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Reflection on task 12

Of course reading just one article is not enough to shape a clear understanding of the concept under investigation, but I sincerely hope that this short glimpse made at least some of you ponder about the questions raised in task 12.

First, I noticed that we use terms like “media”, “medium”, “tool”, “instrument” interchangeably and sometimes in a confusing way.

According to my understanding medium and media are the same. Media is just a plural form of medium. The term medium comes from Latin referring literally to “middle” and originally denoting something intermediate in nature or degree. Medium can be understood as an intervening substance or agency, a means by which something is conveyed or accomplished.

In our context we could think of medium as a means or channel by which something is communicated or expressed (newspaper, radio, TV), but also as a particular form of storage for digitized information, such as magnetic tape or discs. For instance digital media refers to electronic media used to store, transmit, and receive digitized information or social media denotes media dissemination through social interaction.

From a language point of view media can be treated as singular or plural. The traditional view is that it should therefore be treated as a plural noun in all its senses in English and be used with a plural rather than a singular verb, however, as it seems in practice it is now acceptable to use it also with a singular verb.

Maarja has nicely described the difference between tool and medium: “It is a tool when we speak of using it as a physical thing or a piece of software in it to fulfill a task or an activity. It is a medium when we speak of mediating an idea or a piece of information through using some program or application for it”. Kersti concludes “communication needs medium; activity on the other hand, tool”, however, one may ask isn’t communication also a type of activity?

According to activity theory a tool can be anything (not only a physical thing or a software), also a concept map and mental model can be used by a subject to work towards objectives. And we can turn these different tools, but also artefacts (anything which is man made) into instruments to support our activities.

Going through your thoughts the main message as Kristo has put it was that digital technology is considered to be both a tool (means to create) and medium (means to carry or store). Katri adds “it is clear that the tool itself carries also the message and influences it”. Ilja has explained “If we start looking at computer technology from the media perspective then we quickly realize that it is of universal nature, integrating every existing media into itself”. Kairi has a similar understanding and adds that “I think it is unquestionable that digital computer technology represents a fundamentally outstanding technical revolution which changes our living and working completely, and revolutionizes our societal practice as a whole. It is also true that information and communication technology has involved us in technology so intimately that our activities have begun to shape its development”.

On the other hand Norbert has noted that “For digital technology to be a medium itself, I would expect it to introduce a new way of communication to the human mind (like television did) – however today digital technology simply ties all the old mediums together”.

Technologies are necessary in the production, reproduction, storing, and distribution of texts, images and sounds forming the constituent elements of culture. McLuhan has said that “…the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology”.

To conclude, Ilja has a point here if he says that “… it seems that we just have not got enough time to reflect and analyze on the true nature of technology”. Thus, we will see in the next coming years whether we are able to adapt technology to our needs or whether we are the ones who must adapt…

Categories: musings
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