Media Taxonomy

I approached this assignment with the Aristotelian concept of “image, sound and text” as forms of expression. This was helpful in creating a framework within the categories of image, sound and text themselves, but it was difficult, if not impossible, to approach forms of mixed media, without confusing the structure with a series of overlapping lines. In the vein of Kittler’s idea of media as extensions of man, I approached a different taxonomy in terms of human perception. All media is perceived by sensory organs, but the problem that arose was that of multi-sensory media, like film. Borrowing from other Greek sources, I changed my perspective to look at media in terms of its mimetic form. But what, if anything, is media trying to represent? To put it very simply, reality, or rather, media falls in a range of representation, (or reduction), between reality, (mimesis) and the abstract, defined here as that which is not reality or non-mimetic. This creates the broad framework of “reality and not-reality,” seemingly inane, but easily workable. From there, reality can be divided into its Kantian components of space and time, which allow for further classification of the media themselves.

My taxonomy combines elements of all three of these concepts. Connections easily arose between these ideas, for example, perception connects the senses with reality. Media themselves were connected to sensory perception via there broad, Aristotelian categories, which were further classified in terms of spatiality and temporality. Mixed media were simply denoted by a connection between these broad categories. Non-mimetic forms of media were connected to the broad concept of the abstract. Everything more or less fit together with varying degrees of compromise.

Essentially, all taxonomy is reductionist. In this model, perception is reduced to visual and aural, while reality is reduced to space and time. What struck me the most about attempting to create taxonomize was the degree to which some forms of media could be broken down into other forms of media, as a form of reductionism. For example, comic books are images and language. Speech is language and sound. Film and television are a combination of all three, image, language, and sound, as well as time and space. Despite being a bit of a simplification, complex forms of media can be classified using this model. With the addition of “agency” as a component, video games and virtual reality found a place on my taxonomy as the culmination of image, sound, text, spatiality, temporality, and agency. More distinctions could be made, that is a more complete model could have been arrived if I had more than two dimensions to work with. The concept of motion and stillness along third axis could elucidate some problems in relation to visual perception, as well as temporality. Also, new forms of mixed media could be represented clearly in a three dimensional model.

The reason for doing this is as simple as the representation itself, it allows for a straightforward comparison of seemingly different types of media. To reduce these media is to understand their relationship to one another as well as their relationship to human reality. Also, this representation seems to imply a kind of progression from reality to abstract or virtual reality. Since this model presupposes the division of reality into component parts represented, these parts would come together in a representation of reality itself.

Dinesh Sabu
Winter 2004