Mediation (by media)

I read Mediated, by Thomas de Zengotita. Twice. I’m still not certain what it really means to “be mediated” in the sense he addresses, but I have a guess.

Mediation is the layer of technology between the self and the world. It is the prism through which reality refracts and determines how we see the world, broken into a spectrum of its parts. It is the difference between taking a photo by looking at the scene you are photographing with your own eyes as you set off the flash bulb, looking at it through the small viewfinder of a disposable camera, or looking at the screen of the digital camera. I like the image of the screen of the digital camera because that is looking not at what you see, but adjusting to what the technology sees. It is placing the perception of the technology above your own perception. To be mediated is to see the world in the terms limited, guided, and directed by technology. It is to understand our relationships in ways that we can explain to our technology. It is to see ourselves in ways that connect to our technology.

Perhaps “mediation” is the extension of the idea that “we shape our technology, and then our technology shapes us.” If this is anything close to what the term means, it is a good term to explain why law—and IP law in particular—is so important to re-evaluate often. As technology changes, we change. If we change, the specifics of our laws must be tweaked and fine-tuned. IP law is concerned with governing the interaction of ideas with the market. If my understanding of de Zengotita’s Mediation thesis is even close, it follows that technology bears on both how ideas are managed as well as the sorts of ideas that a society imbued with a technology produces. IP law, then, is always already mediated. The law is not a response to technology in the way that a person responds to a question, but it is inside the technology in the way that an oak is inside an acorn.


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