How do we evaluate the value of a medical mask? And how does the mask acquire its meanings? In this paper, I approach the mask as a media entity: a mediated and mediating thing whose meanings and values arise from within a complex network of relations. The recent political divide regarding mask-wearing has roots in the ambivalence and confusion about their efficacy in the first few months of the pandemic. It remained unclear for some time whether masks protected the wearer or those around them, but nonetheless a global mask-making cottage industry emerged, shaped by DIY and citizen science. The DIY community cleverly leveraged this core ambivalence, foregrounding multivalence, and thereby feeding into a binary ethical obligation: for whom does one wear a mask? The mask was thus baptized into regular usage by the ‘I/You’ utterance that we are now familiar with: ‘I wear my mask to protect you, as you wear your mask to protect me’. This paper reframes the facemask as a complex media entity, one that absorbs its presuppositions, while also being placed into new arrangements by its arrival through an emerging relational network.
|Number of pages||19|
|Journal||Media, Culture and Society|
|Publication status||Published - Jul. 2022|
- media entity
- public health