Meta Medium: A Primer

Does technology make us more like ourselves or more like everyone else?

When we text a friend using a digital device, we can only show up in a limited number of ways.

When we go to an improv class, we gain more ways of showing up.

Or for when Shaun Leonardo brought together victims of gun violence, police officers, army veterans, and recreational gun users for a conversation no one was allowed to speak – they had to find new ways of showing up.

That is an example of a medium that forces you to be creative.

Automation will eat up those who can’t write new ways of showing up. In that future, we will all need to step away from our comfort zone, and the mediums we use have a profound yet invisible impact on our creativity.

So what is a medium?

McLuhan famously said that the medium is the message, another way of saying the same thing is that ‘we don’t know who discovered water, but it was not a fish’.

Is technology pulling you into the deep dark water, allowing you to swim close to the surface, or even better, lets you jump up for perspective and then come back down?

Mediums consist of:

  • Language: visual, verbal, or machine-based
  • Artifacts: manual, digital or spatial
  • Systems: cultural, societal or informal

Some mediums keep us in the water, pushing us deeper into confusing situations and take away our abilities to write new ways of showing up.

Some keep us closer to the surface of the water by giving us existing tools and methods to remix and add to the way we show up

But some let us jump out of the water and come back in, getting that all important inside out predictive.

These are meta tools because they let us look at ourselves and our context from the outside.

Some principles when thinking about what mediums to use:

Position vs condition

You are not where you are - the same way that travel is about how far you go, but the transformational effect it has on you, the work you do is only as good as the developmental value it holds for you

Mediation vs. mediation

Does technology mediate you away from meaning in your life or ask you to understand your context more deeply. Are you pulled into a narrower corridor, or are you able to gain a birds-eye view of your lived experience?

‘Who am I’ vs. ‘what am I’

Do mediums ask you to be a one monolithic, narrow persona, an average of yourself or they ask you to articulate yourself in new and exciting ways

Binary vs. spectral

And lastly, does technology only let you be a binary being, with polarizing views, or does it allow you to be a spectral thinker, capable of navigating liminal, and forming space. For what is creativity, if not making meaning from ambiguity. An exponential world is a world of exponential taxonomies of meaning.