Medium is the Message

For quite a while I was thinking about restarting the blog. But then I thought I shouldn’t. The thoughts kept swinging….  who reads it anyway nowadays? Facebook and Twitter have almost killed the blog-world. A few of my friends doggedly stay out there on the front, carrying the mast of blogging on their broad shoulders through the wilderness but some of them are too late into this once-beautiful world of blog while others are resigned from within.

derridaDoes this always happen? That the change in platform changes the content? Or the reader? And eventually the writer? I know that dreadful phrase of Derrida – ‘medium is the message’. It sounds too empty isn’t it? Hollowness surrounds it. The idea that the form itself is the content and outside of the form there is no separate content is really very grotesque. It’s beyond ‘normal’ existentialist notions. There are some people who say that its similar to shunyavad of Nagarjun (that Dhamma is empty). I don’t know that. All I know is that it’s pretty dreadful.

It also implies that there is no srijan/creation beyond mere transformation. What does an artist do then? And what does a reader perceive? Both are standing in their own orthogonal planes. Perhaps intersecting somewhere, with shared experiences or outlook. But mostly separate. Their’s may be a shared orthography but not necessarily a shared ontology.

Long time ago, Indian languages were undergoing modernisation, accepting new forms of expression like novel, European-style drama, new kind of poetry, travelogues, history writing, dictionaries.. It was not a mere change in form of expression but the new spirit of age. That spirit couldn’t be expressed in traditional formats. Even before that when the Portuguese missionaries brought the printing press or the Turks brought the commonplace use of paper, there must have been such fundamental changes in readership and authorship and also in the content. Enlightenment ideas became prominent in the 18th century Europe because of both the reading revolution and printing revolution which together helped extend the private middle class sphere and make it into secular, independent public sphere. Or so says Habermas. Partha Chatterji has regionalised this theory in Indian context. Whatever.

Simple fact seems that the technological shocks are going to rock the world of reading and writing more and more often. Each platform will signify an era or a generation – not only of technology but of people. Because not all the content flows seamlessly from old to new platform. Content generation is a continuous process and people get stuck to their own platform. Yahoo, for example, is still used very much by many 30-something old Americans. Similar is the story of hotmail and rediff. People in 20s use gmail more often than not. Technology perhaps changes people but not endlessly. Old habits die hard. People adapt to something fast but then later prefer to grow old with it, or they find it hard perhaps to keep adapting all the time. This happens not only because they lost their mental agility to keep changing but there is another reason to it. Their type of content is stuck in one or two platforms and it doesn’t get migrated to the new platforms completely. New platforms create their own new content which may not content these older people…:)

Anyhow. It appears that now platforms change faster than people do. The changes are so fast that many people outlive changes in formats and platforms. All this has kind of degraded the idea of content and has put more premium on the method or form. Form is the new God. Content is just something that tags along, or rather limps along. Medium has indeed become a message. Because there is no substantial message besides anyway.

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