One of our favorite video essayists, Evan Puschak, the Nerdwriter, has been examining some key postmodern theories with the new videos of the last couple weeks. The first of these looks at the idea that the medium is the message. The second takes a look at the lack of truth in representation.
The concern behind the statement “the medium is the message” is that consumers of any medium of expression may be unwittingly affected by the invisible aspects of the medium, that the “program” being presented is incidental. Consider television, whose medium brought to the forefront advertisements. As far as television is concerned, the watching of the ads is the most important aspect. It is the moneymaking part of the venture. What an audience watches to bring them to the advertisements is of very little concern. Puschak also discusses the aspects of the online video that are unique in its medium, how it is different from watching television. As far as postmodernism is concerned, television changed everything through its medium, not its programming. The internet even more so. Engaging with these mediums affects how we think, behave, communicate, and thus how we interpret our world.
In Magritte’s The Treachery of Images, representation itself–a likeness in art or referent in language–is undermined and then dismantled. As one of the most famous of postmodern art pieces, the painting highlights a radical postmodern notion: that we cannot authentically differentiate reality from simulation. Our brains, so used to representation in imagery and language, so dependent on signs to create the meaning in our lives, are duped by the system of semiotics into assumptions that are false.