Media Taxonomy

For my taxonomic chart of media, I have envisioned media products as existing in four different ‘spaces’: that of mental/emotional, physical, audible, and visual. I have then gone through various types of media and itemized into these different types, with the following changes: every example I could think of resides in the mental/emotional space (eg, of the audience) yet no example existed solely in this space, so I have removed it from the chart; the visual space I have subdivided into that of motion and static; many forms of media engage the mental/emotional state such that the audience typically imagines or envisions the involvement of a space that actually is not taking place at that time (eg, reading a musical score typically involves imagining one hears the music written on the page) and I have tried to account for these imagined spaces. I should note that certain media which I see as occupying solely a visual space certainly do occupy a physical space, but their prime impact is achieved through the visual (and mental/emotional) – one does not typically touch a painting, or inspect the physical qualities of the paper on which a poem is written.

When looking at my chart, note that the various forms of media are listed down the side, and the various spaces are listed across the top. A media’s direct involvement with a particular space is noted by ‘x’, and a media’s imagined involvement with a particular space is noted by ‘(x)’.

I had initially separated music into six components (instead of the three below) as I defined composed music as existing separately from improvised music – however, I found no difference in the space involvement and thus compressed the rows. Similarly, recorded dance and live dance are both subsumed under the performed dance row. The notion of reading – whether it’s a recording of Kerouac poems or an author appearing in person at a local bookstore – should exist separately from the written word. Written drama I intend to subsume all scripts and screenplays, whether they exist for the stage, film, or television. The film and television/video row are somewhat arbitrary, as far as what should be included in each one, but as I see them occupying the same spaces the distinctions are not important. The computer row includes internet communications and multimedia presentations, but anything that may be designated as a type of virtual reality – internet porn comes to mind – would be included in the virtual/gaming class. The next three visual arts need no explanation, except to note that I intend for multimedia sculpture to be subsumed by the last row, museum, as multimedia sculptures typically exist as museum or gallery installations.

Finally, I know that this may appear to be somewhat of a simplistic or arbitrary way of classifying various types of media, but I would argue that any classification system would be equally as arbitrary.

Andrew Mall
Winter 2003