The allusion made by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is roughly the same made in the collected works of Symbolic Interactionists (such as Goffman’s Frame Analysis or Cooley’s theory of the “looking-glass self“). That which we may collectively call “the real” is mainly shadows, echos, reflections and images framed so that they may fit the viewer’s expectations.
A more modern version of Plato’s cave is the camera obscura. Imagine living inside a camera, the real world being projected upside down from a lens (the only source of light). The truth inherent in this metaphor relates to any and all media; though it illuminates all you see, the reality is inverted.
To include still more metaphor into a highly metaphorical conversation, the Jungian “shadow” comes to mind. The dark side; of a person, a society, or of life itself, is true but largely ignored. To stand in front of the the pinhole lens of the camera obscura, to cover some aspect of the inverted reality with an obstruction in one’s own image, is to cancel one’s self (bias) from the inverted image.
Now, with every new media outlet there is a new lens producing light and inverting the image in its own manner. This is almost too obvious to require a metaphor, right? The FoxNews Channell, for example, largely frames the world one way, MSNBC frames things another way. I tend to agree with one frame and disagree with another. My shadow obscures me from my bias.
What happens when we consider that, rather than one or two pinhole lenses (cameras obscura) we remember that there are many. Some we see and some we don’t see. Every medium works differently, some so powerful that they can drive the right eye or ear to see or hear the world to an extreme. Many light sources create the illusion that there is not a camera obscura but, rather, a reality; one that can be “seen” and “known.” Should all of my light sources be from behind me, my shadow allows me to see only light; truth; reality. I can see the light from those other sources as well, but I can see their source! They are a fraud! They are not real! Who can fall for that camera obscura?
I am lucky, I surmise, that I may see what is real while others believe the parallax view of an obscured inversion of truth! I am awake!
Or so it would seem.
I am only falling for my own parallax view. If I can view the scene from above, removing my shadow from the equation, now I realize my folly.
What is media?
Any symbol, image, code, or referent. A look, a gesture, a word; these are all as much a medium as cinema, television, radio, or theater. The editorial power of a raised eyebrow, in the proper context, can change history.
Now, more than ever, we each add to the noisy image that is the media camera obscura. Every post, tweet snap, etc. is media.
Media is politics.
Media is paradigm reinforcement and shift and conflict.
Media is meaning making, something we are always doing all the time.
The illusion laid bare, all perception is conjecture and every “truth” now housed in fresh quotation marks. Even certainty of knowledge is lost in brackets. What, now, are we to believe?
Know the illusion. Know now that there is truth in the awareness of obscured view. That everyone omits there shadow, save the few that seek it out (and even then they only neglect to forget it). Such is the case when hoping to know, that awareness of what is unknown is often the closest thing to knowledge at the time that may be had.
Originally Posted on December 8, 2014