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medium


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[pl. media; Latin medius ‘middle’]

1. The means or agency through which communication takes place; often synonymous with channel.

2. The physical vehicle of expression employed in a representation, ranging from general categories of artistic or technical forms or modes of expression (e.g. photography) to specific materials, tools, and methods. In linguistic discourse, the term may variously refer to: language; speech or writing (for linguists, the phonic medium and the graphic medium); or distinctions such as between handwriting and print. In media discourse, it often refers to a specific technical form within mass communication (whether electronic or print media) or interpersonal communication (e.g. post, telephone, computer-mediated communication). Fiske makes a distinction between presentational media (the speech and body language used in face-to-face communicative acts), representational media (texts which can be circulated, such as writing, photographs, advertisements, TV programmes), and mechanical media (e.g. telephones, television, film, the internet, which transmit presentational and representational forms). Texts are always anchored in the material form of a medium—each having its own affordances which constrain the codes which it can support. McLuhanism draws particular attention to the importance of the medium in its own right. The use of a particular medium can influence the message: a hand-written letter and a word-processed circular could carry the same verbal text but generate different connotations. However, technological convergence and postmodernist theorists have blurred distinctions between one medium and another.

3. Most broadly, any substance or process through which reality is apprehended or constructed.

Subjects: Media Studies.


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