more on mediation

Another comment from the same thread:

Mike, thanks for the thoughtful reply! I continue to think, contra mundum, that both Nathan and Nick are making valuable points, but I don’t think Nick makes his case best by appealing to an ultimately unsustainable distinction between the mediated and the unmediated. And I think that the mediations of the sensorium are relevant because they can be altered, either for the better by practice or for the worse by neglect.

So what I’m pressing for is an enhanced vocabulary of both description and practices that would allow us to discriminate among the various mediations possible to us, not as a way of saying that it doesn’t matter whether we’re online or offline, but to say that those categories are just too crude.

You write, “I suppose I must grant that ‘it is at least possible’ that some technologies might help win that struggle, but I’m having a hard time imagining which those might be.” Well, consider the arts, all or almost all of which are technologically enabled. (A capella singing might be an exception, depending on how you define “technology.”) I’ve taken a lot of photographs over the years of the natural world, and I think the disciplines of composition, establishment of depth-of-field, and choices of coloration (in the old days achieved primarily by choice of film) have helped me to see that world better. The photographs and paintings of others have done the same. It’s possible that someone’s experience of seeing the Grand Canyon could be enhanced by listening to Ferde Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite.” I have walked a good deal in the Lake District of England, and I believe that the beautifully illustrated and hand-lettered guidebooks of A. Wainwright have greatly improved my ability to see and appreciate that landscape.

None of this erases the distinction between the human-made world and the world we did not and cannot make; but it does I think show that we don’t wisely pursue an encounter with what I would call Creation by seeking to remove or avoid mediation. To repeat myself, what we need instead are far better ways of describing the manifold varieties of mediation and better accounts of the practices of mediation.