach much of our media theory
would never have been written (perhaps not a bad thing).

A medium is far more than simply its physical substrate. It involves soft
and social aspects too. Soft media, such as language, cinema and software.
Social media, such as ritual and the performative. The medium of film, which
Pall proposed, is a good example. Much of what we experience today as film
doesn¹t involve film. It is shot on 4k HD and digitally projected within a
cinema context. Our experience of the artefact is little different to what
it has always been and we continue to call it by its traditional name ­
film, flick, cinema, etc. However, its materiality has profoundly changed.

This is not to say these changes are without consequence. Even liminal
changes in technology and media can affect our reception of the work.
However, to persist in an exclusively materialist approach to mediality will
likely lead to a narrow view of what a medium is, overlooking how media
evolves and even entire areas of mediation that are of a non-physical
character. The medium of film is far more than its material parts. It is as
much a function of its social characteristics as its mechanical (and
increasingly electronic and digital) elements.

As Pall observes, media are assembled as apparatus, the projector being one
element. However, the components of an apparatus are not always material.
Apparatus and technologies are composed of numerous elements, many of which
are not immediately visible or exist in the social as well as, or rather
than, material. Also, it should be noted that whilst an element may be a
critical part of a medium in one state in another it may be nothing to do
with media at all (eg: a screen that becomes a wall).

Just as Pall disagrees with a definition of media that confuses media with
technology I disagree with a definition that determines media as necessarily

A screen may have no thickness at all ­ or be as thick as our imagination



From: Pall Thayer <palli at pallit.lhi.is>
Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Date: Thu, 3 Sep 2009 01:18:43 +0000
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] First Theme and Guests - the Thickness of the Screen

Literature is not a medium. The medium of literature is
print. Film is a medium but only if you're talking about the film that
you wind up on spools. The wider class of "film" or "cinema" is a
collection of various media.

Simon Biggs
Research Professor
edinburgh college of art
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

simon at littlepig.org.uk
AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

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