“Space is the Place” and “the Medium is the Message”: Drawing parallels between Sun Ra and Marshall McLuhan.
This is an experimental essay that aims to combine jazz music with media theory. Since it is experimental, its basis will consist of two quotations by a very experimental jazz artist and a very experiential media theorist. A correlation is to be found between two simplistic provocative sentences that influenced the audiences of both fields dramatically.
Avant-garde jazz musician’s Sun Ra’s “Space is the Place” song was a message of infinite potential within the capability of humans. As the song continues, “there’s no limit to the things you can do … to the things you can be”. For him “Space” can have the meaning of the world out of the earth. The places humans aren’t able to reach easily. A second layer on his thought can move the notion of “Space” towards its relation with “Place”. A lot of discussion is held in the areas of architecture, sociology, urban planning and philosophy for the definition of what is “Space” and what is “Place”. One could try and find a distinction between them and maintain a balance by separating “Global” and “Local”. Another could mention a continuous blending between the two, focusing at a “Glocal” concept of “alltogetherness” and “allatonceness”. But let’s take a view at Sun Ra’s sentence under the light of media theory.
Few years before Sun Ra’s song release, in 1964, communication theorist Marshall McLuhan stated that “the Medium is the Message”. As he states, the message that somebody sends through a specific sort of mediation is way less important than the significance of the very kind of the used medium. Every new medium, or way of mediation, creates a vast new environment that affects the way humans think and interact with each other. Thus, affects also the expression and nature of our specific messages. The media used within the last sixty years are sending the message of thinking globally, of crossing the borders. From the telephone, back then, to the internet, nowadays, one can see how the difference or the development of the messages' essence has evolved.
A final note on Flusserian inter-dialectics: Every mediation is hiding what it is supposed to show. The receiver of a message is its interpreter. There can be no exact transfer of data as long as they are mediated. When mediated, the data is turned into information; they are transformed, thus, showing context and meaning.
A “Place”, for the followers of the distinction between it and “Space”, is a field of discourse between individuals for the exchange of messages and information. Drawing a parallel between the two phrases, “the Medium is the Message” and “Space is the Place” can provide with a reflection for understanding the conditions that create the situation of “Glocality”. Within a macrocosm of ex-istence “out there”, “Space” can mean the “Place” and vice versa. In the microcosm of experience the “Medium” can be the “Message” and vice versa. “Space” and “Medium” can be the environment defined by the “Places” and the “Messages” that can be the circumstances – and vice versa. “Space” can be the existential version of the global “Medium”. “Place” can be the existential version of the local “Message”. Place mediates a message that creates the form of the space. Thus, the notion of “Locality”, i.e. focusing on the “Place” and the “Message” is the spectacular inter-dialectics of losing the notion of “Space” and “Medium”. The consciousness of the simultaneous co-existence, relation, blending and interdependence of messages, mediations, places and spaces might be the most inspiring way of escaping the labyrinth of partiality and unleashing the potentials for “the things you can do”.