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Should the medium drive the message?

Posted on May 2nd, 2008

For nearly half a century, consumer culture has been influenced by the notion that the “medium is the message.” Superficially understood, however, this cultural truism has become a straight-jacket for digital communication.

In their infancies, new media technologies are short-sightedly diagrammed by their moving parts rather than imagined according to the sum of those parts. Consequently, brand message in the digital world is too often conveyed within a narrow mechanistic world view that prioritizes information over communication. In this world view, the challenge to communicate a brand’s strategic, experiential and fundamentally humanistic dimensions is largely forsaken, displaced by the sterile, safe predictability afforded in uniform site structure sparsely furnished with animated obstacles. When the medium myopically drives the message, the creative engine of brand message is short-circuited.

Or should the message drive the medium?

Against the increasingly formulaic strictures of the existing world view, the emerging imperative for the next wave of digital agencies demands just communication of a brand’s significance. As a complex tapestry of intellectual, emotional and experiential dimensions, each brand message calls for media through which it can be conveyed with equal richness and vitality. Expressing these intricacies in cyberspace requires that the realization of digital media pertain to a new design paradigm. Henceforth, brand message must inspire the design of digital media, shaping the contours of the medium itself to become a means of real communication for the virtual realm.