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Smarty Pants will rule!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013, 14:04

I  have been repeatedly pulled in by various plausible and intelligent thinkers.

  • Marshall McLuhan
  • Nicholas Carr
  • Malcolm Gladwell

even

  • Marc Prensky

They may motivate people to take a closer interest but are without exception populist, picking references that support their thesis to convince the gullible of the new world order. Marc Prensky is garbage from beginnign to end so I cannot understand how the OU has been suckered into pedaling his ill-informed perspective - unless to prevoke debate.

Marshall McLuhan sounded plausible in 1960 but can be shown to have got it wrong - an irrelevance then and of no value to consider today. Nicholas Carr is no better - his goal is to sell books only.

14 years ago my first blog post was 'What's new about new media? Not much'.

As a historian/geographer I simply could not see it this way, in space or time, it wasn't the case that what we were experiencing was very much different to shifts driven by technology that have occurred over the millennia.

But this thesis, 'business as usual' doesn't get you noticed, or heard, or recognised, or making a living selling books or standing up in conferences. There must be an aspect of being human that favours the new against all else. Which explains a good deal. Geographers think in millions of years, Historians in thousands.

Most of us can barely reflect on the tiny period of our own existence ... which is why weather phenomena, technology and war seem of the times.

Smarty Pants will rule!

Clearly a popularist title for the book I am yet to write - on the coming of wearable technology. Starting in our underwear - are we fit? are we agile? what's are heart rate doing? how does this relate to the context of our lives? If the data might save or improve our lives why not?

And a button-sized camera at this level would give an interesting take on the world.

Who remembers the 'Wicked Willy' cartoons?

Though seeing a world through his lens might be a dangerous though intriguing place to go.

I've thought it, someone in California has probably been doing it for the last three years sad

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Marshall McLuhan

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'After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding. During the mechanical ages we had extended our bodies in space. Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man - the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media'.

Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man, 1964

Change a few words and this could have been written last week about the Internet. Someone will be witing this kind of copy for the press, even getting books published in this kind of vien - indeed 'The Shallows' by Nicholas Carr is one of a handful that do this. 'The Clue Train Manifesto' is another. Populist bunkum.

Whilst Marshall McLuhan was well read, what he had to say was sensationalist at the time, and can be dismissed - that or you take what he said and state the the OPPOSITE is how it has turned out.

Fifty years ago authors like McLuhan thought we'd lose the ability to remember because everything was in print and being put onto electronic formats. Today authors like Carr - an MA in American and English Literature hardly makes him a credible webscientist, and Gordon Bell at Microsoft are doing it again - claiming revolution and radical change. It won't happen. It didn't in the past and why should it today. Human life is too transitory, these technologies evolve and are taken up in the context of their age at a snail's pace.

 

 


 

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The Gutenberg Galaxy

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 10 Feb 2013, 20:03

IMG_5166.JPG

Reading this as it is name dropped so often. Stripping it bare and re-interpretting it for 2013.

‘I don’t know what I mean until I have heard myself say it', said Irish author and satirist Jonathan Swift

Conversation plays a crucial element of socialised learning.

Courtesy of a Google Hangout we can record and share such interactions such as in this conversation on and around ‘personal knowledge management’.

Here we can both see and hear why the spoken word is so important. Trying to understand the historical nature of this, how and when the written word, or other symbols began to impinge on the spoken word requires investigating the earliest forms of the written word and trying to extrapolate the evidence of this important oral tradition, the impact it had on society and the transition that occurred, after all, it is this transition that fascinates us today as we embrace the Internet.

Humans have been around for between 100,000 and 200,000 years.

(Encyclopedia Britannica). There are pigments and cave painting have been found that are 350,000 years old. (Barham 2013), while here are cave paintings as old as 40,000 years (New Scientist).

Stone Age man's first forays into art were taking place at the same time as the development of more efficient hunting equipment, including tools that combined both wooden handles and stone implements. (BBC, 2012).

Art and technology therefore go hand in hand - implying that the new tools of the Internet will spawn flourishing new wave of creation, which I believe to be the case. This era will be as remarkable for the development of the Web into every aspect of our lives as it will be for a epoch identifying renaissance - a new way of seeing things.

We’ve been seeking ways to communicate beyond the transience of the spoken word for millennia.

McLuhan takes us to the spoken word memorised in song and poetry (Lord, 1960 p. 3) while a contemporary writer, Viktor Mayer-Schonbeger, (2009. p. 25) also talks about how rhyme and meter facilitated remembering. McLuhan draws on 1950s scholarship on Shakespeare and asks us to understand that Lear tells us of shifting political views in the Tudor era as a consequence of a burgeoning mechanical age and the growth of print publishing. (Cruttwell, 1955)

McLuhan suggests that the left-wing Machiavellianism in Lear who submits to 'a darker purpose' to subdivide of his kingdom is indicative of how society say itself developing at a time of change in Tudor times.

Was Shakespeare clairvoyant?

Did audiences hang on his words as other generations harken the thoughts of  H G Wells, Aldouz Huxley, George Orwell and Karl Popper, perhaps as we do with the likes Alan de Bouton and Malcolm Gladwell?

'The Word as spoken or sung, together with a visual image of the speaker or singer, has meanwhile been regaining its hold through electrical engineering'. xii. Wrote Prof. Harry Levin to the preface of The Singer of Tales.

Was a revolution caused by the development of and use of the phonetic alphabet?

Or from the use of barter to the use of money? Was the 'technological revolution' of which McLuhan speaks quoting Peter Drucker, the product of a change in society or did society change because of the 'technological revolution'? (Drucker, 1961) Was it ever a revolution?

We need to be careful in our choice of words - a development in the way cave paintings are done may be called a ‘revolution’ but something that took thousands of years to come about is hardly that.

Similarly periods in modern history are rarely so revolutionary when we stand back and plot the diffusion of an innovation (Rogers, 2005) which Rogers defines as “an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption. (Rogers, 2005. p. 12). To my thinking, ‘diffusion’ appears to be a better way to consider what has been occurring over the last few decades in relation to ‘technology enhanced communications’, the Internet and the World Wide Web. But to my ears ‘diffusion’ sounds like ‘transfusion’ or ‘infusion’ - something that melts into the fabric of our existence.

If we think of society as a complex tapestry of interwoven systems then the Web is a phenomenon that has been absorbed into what already exists - this sounds like an evolving process rather than any revolution. In context of course, this is a ‘revolution’ that is only apparent as such by those who have lived through the change; just as baby boomers grew up with television and may not relate to the perspective that McLuhan gives it and those born in the last decade or so take mobile phones and the Internet as part of their reality with no sense of what came before.

Clay tablets, papyri and the printing press evolved. We are often surprised at just how long the transition took.

To use socio-political terms that evoke conflict and battle is a mistake. Neither the printing press, nor radio, nor television, nor the Internet have been ‘revolutions’ with events to spark them akin to the storming of the Bastille in 1789 or the February Revolution in Russia in 1917 - they have been evolutionary. Are we living in 'two forms of contrasted forms of society and experience' as Marshall McLuhan suggested occurred in the Elizabethan Age between the typographical and the mechanical ages? Then occurred between in the 1960s  between the industrial and electrical ages? 'Rendering individualism obsolete'. (McLuhan 1962. p. 1)

Individualism requires definition. Did it come with the universal adult suffrage?

Was it bestowed on people, or is it a personality trait? Are we not all at some point alone and individual, as well as part of a family, community or wider culture and society? We are surely both a part and part of humanity at the same time? Edward Hall (1959), tells us that ‘all man–made material things can be treated asextensions of what man once did with his body or some specialized part of his body.

The Internet can therefore become and is already an extension of our minds.

A diarist since 1975 I have blogged since 1999 and have put portions of the handwritten diary online too - tagging it so that it can be searched by theme and incident, often charting my progress through subjects as diverse as English Literature, British History, Geography, Anthropology and Remote Sensing from Space, Sports Coaching (swimming, water-polo and sailing). This aide memoire has a new level of sophistication when I can refer to and even read text books I had to use in my teens. It is an extension of my mind as the moments I write about are from my personal experience - there is already a record in my mind. What is the Internet doing to society?

What role has it played in the ‘Arab Spring’?

McLuhan considered the work of Karl Popper on the detribalization of Greece in the ancient world). Was an oral tradition manifesting itself in the written word the cause of conflict between Athens and Sparta? McLuhan talks of ‘the Open Society’ in the era of television the way we do with the Internet. We talked about the ‘Global Village’ in the 1980s and 1990s so what do we have now? Karl Popper developed an idea that from closed societies  (1965) through speech, drum and ear we came to  our open societies functioning by way of abstract relations such as exchange or co–operation. – to the entire human family into a single global tribe.

The Global kitchen counter (where I work, on my feet, all day), or the global ‘desk’ if we are sharing from a workspace …

or even the ‘global pocket’ when I think of how an Open University Business School MBA student described doing an MBA using an iPad and a smartphone as a ‘university in my pocket’. You join a webinar or Google Hangout and find yourself in another person’s kitchen, study or even their bed. (Enjoying one such hangout with a group of postgraduate students of the Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education - MAODE - we agreed for one session to treat it as a pyjama party. Odd, but representative of the age we live in - fellow students were joining from the UK, Germany, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates). I have been part of such a group with people in New Zealand and California - with people half asleep because it is either very late at night, or very early in the morning.

McLuhan  (1965. p. 7) concludes that the 'open society' was affected by phonetic literacy ...

... and is now threatened with eradication by electric media. Writing fifty years ago is it not time we re-appraised McLuhan’s work and put it in context. We need to take his thesis of its pedestal. Whilst it drew attention at the time it is wrong to suggest that what he had to say in relation to the mass media (radio and TV) if even correct then, others insight in the era of the Internet.  This process of creating an open society has a far broader brief and with a far finer grain today - , the TV of the sitting room viewed by a family, is now a smart device in your pocket that goes with you to the lavatory, to bed, as you commute between work and in coffee and lunch breaks.

It will soon be wearable, not only always on, but always attached as goggles, glasses, ear-piece, strap or badge. If 'technology extended senses' McLuhan, 1965. p.8 then the technology we hold, pocket and wear today, are a prosthesis to our senses and to the manner in which the product of these senses is stored, labelled, interpreted, shared, re-lived, and reflected upon.

If Mercators maps and cartography altered 16th century mentality what do Google Maps and Street View do for ours?

Did  the world of sound gives way to the world of vision? (McLuhan, 1965 p.19). What could we learn from anthropologists who looked at non–literate natives with literate natives, the non–literate man with the Western man. Synchronous conversation online is bringing us back to the power and value of the spoken word - even if it can be recorded, visualised with video and transcripted to form text. The power, nuance and understanding from an interchange is clear.

REFERENCE

Barham, L (2013) From Hand to Handle: The First Industrial Revolution

Carpenter, E and H M McLuhan (19xx) 'Explorations in communications'. Acoustic Space

Cruttwell, P (1955) The Shakespearean Moment (New York; Columbia) New York. Random House.

Hall, E.T. (1959) The Silent Langauge Lord, A.A. (1960) The Singer of the Tales (Cambridge. M.A. Harvard University Press)

Drucker, Peter F. "The technological revolution: notes on the relationship of technology, science, and culture." Technology and Culture 2.4 (1961): 342-351.

Mayer-Schönberger, V (2009) Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age

Popper, K. (1945)  The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume One. Routledge (1945, reprint 2006)

Rogers, E.E. (1962) The Diffusion of Innovations.

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H800: Wk 5 Activity 2 Giving Marshall MacLuhan a massage

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 09:28

Thoguths on 'Speaking Freely', hosted by Edwin Newman4 January 1971 by PBS-TV in the USA.

I disagree with the premise that  ‘The medium is the message’ or ever was.

The 'Word' wasn't the book itself - its being a book... but the work (the words it contained), to think of it in terms of Bibles being printed 500 years ago.

We have an inclination to hyperbole, today was we go all Internet, just as McLuhan did over TV. And every generation does whether it's the train, car, telegraph, telephone or TV, pages, video-games or Smart-phones. H.G.Wells was like this - at least he had the sense to write fiction most of the time.

Perhaps it is human-nature to crave and celebrate 'advancement' and 'invention.'

Could someone ask a neuroscientist. V.J.Ramanchandran probably has a point of view. I guess courtesy of social networks I could have a message to him in ten minutes. Should I? To make the point? To have a definitive and authoritative answer?

The typo of message as 'massage' is apocryphal surely?

It was a time of social confusion … because everyone of McLuhan generation and cohort were taking LSD weren't they?.

McLuhan is an elusive character best understood for the thoughts he provoked rather than as the source of a consistent and coherent body of ideas. He sound likes Marc Prensky of ‘Digital Natives’ infamy or Douglas Coupland and ‘Generation X’ now reborn as ‘Generation Y’ which I’d like to call ‘Generation Why not?’

'The surge towards the future' (a hackneyed phrase) is not just associated with new digital technologies, such as Web 2.0. The ocean analogies continue with the 'wave of analogue mass communications symbolised by television and the shrinking of the world into what McLuhan named ‘the global village’.' Indeed, though more so than the 1970s the events of the last few days surely make us feel like a global village. I've switched from CNN to NHK a Japanese Channel that has a simultaneous feed in English ... it could be local news. It is local news if we are thinking in terms of a global village. It has taken forty years to come about. TV takes the images from SmartPhones ... though the Internet is getting much of this too.

Speaking Freely, hosted by Edwin Newman4 January 1971 by PBS-TV in the USA.

Transcript

People suddenly want to be involved in more dynamic patterns.

If this was what was felt in 1971, why is it still the mantra today? It is wishful thinking. Of course people want things packaged. They want to be spoon fed, from several sources. They are greedy for the choices of packages …

I disagree, consumers were being empowered, whether they were influenced by advertising or not (they were), they were not the less making choices.

Intriguing that we want the audience to be the producer, but only in so much as the producer interprets what they want then package it as a TV show.

Instant replay isn’t participation.

It is editing, then playing back in slow motion. This any other trick is firmly at the fingertips of the producer and in 1971 that of the Gallery Vision Mixer.

Commentators cannot help but reflect publicly on what so many quickly accept as the norm, the younger the audience, the more likely they are to consider it the normal modus operandi.

I thought watching CNN coverage 24/7 of the Japanese earthquake had me ‘there.’

I kept inviting my 12 year old son who was watching better footage free of the CNN ads on YouTube. Different generations, different means of consumption.

Old World, New World; His World, My World.

Watching how CNN collated the edited the material looking for the highlights was interesting. How they pimped it up into the mother of all trailers for news on the event touched on the distasteful, treating the event like a series of events from the American Football Series along with graphics, EFX and music. The events in Japan constantly interlaced with adverts … many of them tourist destinations such as Turkey. Incongruent.

If the medium is the message then I'm tired of the message that comes from TV if news like the Japanese earthquakes has to be packaged with such insensitivity and commercialisation. Shame on CNN.

I’d no longer think of editing TV as an artistic process as putting the car into gear at the traffic lights.

In the US they allowed the sponsors to alter their Football game, an idea that never caught on in the old world. A soccer game of four quarters? It isn’t water-polo.

Hints at what we have with SmartPhones, though people are as likely to be watching the news, a cartoon series, a movie or their favourite music.

I simply don’t accept, as someone at school in the 1970s, that at any stage students thought they were gaining control or wanted to participation in the production of learning process.

Things are packaged by those who know better for a reason – they know better, they are supposed to be the teachers, supposed to be the subject matter experts, supposed to be, and can be the only ones who know their audience, their class and can respond accordingly.

Sesame Street does show ‘the entire learning process in action and in the best advertising style’. Advertising works, or they wouldn’t do it. People are persuaded … and people can be persuaded to learn. I wonder what Marshall McLuhan would make of ‘In the Night Garden’ and the ‘Teletubbies’ – learning as entertainment, that is engaging and vicarious rather than the teachery/evangelically and now very dated Sesame Street.

We like to listen, laugh at or be taken in by commentators like Marshall McLuhan, with have our own generation, who get themselves known, on TV, publishing books. I even help them by mentioning their names, from Malcolm Galdwell to Marc Prensky, they are the Athenian Oracle. We should learn to dismiss what they have to say, rather than accept it, to look at the facts ... and if there aren't any to go and do some research so we understand what is actually happening, not what we would like to happen or think is happening.

The best form of participation I can think of regarding TV, no longer the family activity a generation or two came to love, is fighting over the remote control.

This and turning the TV off, rather than on is a form of participation. It's called doing something that doesn't send you to sleep which is partially the premise behind Ragdoll's 'In the Night Garden' by the way (whose your favourite character?)

 

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