One medium, several media! No, the theories of Marshall McLuhan are far from obsolete. Quite the contrary; it is not too late for the so-called ‘experts’ to revisit McLuhan. Communications in the plural is, after all, a discipline that emerged in the 20th Century, yet one that has not been further deepened. Now is the time to think more deeply about the dialectic between the medium and multiple media.
There is an art of communication between individuals. We have to think about communication in different scales. As online interaction, communication may be private yet still remain ‘on the web’, it can be both online and public, or it can be public and very open with the tags and associated keywords that give the interaction taking place a certain power and direction. Communication can be desired but also, on occasions, unwanted as for the interactive part. Therefore, we may be in situations where we are pleasantly surprised but could, equally, be disappointed. Or we may take a strategic approach to communicating efficiently on social networks in order to support our message.
If we do have a coherent approach to reach a storyworld transformable both online and in real life by its netizens, we can see that by making these contributions progressively, we arrive at a mode of transmedia communication. This communication has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with the power of communications (plural), as well as with the usages of the tools and the good practices that emerged. Marketing is using communication, not the other way round.
This dialectical formula seems more appropriate when we use the phrase ‘online presence’ because multiple scales of communication are deployed, including interpersonal communication as well as marketing and public interaction. By just being there ‘on the web’ these multiple streams are to be caught by anyone at any time, and then may be abandoned, categorized or archived, remixed and commented upon depending on the occasion.
The social web
The formula that I started to use two years ago still strikes me as being the most appropriate from my personal point of view, irrespective of adhering to any particular academic theory. By focusing on R&D while taking a transdisciplinary approach, this formula has the scope to take into account many important considerations that cross into the spheres of sociology, semantics, semiotics, communications, media and technology.
This expression seems to be the ideal formula for a classical point of view, but it reminds me of corporate communications, and led to its square side.Online communication interaction can be a « push » when a company markets a product to consumers, or when a « ruling class » addresses a group in a paternalistic manner, or under formulation of a BtoB campaign – business to business - it remains too professional and not very accessible to the general public.
Web and networks, a new « synchrony »
Yes I use a lot of quotation marks! In the articles I am submitting to you readers, these help to manage our language and mediate the online communication I am reaching out to you in the social web! With a target for online presence, and concern for self-expression as well as shared knowledge. This social and digital positioning is very much in line with current activism, participatory democracy in its infancy. It spreads and restructures each time with entry points on online actions, which are used for experimentation in the ‘open culture’.
Since the web is now more accessible to all, the practice of individuals is useful and applies to the entire population research, but it is not yet recognized by academia. By cons we already know that this practice of AR&D, Applied Research and Development, is very useful to the new global economy. And here I use the term ‘international’ instead of ‘global’ on purpose and specifically to refer to international cooperation.
Synchrony – Synchronie-Cities
I encountered this term during lively discussions with actors practicing the Stanislasky method which, in 1986, I had the pleasure of studying at Hunter College, City University of New York. I worked with a Polish professor, Bogdan Trukan, who enjoyed speaking French to me even though I was there to improve my English. The idea of synchronicity has pursued me until I read the work of Jean-François Vézina, Canadian psychologist and author, and this of course led me to read Jung. Vézina approaches psychology through the discipline of cinema, which I take to be a very useful approach. I have indeed taken these two disciplines of film and psychology together in my approach to digital communication. Imagine adding the discipline of music …
I readily found the term synchronicity in the work of the web pioneers and finally had the pleasure of reading the last book by Daniel Goleman which succeeded in making the concept a little more formal when approaching the spheres of emotional intelligence and social intelligence. The Stanislavski method is mentioned in the work by D. Goleman on emotional intelligence.
Let’s look at two parallel and complementary disciplines: the practice of online social networks embraced in terms of technology, and that taken from the point of view of human communications.
Together they create two forms of synchronicity, one from the perspective computer programming and the other from the perspective of human expression and perception, both cognitive and neuronal.
Do not be afraid of words!
About the term perception, I stand strong with it because it is a term I got from the theory of communications which seems more appropriate than the term “reception” used by French researchers for the reception of artistic works by the public. Having also studied cultural mediation, I make a difference between perception and reception as I distinguish between the synchrony of computer codes and synchrony of human thoughts expressed in an online conversation and social networks.
To conclude with dialectics and Applied Research
The purpose of this dialectic is to have fun with words so as to overcome fears about the practice of transdisciplinarity. For me, an unavoidable practice. We have not taken into account the warnings of the great Edgar Morin…
My approach is a reaction to far too many bad practices, especially in France, which we will never have enough time to explain and analyze. My analysis is based on very long term observations, those coming from scientific and medical research, as well as experiments taking place in medical research laboratories. This is my AR&D which I like to call my Think & Do Tank, an expression created in 2010 on Twitter to ensure better communicate with peers. I refer to the discipline of pharmaceutical research purposefully, as I believe that this topic should be developed, being that it is a current topic in scientific innovation, touching on research into transhumanism, the use of technological tools in biotechnology as well as touching upon advanced issues in business and commerce.
I would emphasize the fact that academic researchers are very independent from the business world, and therefore from the ‘know-how’ and interpersonal skills of the realistic sphere, particularly in France. People teaching new disciplines often lack adequate materials and references. Most of the time researchers and teachers have not had the experience of a professional role or career, and so have not ‘got their hands in the dirt’ in a business or commercial sense (I have happily found some rare exceptions confirming this rule).
This addresses another social issue. Although we could predict that this would happen, I have found that the formal and informal rules of academia make much of such endeavors obscure and lacking in precision. Poorly documented work and unverified knowledge is often presented to an unemployed or undereducated population who do not know where to find labels of quality in our multicultural, ever moving economy.
If we are to analyse, create methodologies and make competent recommendations, then the only current solution to approaching transmedia communication and the social web is to analyse bad practice and failures. After all, analysing one’s mistakes has always been the way in which human beings have progressed.
Establishing labels of quality is probably the next niche. Start-uppers and politicians, on your marks!
Translated by Karine Halpern and Daniel Rayburn
My champions for this article: Edgar Morin – Brian Clark – Stuart Ewen