I remembered the first time I encountered “frame” this vocabulary, I was already impressed by the negative meaning it could carry. My EFL teacher described the usage and meaning of this word like, ” The original meaning of ‘frame’ is a structure that surrounds something like a picture or a painting. But ‘frame’ this word could also be used as a verb. And we could make example sentences like the president candidate claimed that he was framed by his opponent. ” In the field of mass communication or social science, framing ,however, represents a more neutral idea. In mass communication, the basis of framing theory is that “the media focuses attention on certain events and then places them within a field of meaning. ” And “it (framing theory) suggests that how something is presented to the audience (called “the frame”) influences the choices people make about how to process that information.” The reason why I argue here framing this term is neutral is that all media do framing. The selectivity among media is universal. As for social science, framing “comprises a set of concepts and theoretical perspectives on how individuals, groups, and societies, organize, perceive, and communicate about reality. ” In other words, framing is like stereotyping or filtering devices. Individuals rely on these frames to understand and respond to events. The term framing here is again neutral because everyone does framing.
Framing and Digital Media
But what does framing has to do with digital media? In my mind, the idea of framing works all the way from ‘physical’ layer to ‘mental’ layer of a computer.
If we look at any digital media devices, to be more specific, their interfaces, it is not hard to discover they are all ‘framed’ just as the computer interface is nothing but a “rectangle surface containing limited amount of information (Manovich, 2001)”. What it says to me is an interesting concept that ‘being framed’ represents ‘being limited’ and simultaneously ‘being unlimited’. It is not mutually exclusive nor an oxymoron. It simply says through framing, the world is divided into two different layers. One is what being framed, and the other is what not being framed. What’s more, this simply suggests as we interact with the interfaces of any kind of digital media, it seems inevitably imply that we are accessing any information from a certain angle or point of view. The frame itself is pretty neutral. What we play with is the rules of this world in a post-modernist era that it is not possible to stand at an omniscient perspective looking at everything. All the information shares no hierarchy that spreading out on a surface, and through framing we access pieces of them. In other perspective, however, I would like to agree on Lev Manovich’s idea of cultural interfaces. An interface in a way is not a neutral product but “…have its own logic, model, system and ideology.(Manovich, 2001)” The interfaces framed by frames could somehow in a semiotic sense be seen as codes which carry cultural messages. And the cultural message here is the implication that “the world needs to be seen from certain angles” this latent concept. And the concept of course is a culturally constructed one. As we interact with a framed interface, we already accept this logic. Here we could use Galloway’s idea of protocol to explain the suede neutrality of framing. Protocol is just like the traffic rules. Although the building of several highways enables people drive to their destination “freely” that they could pick their own routes, in a control society (Galloway, 2002), the protocol, which is the underlying traffic rules’ give us no choice but to stop at red lights or follow certain direction. We seem to be left no choice and have to interact with the interfaces through framing. Framing becomes a dominant and subjective force though we still think we possess a lot more freedom when interacting with digital media,