The concept of “the medium is the message” is, for me, quite difficult to grasp. Because I am quite a literal learner, and this is something we need to look at reasonably figuratively, I struggled to look at this idea in a way that made sense. I understand the basics: the message is created when you “change, tweak or introduce a mutation into an existing medium”. You somehow alter this medium and observe the effects, the ripples of transformation that exude. But for me, I needed a solid example that resonates with something that I already understand.
Que, Vinyl. And a
hopefully glorious lightbulb moment.
The lecture discussion of old media platforms (e.g. records, tapes, floppy discs), and how they became irrelevant as technology evolved, led me to create a sort of representation for ” the medium is the message” in my mind. This being, the life of the vinyl. The idea that these old medium platforms live, die, mutate or reincarnate connected with my prior research into earlier music platforms (BCM and music double student). With this connection I started to think about how a vinyl’s (as a medium) message changed as it was used in new ways and in new contexts.
Originally, vinyl was the first, and most importantly, ONLY source of music made to be personally consumed (live). This lead to an enormous boom in the amount of passive consumers using this platform. Due to the creation of cassettes, the prevalence of vinyl dropped drastically in the 1970’s (die).
In the mid 70’s to 80’s New York hip hop DJ’s began using vinyl for scratching and sampling, which lead to vinyl being used widely and becoming a hip hop culture icon. I view this as a mutation, as its original use is being literally altered and modified for a different use in a different context, as well as a change in behaviour. Instead of passive consumers, it was possible for the public to be active creators.
Finally, I believe that vinyl has been reincarnated as a ‘vintage’ item, commonly purchased by collectors and the occasional hipster or two. Vinyl is no longer consumed or viewed as it was originally created to be, and is now seen as a novelty item thats message and meaning to audiences changes as it is both used in different ways and placed in different contexts.