The unconscious medium. About old and new media This article examines the ways old and new media influence each other and aims to describe this interaction as accurately as possible. Starting point is the contention that the introduction of a new medium creates a new experiential reality; as to the way this new reality comes about, much remains unclear. Media function in an automatic, unconscious manner, and thus seem to conceal their own functioning mode in the process. Following in the tracks of McLuhan, the article argues this has to do with the hybrid character of all media: one medium's content is always derived from or inspired by another medium (contents of a novel/contents of a movie, contents of a movie or a documentary film/contents of a radio or television programme etc). And content is what we perceive in the first place, it distracts usfrom the deeper impact the medium at hand could have on us. In the present article I argue that modernist art interferes with the automatic, invisible functioning of media. By focusing on the specific features and the effects of a certain medium, modernist art attempts unveil the medium environment. I show nowadays media are often hybrids of old and new media. I conclude by setting forth what the implications of these insights are for digital media especially when these media are used in the making of a piece of art.

media history
Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis
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TMG Journal for Media History; Vol 5, No 1 (2002); 120-136

Verschraegen, Gert. (2002). Het onbewuste medium. Over oude en nieuwe media. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 5(1), 120–136. doi:10.18146/tmg.520