I've been wrestling a long time with his idea that, "The Medium is The Message." At first, it seemed pretty preposterous. The ideas presented in this post would be identical no matter whether transmitted through an email message or print publication, right?
What I eventually realized was that "The Message" doesn't refer to the string of words that sit in a wrapper (like the sound of a tree falling in a forest with no one to hear.) Instead, it's the web of thoughts, images and emotions that recipients experience. And the medium's impact on our consciousness is more powerful than any particular message because "The Message of The Medium" is repeated every time we're exposed to the form.
We are immersed in the pervasive mediums of our age like fish in water and barely notice their powerful impact upon our perception. For instance, how does spending hours a day on Twitter, Plurk or Second Life modify our consciousness?
What are the messages of the Second Life medium? One is: "Identity is fluid." I now suspect that the powerful identity-shifting experiences many humans have within Second Life are not just due to inherent qualities of being an avatar in a 3D environment. It seems to me that there are quite a few identity-related design decisions implemented in Second Life that could have just as easily gone the other way, such as:
- the necessity to go by a name other than one's human identity;
- no cost to create multiple alt avatars;
- the ability to freely change genders and species at will;
- the ability to easily shift POV and even separate camera from avatar;
- the focus on text vs. voice which hides RL gender and accent; and
- the absence of a requisite goal-oriented game
That's all for now. I'm still slowly making my way through figuring out the promised Primates post and have just about decided to do it in comic form.