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Lecture 9 - Media Specificity - Notes

Original Key Notes


Tufte argues that PowerPoint’s design inherently makes it more difficult to communicate with an audience.
Instead of giving an informative presentation, PowerPoint encourages speakers to create slides with ultra-short, incomplete thoughts listed with bullets.


Our medium specificity is that we are biological creatures. Organic in nature, we have a close genetic connection to the animal world.
We specifically have intensive development and differentiation of the cerebral cortex. We also have an erect posture, free upper extremities, adapted for using and making tools, and advanced development of the means of communication. 
A human being is a biosocial being and the subject of social forms of life, communication and consciousness.


A large brain
Most of the sense organs located at the top end and facing forwards
Long throat, small mouth, flexible tongue and lips
An upright stance that frees the arms from any walking duties and allows the eyes to see further
Hands with mobile thumbs and fingers that allow for fine grip and rotation from the wrist]





Medium specificity is the view that the media associated with a given art form (both its material components and the processes by which they are exploited)  entail specific possibilities for and constraints on representation and expression, and this provides a normative framework for what artists working in that art form ought to attempt.
Noël Carroll 2008Normative Adjective: Establishing, relating to, or deriving from a standard or norm, esp. of behaviour: For example, in a prison negative sanctions my be introduced to enforce normative behaviour.

Media specificity is a pre-modernist idea that relates to the modernist concept ‘Truth to materials’.
It can be seen as an idea directly in contrast to the phrase “
ut pictura poesis” or
“as is painting, so is poetry,” taken from Horace’s
Ars Poetica   

Personal Investigation

I found this really interesting blog post by Ben Mayfield. In This, he highlights key facts about media specificity...


- The convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science is transforming global society. Technological convergence is beginning to define the way societies interact and organise themselves, the way science is done and the way the global marketplace is run.
- The new technologies that converge produces concepts that are no longer the stuff of ‘science fiction’. They have immense consequences for global security, communications, surveillance, health, ecosystems, biogenetics and the prolongation of life. And as with every new technology, new marginalised groups (the ‘have nots’) are being created, whose self-perception and self-esteem are likely to be adversely affected.

Wolfgang Ellenrieder

In this clip, artist, Wolf Ellenrieder talks about how media specificity affects his work. It is really quite interesting actually. 

Ellenrieder's oeuvre explores image construction and representation. His focus lies in the process of image-making itself and the viewer's perception of images. He studies the function of the images such as media as well as personal photographs that inundate our daily life. The crux of Ellenrieder's work engages representation and simultaneous misrepresentation of reality.
Stock photography is particularly important in his catastrophe paintings, which depict fires and their destruction of different environments, several of which are included in this exhibition. That a stock photograph from a fire in Athens could later illustrate stories of other catastrophic events in different areas of the world fascinates Ellenrieder. The recycling of photographs in the media demonstrates their lack of specificity - the less a photograph refers to a concrete place and time, the more stories it can illustrate. This idea, the dislocating of time and space through visual representation, is reflected in Ellenrieder's paintings. 

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