Thursday, July 2, 2009


So, my MySpace friend Peter Schmideg (click on his name to go to his MySpace profile), who was the subject of a previous post, This is Not An Animation! (Or Is It?), attended the panel discussion about heroes that I participated on at the Players Club (as mentioned in my previous post, Media Conversations New Media and More), and was inspired by what he heard. As he put it in his blog entry entitled Internal Resonances (and I quote):

Some weeks ago I attended a panel discussion on the subject of heroes. Lance Strate was a member of the panel and he made an interesting observation regarding the difference between heroes as represented in cinema as opposed to television. Cinematic heroes appear on a screen, television heroes on a monitor. If there is anything I've learned from thinkers like Marshall McLuhan and Tony Schwartz it is that communications mediums/forms possess their own internal resonances. Screens resonate differently from monitors.

And here is the piece Peter calls Internal Resonances:

Peter then added the following at the end of his blog post:

In exploring text & image on the web for the past decade I have come to appreciate the civilizing influence of language. Language offers control, whereas imagery just takes over.

So, Peter uses three oppositions or dialectics in this artwork:




I should add that part of the point I made in the panel discussion is that film as a medium relies on a screen, which implies a process of screening or filtering, keeping things out, whereas television is displayed on monitors, which implies a funtion of monitoring or constant surveillance.

But the dualities that Peter identifies brings to mind the fact that media ecology scholars have used many different polar oppositions in an attempt to create a dialectic and ecological approach. let's start with one of the basics:


That was a big one for Einstein, but also for others including Harold Innis, who talked about space biased and time biased cultures, and Korzybski, who talked about space-binding and time-binding classes of life. Innis also distinguished between two kinds of media based on transportability and durability:


McLuhan also used a binary opposition in categorizing media, and had a number of other such tensegrities (to use Buckminster Fuller's neologism), including








Right brainLeft brain

And I know there's more, McLuhan loved to create these contrasting pairs of terms, but let's not forget the two that Walter Ong made famous:


And Lewis Mumford had his twin ideologies:


And implicit in Neil Postman's work, along with many others, is the following basic, Biblical opposition:


And then there's




The latter being Susanne Langer's distinction between symbol systems that are propositional, such as language and mathematics, and those that are not, which includes pictures and all other art forms. Also, Camille Paglia uses the two types of paganism (as I mentioned in a previous post, Social Media and Pagan Residue)


Basic to the field of communication are such distinctions as


and the two main types of communication


although these also correspond to the ancient distinction between

Public SpeakingDialogue

and also between


General semantics has a number of these as well, including the aforementioned time-binding and space-binding, and as I discussed in a previous post, General Semantics Logomania, there's


And also





and, ironically enough, the two orientations


And to return to physics once more, we have


As the two basic parameters of the universe.

And have I exhausted the possibilities? Hardly! But this does go back to the idea that binary oppositions are basic to language itself, and to the human mind. I believe Ferdinand de Saussure first talked about it in his work on semiology, and it was central to that of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, who famously wrote about the essential human polarity of


And maybe I should add here that back when I started the late, lamented media ecology program at NYU, and the stduents would go out after class with Neil Postman and Christine Nystrom to Eddie's for beer and burgers, Neil and Chris introduced a game one night where we had to come up with pairs of items that fit the categories of

CuteNot Cute

It was fun to do, and an exercise in aesthetic sensibility as well as playing with binary oppositions. My own entry, looking down at the table, was that pepper is cute, salt is not cute.

So, anyway, go check out Peter's website, Illumination Gallery, and otherwise, well, let me know if you think this post is cute, or not cute...


schmideg said...

Lévi-Strauss understood where nature entered into the process. In his own warped way, Mircea Eliade grasped the difference between rite and culture. New media is primitive, impacts in a primal fashion because we are plunging forward in the dark. New media: the forbidden zone.

schmideg said...
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anne cox said...

well lance i certainly enjoyed this

even though i expect the triumph of pictograms -just for a moment-
i felt i might miss words

schmideg said...
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schmideg said...

Thank you much for this, Lance.