Non-Linguistic Meaning

One of the things we discuss at times in the Media Studies program is the attempts to create knowledge through scholarly means using alternatives to text. In academia (and society in general) we’re locked into the need for type and written media, as a way to preserve large amounts of thought and meaning. Multi-modal scholarship is one of those things that’s working for acceptance (outside just adventurous humanities programs) as a legitimate option for presenting various ideas. If this sounds ambitious, it is, but if it sounds impossible, it’s not. Our whole civilization relies on language to keep things running, but every word is just an arbitrary form for mediated concepts, a symbol for a thought, a shadow for a “thing” without a shape. And sometimes, we come to rely too heavily on words to “say” what we mean. Good musicians are experts at getting their point across without words, as are other artists (here’s an interesting thesis from someone from the Media Arts program at MIT I just dug up on this, predictably in text).

Anyway,  this recent SMBC cartoon brought all that to mind, because it serves as a great example of how formless our thoughts really are. Words are really limiting at the moment, understandably so once you “read” the cartoon.

(The above cartoon is the work of Zach Weiner and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)