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Media as mediation: Régis Debray’s medium theory and its implications as a perspective

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In recent years, the translation of Debray’s writings and the study of his media thoughts have become increasingly popular in China, but the ‘medium’ in his media discourse has never been clarified. Debray pointed out that the focus of the media is ‘mediation’, which actually reveals a new way of thinking and reasoning. He then proposed four stages of mediological reasoning: Message, Medium, Milieu and Mediation. This article believes that based on this framework (i.e. 4M), Debray used McLuhan’s theory as a hub for analysis and launched a set of research methods and tools aimed at exploring the multiple nature of medium and message on the sense of interaction between culture and technology, which also involved the utility of ‘mediasphere’ as an exploration principle to question the past and future of mankind and the media conditions. This approach provides an avenue for us to understand ourselves and transmissions in different space-time categories at both practical and theoretical levels. This article emphasizes that it is better not to interpret Debray’s thoughts as a theory parallel to the existing medium theories because its focus is on research approaches rather than arguments. Besides, although Debray’s medium theory is based on his experience and thinking in Europe and Latin America, there are reasons for the publicity of Debray’s ideology in China. From the perspective of history, culture and human geography, Chinese civilization can be said to contain rich ideological resources of mediation. This is of great significance to re-understand China’s history and reality in the new context of globalization, and to discover the global value of China’s experience.
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Keywords: Médiologie; Régis Debray; media; mediasphere; mediation; medium theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Fudan University

Publication date: November 1, 2018

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  • Empedocles aims to provide a publication and discussion platform for those working at the interface of philosophy and the study of communication, in all its aspects. This Journal is published in cooperation with the Section for the Philosophy of Communication of ECREA, the European Communication Reserach and Education Association.
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