Marshall MacLuhan’s The Medium is the Message seems to be an elusive sound bite throughout the last several readings. The beginning of The Virtual Window, the idea that “the prevailing format for moving-image media…held on much longer to the strictures of its ‘symbolic form’” seems to suggest that the medium pre-dates the message (Friedberg, 192), or is in fact holding it back.
In film, a single frame has a particular time code unique to it alone. The film Time Code seems to negate this fundamental concept, giving four time codes for every moment in filming. The physical process of making film, in which a physical, tangible frame on a reel is exposed to light, then hundreds of these frames are spun (24 fps) to create the illusion of movement, even though the movement actually happens, the representation of this movement is only an illusion of it. It is, in essence, a very, very good fake of what actually happens in front of the lens. But now, with the advent of digital filming, “information” is captured in pixels, and the classic process of film, and while the time code still exists, it seems as though it is in place merely to uphold the older version of filmmaking that holds the “dominance” of a single frame, holding onto the “symbolic”, as Anne Friedberg puts forth. As the future progresses, we should become more fluid, in which everything happens all at once, in any time. The “dominance of the single frame image” (199), is a fundamental lesson in the craft of filmmaking. The medium, film, informs what stories we decide to shoot. An epic blockbuster demands 35mm or HD, a shoestring budget horror demands a handheld DVR, so on and so forth.
Technology changes and provides new media with which to express oneself, and yet at the same time it seems that the message and the media inform each other. Manovich says that “content and form cannot be separated…artists have continued to invent concepts and procedures to assure the impossibility of painting some preexistent content” (Manovich, 66). Going back to “the medium is the message,” McLuhan perceived of a “shift in media” in which the idea of space changes, and one’s viewpoint is no longer primarily or essentially visual, and one’s perspective is no longer “formal.” This is really the first insight into McLuhan’s argument that’s shown up in the readings, whereas usually his title can stand up on its own, suggesting that his argument may have been drastically reduced. As it relates to the Manovich quote, as a sound bite, artists actively make the medium a part of the message. Yet, McLuhan is positing a shift, in which the medium will not be limiting: one won’t be limited by the frame, as it were.
I would really like to know more about McLuhan’s argument, as his title seems very self-explanatory, but he seems to be a pin used to keep many of these arguments together, or at the very least his ideas factor in largely to Friedberg. Can his entire argument be reduced to his title? And is this perhaps compromised as one comes closer to finding all sorts of messages through the same medium (i.e. Internet)?