Where does this idea come from?
September 4, 2017 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find the source (who said it where) of the concept that a medium is mature when it is used mainly to discuss other things than the medium itself.
posted by Obscure Reference to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like it could be Marshall McLuhan. Scroll down to key concepts and see if you think anything fits what you're remembering.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 4:34 PM on September 4, 2017

Response by poster: I searched through Understanding Media and couldn't find it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:47 PM on September 4, 2017

I too thought of McLuhan briefly before ruling it out as not the kind of thing he would say.

Maybe you could explain more about this idea? Because the more I think about it, the more I think I don't get it, or maybe it's backwards?

The first writing was not about writing, it was record keeping.

The first video games were not used to discuss video games, they were about spaceships and parlour games.

The first paintings were not discussing painting, it was discussing animals and hunting.

The way I see it, a medium generally starts out being used to present other things, and self reflection, using a medium to discuss itself, doesn't happen until much later, if ever.

Just because I dont get it doesn't mean nobody proposed it, but if you can explain more or give an example you might get better leads.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:05 AM on September 5, 2017

SaltySalticid: "if you can explain more or give an example you might get better leads"

I can't speak for the OP but the example that sticks in my mind is hearing that a large fraction of chit-chat on CB radio was about CB radios. I think I've heard similar things about ham radio and, yes, early (say, pre-1995) internet. I'm not sure how reliable these stories are but I've definitely heard them over the years.
posted by mhum at 10:41 AM on September 5, 2017

Thanks mhum. The CB/ham thing may be true, but the internet bit doesn't really hold water. Anecdotally, I was on Usenet, IRC, BBS, WWW in the early 90s, and while we did talk a bit about computers/internet, that wasn't the reason we were there. We were there to discuss hobbies and socialize and flirt. The first three Usenet groups created were for discussing chess and college academics. You can read through posts from the 1980s here.
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:01 PM on September 5, 2017

This may be totally off the wall, but it's along the same lines so maybe you'll find it useful. Some standup comic talked about the process of an act maturing over time. In the beginning, your act is about yourself. Then it's about the job of being a comedian on the road - the things you encounter when traveling, etc. Then (maybe) your act focuses on your relationships. Then it moves outward to be about people and society in general, and that's when it can get really interesting, because it's not so inwardly focused.

I know this is a thing, but it's proving super hard to google. I feel like it was Louis CK or Seinfeld - someone who has been around a while.
posted by jessicapierce at 1:39 PM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: mhum's examples were what I had in mind. A lot of usenet was also about usenet and it's regulation, and by the late 80s, about it's near demise whenever a new university's freshman class were given accounts.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:51 PM on September 5, 2017

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