Creative Commons licensed photograph, "Underwood," by Flickr user Canned Muffins

Lab Report


Aesthetics in the Modern World

For our class and fieldbook, I set up GitHub and downloaded MacDown for my Markdown, and I was apprehensive about the structure itself. However, after completing the first assignment and experimenting online with the different keyboard commands, the use of Markdown and Github feel freeing and easy. I “clear format” my text on Google Docs and Word (to make the text aesthetically identical) at least a few times every day I work on homework, but I do not have to worry about that in this class. Focusing exclusively on the keyboard without much worry about aesthetics says a lot about the medium. Before diving into that, I would like to relate the three readings we have read so far.

Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” and Lisa Gitelman’s “Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture” both explore the concept that new media does not exist, and all presumably “new” or “modern” media stems from a medium before it. Similarly, Bonnie Mak, in “How the Page Matters,” details the trends and aesthetics that have transformed a page and defined it. Although none of the readings emphasize that a page / text has to look aesthetically pleasing, there is a message, usually conscious, that speaks to the cultural or social componenets of a given time or space. Using GitHub and Markdown in a world where we have access to Word or Google Docs (two platforms that have extensive options for fonts, size, color, etc.) tells us about the importance of productivity in the 21st century. Markdown allows a user to focus solely on his or her work without distractions from the multitude of options in the task bar or beyond. It forces the user/ doer to get his or her point across without worrying about the word count and limitations. According to McLuhan, “It is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action” (9). In this case, the medium, MacDown, allows humans to be extremely focused on productivity and completion. The high levels of productivity in contemporary times that we expect from each other can often seem toxic or impossible, and GitHub supports that idea in some sense (regarding the process and goal of simply getting the work done).

On a tangential note, Gitelman mentions “medieval manuscripts, eight-track tapes, and rotary phones, or semaphores, stereoscopes, and punch-card programming: only antiquarians use them, but they are all recognizable as media” (4). Markdown is increasingly different than any of those forms of media, but the purpose and functionalities remain quite the same (to get information across in some way). Markdown is an acceptable medium in regards to the time period, and it definitely emphasizes, at least to me, how spoiled consumers are with so many different aesthetic options in Word and Google Docs.