Medium content, grammar, and environment

From Media Technology and Culture Change

Medium Content, Grammar, and Environment are three metaphors used by Joshua Meyrowitz to answer the basic question "What Are Media?"

Medium Content

Medium Content (or media as conduits) examines the notion that a medium delivers content and how audiences react to and perceive the content. For example, what social and political influence the perceptions of content? , How do certain audiences (different ages, races, ethnicities) respond to the same content? , and How accurately does content represent reality?. The differences in the messages that a given medium conveys in what audiences react to first and what scholars aim to study. Meyrowitz also notes that often the study of media content is medium-free, in that "the focus on media content tends to minimize the attention given to the nature of the particular medium that holds or sends the message." Meyrowitz gives the example of how Television is studied quite often because of its popularity with the public, but most topics of interest are those that do not need the existence of television to be mentions (i.e. sexuality, race, violence).

Medium Grammar

Medium Grammar (or media language) examines aspects of a medium that define what it is, like expressive variables such as camera angles, or production techniques, like how films are produced to be shown on large screens in public theatres vs. the small screen, private environment of home Televison viewing. Another example would be how newspapers denote importance through variations in size and boldness of the lettering, or simply the fact that stories are told via words, whereas films convey stories with the addition of moving images and dialogue. Studying grammar inevitably leads to questions that examine what manipulations can be achieved within a medium, or how the physical nature of the medium limits the scope of the grammar. Although grammar choices cannot be discussed without some mention of the content, grammar questions look at different thing. For example, Meyrowitz notes how content analysts would explore women's images in media by looking at the roles held by women and how they are treated (as sex objects or housewives). However, grammar analysts look at how camera angles and scene composition frame women as weak, strong, sexy, etc...

Medium Environment

Medium Environment, according to Meyrowitz, refers to how each medium is a type of environment or setting that has characteristics and effects that transcend variations in content and production variables. Furthermore, the focus is largely on the features of a medium that are largely out of the control of the user once the medium is in use. For example, one can give into the tendencies of the medium (like the constant accessibility of cellphone users)or resist them (by not owning a cell phone) or work around them (always keeping your phone on silent mode). Analysts who study medium environment study reasons why a person would choose to use one medium over another (facebook over e-mail) or the impact that say, text messaging has had on social interactions.

The study of all three allows for the question "What are Media?" to be answered through comparative media studies, which serve to highlight differences between media and build common bridges across media and critical traditions.


Meyrowitz, Joshua, "Images of Media: Hidden Ferment - and Harmony - in the Field," 1993