“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
It is the circumstance the one that creates the need of the media evolution? Or is the creation of a new media the responsible of a new need?
On one side, is possible that the humans depend on the media, and we can see a symbol of this in the Kubrick film 2001: The space odyssey . There is a scene where two of the crewmembers are talking in a space capsule, because they need to communicate with each other (Using a rudimentary media) without the computer HAL (uses a modern media) listening. But the tool have beat the man, so HAL can understand everything they are saying reading lips. The machine became against the humans, and can control them.
There is another movie called “The gods must be crazy” where we can see the comparison between the rudimentary media (represented by indigenous people in Botswana called Bushmen) and the developed media (represented by the big city). The narrator analyzes the situation sharply, explaining that since we have created a complex social system with complex needs we need 30 years of education to fit in that system, whilst the Bushmen just use the smile and some mouth noises to communicate, and don´t need anything else.
In the other hand, media evolution can also be a contribution to the communication, developing new and diverses ways of telling messages. I remember a wonderful book called “Politics, Art and Society” (I recommend it) where William Morris takes a whole chapter to talk about the impending art disappearance because of the industrial revolution and the mass production, that is, he though the evolution of media will make the art disappear. The same idea was transmit in the lecture while the teacher talked about the radio and the TV or the book and the online word. But, as he said, anything disappears because every media is unique. Instead of that, new media coexist with old media, for example, the radio still exist because it gives a kind of information that tv cannot offer. It is true that the media evolution has an enriching labor to humanity.
In the “Space odyssey” scene where Dave shows Hal a sketch that he drew, we can see a symbol of how new technologies and new media coexist with the classic action of painting in a paper. The media progress, but it don´t let the old one die. Morris was entirely wrong when he thought that art was going to disappear. It just transformed to something else, and now a day exist the classic paints in a classic canvas and the photography, as well as the theatre coexist with cinema, in fact, minors arts are still active, namely, handcrafted ceramic coexists with big industrial ceramic productions.
It is well known that handcrafted ceramics have a smaller public than it had, and that mass prefers an industrial cheap product instead of handmade objects. That is, when a new media appears, the old one is affected by the new one, changing it in some way.
In “Space odyssey” there are some scenes talking about the media evolution in a very interesting way. There is one scene where a pen floats in the air and a hostess try to catch it with difficulty and slowly. Writing is something that works in the earth because gravity exists, but in space the only fact of catching a pen is so difficult. I think Kubrick tried to told us that the nature of the media is to evolution and to adapt to the new humans need. In space pen´s writting doesn´t work, because the atmosphere changes.
Finally, the human need to remember their experiences by images and that´s why the engravings exist since the early years as the only way of create a picture technologicaly reproducible. Then the photography substitutes this utility of engraving, and the old media doesn´t disappear, it just evolutions and become into an artistic expression tool and not just a reproduction tool. As it says the book “The work of art in the ages of mechanical reproductions”, “The work of art is becoming an image with entirely new functions”, that is, the evolution of media allows new uses to old media.
In short, I am going to put a practical example: The true is that I didn´t need an Iphone before I have it but, in the other hand, the environment changed for me, because when I didn´t need an Iphone, I wasn´t either far away from my family, so I didn´t have the needs of sharing with them my life. Now that I have it, I really don´t need all the benefits it gives me, but I certainly find some of them very interesting as new ways of communication.