Technology Translated: The Communicational Facilitation of Medium

by David Paterno

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Communication Theory; Media Ecology; Ethnography
Record ID: 1311389
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5405


Drawing upon and synthesizing findings established in select areas of social and medium ecological approaches to the study of human communication, this project advances and tests the utility of a reformed, processual model of communication. This model conceptualises a medium as a coordinated moment forged within the process of communicating. Rather than viewing communication as a process which merely transpires within and through preformed conduits – media – the research presented here suggests that communication itself provides for the functional context into which the built-in features of a technology are placed and organised. Accordingly, it is this organisation – or translation – which is seen to create and manage a technology’s semantic potential. The translated form of technology is what we commonly call a medium. Ethnographic data are used to illustrate the means by which one specific social group participates in communicative patterns and how these behaviours support the translation of a simple technology into a socially significant medium. The social group itself includes members between the ages of eighteen and eighty two. Most of these are younger than twenty years of age and reside within the physical setting of a university residential hall. Other members of the college, though not currently in residence, represent the community’s past residents as well as its academic and social visitors. However diverse the members of this community may be, study of their patterns of communication suggests that they form a fairly uniform culture through their reliance on the media uniquely configured within the confines of the hall in which most of their shared activities take place. The thesis argues for the importance of approaching communication as a process patterned by the functioning of three unique yet co-produced orders. In doing so, it reconvenes and underscores basic work in communication theory scholarship which has not yet been significantly reworked over the past forty years. In sum, this thesis presents a novel and potentially useful means by which to resolve some of the current indeterminism extant in the literature about how a technology becomes a medium by illuminating the processes tied to the instantiation of a medium. In this way, the thesis contributes fresh insight into how the primary social activity of human communication leads to the creation and organisation of a medium.