I'm working on making changes to some text for a project that I'm on. One of the proposed changes is to the following:

[He] has fostered creative environments that attract diverse talent who understand how to transcend medium and know how to intuitively build community around brands.

The part in bold has had a proposed change to "transcend media" (going to plural, instead of singular).

Which one is correct? If they both are, are there situations where one would be favored over the other?

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    If you want to transcend something singular, you need to put a determiner in front of it. You can "transcend your medium", or "the medium", but just "transcend medium" is ungrammatical. – Peter Shor Aug 5 '13 at 17:12
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    @PeterShor I’m not sure of that. Can’t art transcend age or transcend setting, etc? – tchrist Aug 5 '13 at 18:08
  • @tchrist. Oops ... I should have said "if you want to transcend a singular count noun, you need a determiner", just like for most other uses of singular count nouns. – Peter Shor Aug 5 '13 at 18:44

It depends. Are each of the people doing the transcending getting past one or more media?

If you are talking about an artist who works in sand painting only, he is probably transcending the medium (if he is flourishing in this newly fostered environment).

On the other hand, if he who is transcending is Leonardo, there are likely several media involved (unless you are discussing a particular work).

If the discussion is about a variety of artists working in different media, either phrase might work, the singular emphasizing that each goes beyond her or his own expressive tools, the plural emphasizing that the overall effect is to get beyond many, if not all media limitations.

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Both are grammatically reasonable, but they have different meanings.

The main reading of He transcends media would be that he goes beyond the expected limits of whatever media he works in — essentially analogous to a singular use like He transcends his medium.

By contrast, He transcends medium suggests that his work cannot be satisfactorily categorised in terms of media — compare e.g. Bob Dylan’s music transcends genre. This is because with this wording, medium can’t be read as a count noun (as per Peter Shor’s comment), so is most naturally read as meaning something like “the system of categorising art according to media”.

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