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Understanding New Media

Extending Marshall McLuhan – Second Edition


Robert K. Logan

Marshall McLuhan made many predictions in his seminal 1964 publication, Understanding Media: Extensions of Man. Among them were his predictions that the Internet would become a «global village,» making us more interconnected than television; the closing of the gap between consumers and producers; the elimination of space and time as barriers to communication; and the melting of national borders. He is also famously remembered for coining the expression «the medium is the message.» These predictions form the genesis of this updated volume by Robert K. Logan, a friend and colleague who worked with McLuhan. In this second edition of Understanding New Media Logan expertly updates McLuhan’s Understanding Media to analyze the «new media» McLuhan foreshadowed and yet was never able to analyze or experience. The book is designed to reach a new generation of readers as well as appealing to scholars and students who are familiar with Understanding Media.
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Chapter 25. Telegraph


← 218 | 219 →

· 25 ·


Content and extension: The content of the telegraph is the written word, which has been extended by electricity so as to eliminate the barrier of spatial separation. The telegraph is an extension of the written word, which is an extension of the spoken word, which is an extension of the mind.

Cascade: The cascade is from the mind to the spoken word to the written word to the telegram.

LOM: Telegraph enhances communication over distance, obsolesces the Pony Express, retrieves smoke signals, and reverses into the telephone.

The telegraph system has a long and fascinating history. Western Union dominated this field of communication in the USA almost from its inception in 1851 as The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company. Five years later when it acquired telegraph companies operating in the western US it changed its name to Western Union, signifying the union of all these telegraph lines. It completed a coast-to-coast hookup in 1861, introduced the first stock ticker in 1866, and offered money transfer services in 1871. The latter service is why Western Union survived into the twenty-first century, ← 219 | 220 → with over 100,000 money transfer agents worldwide, despite the obsolescence of the telegram by the telephone (a technology it took a pass on when it was offered it) and the subsequent obsolescence of the telegram by telex (a direct-dial consumer-to-consumer service they introduced in 1958), fax, and e-mail,...

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