Call for Papers: Special Issue – “The Medium is the …?”

19Jul17

Guest editors: Phil Rose (Canada), Varvara Chumakova (Russia)
— Deadline September 4th —

This year marks 50 years since the publication of Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s book The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967), which sought to popularize McLuhan’s central theses about the environmental changes that new media help to bring about. In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), McLuhan originally proposed the formula “the medium is the message“, but the error that appeared in the former book’s title became a catalyst for considerable discussion within media studies. This formula has been interpreted in different ways, but it primarily highlights that the very form of communication influences certain patterns of reality construction encoded within the message itself: that is, the form and content of communication are inextricably linked. The medium as “massage“, however, indicates that media have direct effects on their users as well. Other variants of this formula have appeared. “The medium is the mass age” and “the medium is the mess age” refer us not only to the problems of mass culture, which flourished in the middle of the 20th century; but also to various criticisms of this development, including the cultural problems associated with symbol drain and information overload. “Mess“, after all, is a sort of rubbish, clutter, or disorder.

The formula proposed by McLuhan has become a cliché, which various authors fill with their own meaning. Neil Postman, for example, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985), proposed the formula “the medium is the metaphor“. For Postman, specialist in linguistics, general semantics, and the philosophy of symbolic form, the information environment’s signs and symbols were of paramount interest, and akin to the Lothmannian semiosphere. Postman’s student, Lance Strate, in turn, suggested in an essay of the same name that “the medium is the memory“, developing the idea that archival media expand our collective memory, as well as the ability to have vivid ideas about historical events and our own past. A recent article in the journal Computers and Society appeared with the same formula in its title, and Paul Grosswiler’s The Method is the Message (1998) should also come to mind. Undoubtedly, McLuhan’s formula continues to allow us to talk about modern culture and, accordingly, Lev Manovich, in his article for the 2014 special issue of Visual Culture dedicated to the 50th anniversary of McLuhan’s Understanding Media, proposed the formula “the software is the message“, in order to accentuate how software now participates in the reality construction of technology users.

In this regard, the editors invite submissions that speculate about the modern digital environment, using the formula “the medium is the message” and its variations. We propose to think about:
– How this formula is implemented today in its classical form or already existing variations
– How this formula is presently changing in connection with the changes that have occurred within the digital environment.

Articles of 4000-8000 words (20,000-40,000 characters) will be accepted in both Russian and English. “Communications. Media. Design” follows the rules and guidelines of Scopus and Web of Science. All articles will be subject to double blind peer review.

Deadline September 4th 
Send submissions to executive secretary of the journal Julia Chernenko juchernenko@hse.ru with the indication in the subject line “McLuhan2017“.

”The Medium is the Message’ – now available in/on stone tablet, clay tablet, wax tablet, papyrus, paperback, hardback, audiotape, video, CD, DVD, ipad, iphone, android and also as a whole body tattoo.’

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