Monday, 20 February 2012

Media Specificity

Media was once known as 'medium', the above phrase therefore, would have been called 'medium specificity.' The medium is more about the method's involved, whereas when the word media is used, we are usually discussing the messages and information carried. A piece of art or music, for example, might communicate a political message to a large audience. When we discuss Media Specificity, we are considering how media shapes what we do. Media specificity also relates to how we might for instance, distinguish photography form music, as the means of communicating information.

To introduce us to this idea, our lecturer began by suggesting that 'PowerPoint' may not have been the best platform for the presentation, as the subject of media specificity is very broad and in-depth. Powerpoint encourages short bullet pointed snippets of information, perhaps more 'specific' to business presentations, where the presenter wants to pitch lots of digestible ideas to possible clients. Professor Edward Tufte is know for his criticism towards PowerPoint, as it encourages users to dilute and simplify information.

During our lecture on 'media specificity,' homo sapiens were used to demonstrate media specificity. If you consider evolution, we have: A large brain, most of our sensory organs located facing forwards, a long throat and a small mouth with a flexible tongue and lips, an upright stance enable our arms to move freely and allowing us to see further, and finally posable thumbs. We then created tools to be used as extensions of our body. The stone axe, specifically is an extension of both the teeth, as it chops through meat, and also of the hands and arms, as it increases our reach. we have also created telescopes as an extension of our vision. By recording moving images and sound, one could we argue that we have create the means to extend our memory. Perhaps one of the most modern and extreme examples, could be the creation of the internet, almost as an extension of our voice. We can now communicate our ideas, and they can be received form anywhere across the globe. Another interesting idea raised, was that new technology often mimics old ones. The editing software 'Final Cut Pro,' uses an interface that resembles the cutting and placement of pieces of film. This style of editing style has existed for ages, showing that it is the effective medium specific to the editing of film.

Reflecting more on how we specify different medias, we can firstly look at fine art. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing said "An artwork, in order to be successful, needs to adhere to the specific stylistic properties of its own medium." So what are these properties? Painting most likely to be aesthetically pleasing, with a
composition that helps the viewer follow the contours of the painting and also its message. Colour theory is widely considered, and is often the key to capturing and conveying certain emotions. Take Jackson Pollock for instance. Although his style at first appears chaotic and random, he was believed to use a repeating fractal style, meaning his compositions are well balanced. Some however were critized, as they took this idea of composition and colour theory specific to the media too seriously. Their minimalist/ purist approach made some painter's work such as Frank Stellar and John McCracken, unsuccessful in capturing their audience. Still, even in tradition religious paintings we can see how geometry has influenced the composition.

Taking a look at a medium more specific to our course, film bears these specific properties. The writer M√ľnsterberg established these traits, saying: “These devices (close-ups, edits etc.) are all objectifications of mental processes.” What M√ľnsterberg was trying to distinguish was the methods of film in contrast to theatre. When we watch a film on screen, we are all looking through the view of the camera lens. This means that like paintings for example, composition can be considered. Different shot compositions convey different messages and emotions. Another example of this would be when the transition form theatre to film was first made. actors wore heavy make-up, similarly to in theatre. Like a spectator sitting at the back of a theatre hall, the cameras of the time could not pick out the actors features, meaning they needed to be exaggerated by the make-up. Also, when actors began on screen, they had very clear diction. As the media of film has developed, more natural diction is used to give an authentic feel. A similar development seems to be occurring in game. As the technology advances, one could argue that in some cases, the two medias are taking the same specific traits. Evidence of this can be seen in very nature of how our course runs. It seems that games are growing ever more cinematic, which means that film-makers are crossing over in to the media. This also brings animators in to the picture, more specifically 3D animation. If we look at the 'Uncharted' game series, the production team are constantly striving for cinematic effect and realism.

Whether media is shaping our social habbits with services such as facebook and twitter, or genuinely extending our human abilities to perform tasks or voice our ideas, specificity is withoubt doubt a constant. Specific medias are forever evolving, which as we are studying one of the larges medias today, it is important for us to be aware of this. As animators or filmmakers, we need to begin to recognise certain media specific traits, and we also have to consider how we can build on our audiences reception of our work. Although originality is also a key factor when creating a piece of media, there are also the groundworks that have been developed to use the specific medium to its best potential. To become a professional in a particular industry, one must both acknowledge and utilize this.

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