Media Studies, Bodies and Technologies: Media Studies for a Living World
Carl Bybee, University of Oregon (United States)
The field of Media Studies, emerging within the instrumental vision of modernity, has, for the most part, not confronted its unspoken modernist assumptions. Three of the most crucial noted by Bruno Latour are:
(1) knowledge is discovered in the fragmentation of things,
(2) the deep belief that the world can be divided into the living and the nonliving, and
(3) the related postulate that humans are separate from nature.
This instrumental vision of modernity has allowed us to “knowingly” celebrate the information/digital age without really paying all that much attention to what is “technology” or the role played by communication in the work of ecological “knowing.” It has allowed us to view technology as a collection of things that stand apart from humans and the environment. It has allowed us to view humans as standing apart from both technology and nature. And it has permitted us to be captivated by the spectacle of communication machines, while concealing the relationship between
these machines, technologies, our bodies, and the rest of the living world. Certainly there have been critical efforts to rethink Media Studies and its relationship to many forms of power, ranging from the Frankfurt School to the McLuhanesque Toronto School.
However, for the most part these efforts have failed to engage an embodied view of Media Studies from an evolutionary ecological perspective. That is, a perspective that views media as evolving mediations
between the body, technology, and the biological and cultural environment. This paper, drawing on Bruno Latour’s Science and Technology Studies, Fritjof Capra’s systems theory, John Dewey’s embodied cognition and philosophies of technology and aesthetics, and Carolyn Merchant’s ecofeminism, explores how media education can be reimagined to provide a framework for understanding and moral action for students and citizens alike in a world marked by proliferating yet misunderstood interacting technological, economic, ecological and cultural networks. And it points to a collection of promising grounded efforts in an emerging Media Studies for a Living World.
Keywords: media education, media literacy, technology, body, aesthetics, ecology