Consider Marshall McLuhan’s claim that “the media is the message” in the context of our Harlequin romance lab. McLuhan argues:
the personal and social consequences of any medium—that is, of any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.
In our discussion of the Harlequins, we tried to tease out the books’ bibliographic codes, and see how these properties of the medium interact with the linguistic codes of the books’ content and the social codes that structure how we understand these individual books and the larger romance genre.
For your Lab #1 report, I want you to conduct a similar investigation and analysis of another textual artifact. You can of course choose a book you own, but you might consider other media as well. Do not, however, investigate a platform—in other words, if you’re interested in eBooks, don’t study your Kindle, but instead study a specific Kindle book. Don’t write about comic books, but instead about a specific comic book.
As we did with our Harlequins, look closely at the material and bibliographic properties of the text, and think analytically about how those properties shape and are shaped by larger social expectations for particular genres, formats, topics, etc. This time you’ll likely be working with a text you’re more familiar with, but I would urge you not to rely on your preconceptions about the text based on that familiarity—the linguistic or social codes you have internalized—though as we noted in class, some of these codes will certainly inform your understandings of the book’s material features. Avoid too commenting on the content of the text. For this exercise it doesn’t really matter whether you think the text is good or bad, treasure or trash.
Instead, you should focus on the question, how does this text make its meanings? What can you discern about the book’s audience(s), intended use(s), relationship(s) to other books, relationship(s) to other media, and its existence in the world from its physical and bibliographic properties alone? How does this kind of analysis help you think about books as a medium?