Media Taxonomy

The graph displays a few simple—easily identifiable media—which comprise a considerable part of an individual’s daily routine. What I wanted to bring to the forefront with these examples is something akin to Heidegger’s remarks on tools we take for granted when they function properly: “But when an assignment has been disturbed—when something is unusable for some purpose—then the assignment becomes explicit [….] ontically for the circumspection which comes up against the damaging of the tool” (p. 105, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, HarperCollins).
For instance, I added “computer” to the taxonomy as an afterthought, taking for granted how much our culture (especially American academic) depends on it. It wasn’t before the program in which I am working “froze” that I even realized my external involvement with the machine as I typed these remarks.

We notice that a considerable array of the media described is perceived as daily necessities, while others are simply due to cultural prescription. And while the degree to which we use any given medium depends on personal preference, there is still a great likelihood that we will “brush up against” it in the course of the day. So, in answer to the question “Why taxonomize?” we see that constructing a taxonomy of media, however elusive it may be, helps call our active attention to the often-high degree of interaction we have with omnipresent constructions that have the semblance of being “natural” to our world.

The characteristics that I chose to measure the media against are simple, everyday measurements for helping us judge these media. From them we can take notice of how various media shape and change tasks and actions we perform while in their exposure. We can also think about how the exposure to these media dictates the position of the body and for how long it remains so throughout the day. Other factors such as site of consumption, social status, and degree of habitualness all contribute to the frequency with which we partake of these media and, once again, that with which we maintain our bodies to do so. Keats, I believe, said, “Sight is the whore of the senses.” We will notice, then, the high frequency with which sight is a mediating component in the interaction with just media taken here.

Justin Nevin
Winter 2004