Throughout the course of Memex to Youtube: Learning Nets I have always considered medium in the sense of communication which is defined by wikipedia as

Media (singular medium) are the storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data. It is often referred to as synonymous with mass media or news media, but may refer to a single medium used to communicate any data for any purpose.

and it had never occurred to me to contemplate the word in a more general sense. What does it mean for something to not just be a medium, but to be medium. We use medium to describe a state which is between two extremes such as medium loud or quiet, medium full or empty, medium soft or hard. It is an average between the two extremes.

It is a line of best fit which allows to convey a fictional state of middle. It is merely a convenient and descriptive approximation of some particular state. When considered in relation to communication this definition becomes quite interesting. It means that the medium is in the middle, not only as the tool of communication but also as a descriptor of the  information/data/sound/feeling/emotion being communicated.

This connection emerged from a discussion of the nature of intuition. Intuition is the ephemeral sense or idea that occurs in a composer/artist/architect/human as the result of a non-rationally/non-linear thought process. So in order to communicate this state it must be rationalized/formalized into a symbolic carrier/medium. The intuitive sense is then distorted and molded into the shape of the medium the human (thinker) is most adept at (be that poetry, painting, sculpture, music, architecture, what have you) in order to most accurately approximate their own sensation and convey it to other humans.

The receiving human, however, must absorb the message encoded in a particular medium and then recreates the sense derived from the closest approximation of the creator.

When describing this thought in the forum on monday I used a poet/poetry analogy.

The poet has an intuition which is ephemeral/in the mind and wants to share it. Thus they must rationalize/formalize the intuition into a poem. The poem is only an approximation of the initial intuition as a result of converting it into these symbols we call words. The words are limiting because they carry certain connotations and conceptual foundations which are not all encompassing. The reader/hearer of a poem then only experiences the poet’s best approximation (a middle or medium guess/formalization). A good poet is simply better at approximating their thoughts than a bad poet.

In this same line of thought it could be argued that what we call “abstract art” is the least conceptually abstract art ever created.

It draws on shared human senses to convey most accurately the intuition of the painter, in this case Mark Rothko. Perhaps it is the shared experience of sunset or the globally observed connotations of red, but to even attempt to explain or define the painting is to put it in a formalized box, an approximation of my own. It must be experienced.


About Adam

I am an architecture undergrad @ Virginia Tech with an interest in emergent and interactive design.
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