I'm trying to dig into the words media and medium, to root out their histories and some of the various meanings they've been meant to convey over the years. Where better to turn for the history of an English word than the trusty Oxford English Dictionary?
media 1 mi.dia. Pl. (in sense 1) mediæ mi.dii. [L., fem. of medius middle, used elliptically. ]2. Biol. Short for L. tunica or membrana media. The middle tunic or membrane of an artery or vessel.
- 1889 Leidy Anat. (ed. 2) 580 The media is composed of transverse muscle-fibres with some elastic fibres.
media2 mi.dia, sb. pl. [Pl. of medium sb.5, prob. after mass media. ] Newspapers, radio, television, etc., collectively, as vehicles of mass communication. Freq. attrib. or as adj.Also erron. as sing. in same sense.
medium mi.dim, sb. and a. Pl. media, -iums. [a. L. medium, neuter of medius middle, cogn. with mid a. ]
a. Any intervening substance through which a force acts on objects at a distance or through which impressions are conveyed to the senses: applied, e.g., to the air, the ether, or any substance considered with regard to its properties as a vehicle of light or sound. Often fig.
- 1794 G. Adams Nat. & Exp. Philos; II. xv. 136 By a medium..is meant any pellucid or transparent body, which suffers light to pass through it.
- 1875 Encycl. Brit. I. 100/1 The air around us forms the most important medium of sound to our organs of hearing.
b. The application of the word in sense 4 to the air, ether, etc. has given rise to the new sense: Pervading or enveloping substance; the substance or `element' in which an organism lives; hence fig. one's environment, conditions of life.
a. An intermediate agency, means, instrument or channel. Also, intermediation, instrumentality: in phrase
b. Spiritualism, etc. A person who is supposed to be the organ of communications from departed spirits. Hence also applied to a clairvoyant or a person under hypnotic control.
- 1888 Bryce Amer. Commonw. III. 639 Attempts to pry by the help of `mediums' into the book of Fate.
a. nonce-use. A person of the middle class
- 1837 T. Hook Jack Brag ii, The tip-toppers are livelier than the mediums.
What do you think of when you hear the word “Media”?
CNN, FOXNews, MSNBC, New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press, Clear Channel The Huffington Post, Al Jazeera etc...
Media is the plural of “Medium” – an intermediate, a go-between--
A medium is a person capable of communicating with another realm, with the dead, with ancestors, the spirit world, or the Gods-
A medium, a shaman, a seer, a witchdoctor, a wiseman – these people, in many different cultures were charged with healing, with communicating with deities and ancestors, rituals and rites, the obvious analogy for our own time and place might be the clergy, but I reject this, the outsized and disfigured face of modern religion bares little relation to this idea of shamanism; more a combination of communicator, intercessor, advisor, doctor, pharmacist, psychologist, caring for the mind as well as the body, the soul as well as the mind, mapping the spaces between and overlapping, the realities of this world and of others, actualities and eventualities--This is beginning to be digressive but the fact of that matter is, today's MEDIA is no replacement for the MEDIUMS (and their cultural ancestors) of years gone by.
So what can the OED teach us about the multiform media we are forced to deal with today?
Media (medium) is a scientific word, used to describe a substance through with force acts, and through which light and sound are conveyed. A medium is an intercessor, a go-between, a halfway of sorts; a medium is an organ of communication, within one other, with those things outside of what we can perceive.
Now the many media we experience seem to be digital bridges, intersections of our own experience and another's, and in many senses this is true –but more and more we are no longer connecting with the vision or idea or gesture or comments or creations of other individuals, but with material that has been engineered, committee-ed, designed, and approved to induce a specified reaction or manipulate an inherent human sentiment with a stipulated end (the bottom line)—to induce a reaction: buy this thing, watch this thing, hear this thing, think this thought, think this thought, think this thought, think this thought, repetition is a key to their strategies, think this thought, buy this product, don’t question the authority of it, believe this, believe this, believe this, trust the rising Id-level intensity, let it blind you, forget what you know, now you know what we know to be true: consumption is the Real American Dream.
To realize fully what we are lead to believe is “media” in this country, we have
to step away from the word, and wrangle with the edifice
MAINSTREAM MEDIA, MEDIA BLITZ, MASS MEDIA, MEDIA MOGUL, MEDIA CONGLOMERATE,
MEDIA WHORE, MEDIA SHITSTORM, BLAMESTREAM MEDIA
what is your reaction to these phrases? Repulsion? (me too) I think we need to take MEDIA as well as medium back from those who seek to turn these words against us.