I did not feel comfortable simply listing things like Internet, films, books, stamps, maps, TV shows, commercials, mass produced T-shirts with prints of unicorns, Barbie dolls, and more. It was too confusing to choose from such options as messages, representations, texts, spaces, practices, tools, policies, and organizations. Finally, I decided that the problem is with our foundational assumptions about media: we tend to think about it as something outside of ourselves, while media is simply a way we communicate with each other. Yes, it involves technology, and it involves products as well as practices. But it is impossible without humans taking part in it, exchanging meanings about the world and about themselves. Will a magazine be still media if it's the only thing that's left from an extinct human race? With nobody to read it or at least try to make sense of it, it will not be media anymore.
I started my book by trying to find this elusive definition, but then moved to discuss what makes human communication so different from signals that deer or fireflies send to each other. I discussed human meaning-making, with its complexity, the opportunities it creates, but also its tendency to reproduce imperfections of society. We simplify the world in order to understand it, we divide everybody into "us" and "them", our judgment is clouded by biases and emotions. In short, we are not rational at all, and we keep making mistakes that hurt ourselves and others. Thus, the conversation about the media led me towards self-reflection.
I have been struggling to emphasize that I do not mean that we should only focus on our own imperfections and ignore structural problems. My goal was to reconcile these two extremes by better understanding communication. Structural problems do exist, but society is the way it is because of everybody's actions. I had to examine the notion of power, the uneasy relationship between the social system and individuals that comprise it. I had to stress the need to fight for accountability, but I wanted to do it in a way that involves self-awareness and understanding of paradoxes that shape human communication. I wanted to talk about empathy.
I am working on the last chapter now. I will probably have to revise everything again and again because I realize that my ideas are still raw. Once I start getting closer to the end of my journey, I hope to post some ideas and excerpts here. Stay tuned!