Metacommunication

25 Mar

It’s week 3, and the word for this blog is ‘metacommunication’. We had to discover for ourselves what this term, or perhaps concept, meant and how it was relative to media ecology. By just typing the name into Google I found a site that spoke about metacommunication and how it affected people’s love lives. It also discussed that the term’s origins lie with the thinking of Gregory Bateson who used the term to describe the underlying messages portrayed through non-verbal elements of face-to-face communication like body language and facial expression. These elements can obviously enhance or undermine what we say in words.

 

After spending quite a bit of time trying to find not only a definition for the word, but also a way in which it was relevant to media, I came across an article titled ‘Meta-media and meta-communication’ by Klaus Bruhn Jensen (2011) and it helped me somewhat in getting my head around it (I think). He speaks of ‘three degrees’ of media; these are ‘bodies and tools’ (as in human beings and the writing utensils and instruments which are extensions of the body), ‘technologies’ (which he describes as mass media) and ‘meta-technologies’ (which are “digital technologies which reproduce and recombine all previous media of representation and interaction on a single material platform of hardware and software”). Maybe in some ways this is similar to McLuhan’s description of four ‘epochs’ which are categorized by different communication media, these are the tribal, literate, print and electronic era’s. What Jensen suggests is that in the ‘meta-technological’ degree, we have come full circle and we are seeing a return of the ‘multimodal forms of interchange that characterize face-to-face setting’ through technologies such as mobile phones (primarily because of sms), online computer games as well as ‘the sense of being virtually present in some literally absent world’ that can be attributed to the internet (for example being able to tweet and share comments on TV shows such as XFactor or My Kitchen Rules, as well as programs which allow face-to-face communication such as Skype). Hence the original thinking associated with metacommunication, regarding non-verbal elements of communication, are re-applicable when communication in the ‘meta-technological degree’.

 

In terms of media ecology, with these developments, technologically mediated actions such as speech and reading have become prominent components of everyday life. Youth often utilize ‘text speech’ in everyday vocabulary with abbreviations such as LOL (laugh out loud) and YOLO (you only live once) being quite popular. Similarly the way we now read and interpret information and data has been altered due to our constant interaction with new media. The following video ‘the machine is us/ing us’ conveys this message quite well.

 

 

Jensen KB (2011), ‘Meta Media and meta-communication – revisiting the concept of genre in the digital media environment’ in Journal of Media and Communication Research, Society of Media Research in Denmark: Copenhagen

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