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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 27. The Telephone


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· 27 ·


“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

—Western Union internal memo (1876)

Content and extension: The content of the telephone is the spoken word, hence the telephone extends the ear, the voice, the spoken word, and the mind by eliminating spatial intervals through the use of electricity, and, as such, it extends the mind.

Cascade: The cascade is from the mind to the spoken word to the transmitting telephone to the receiving telephone to the ear of the receiving party.

LOM: The telephone enhances spoken communication at a distance, obsolesces the telegraph, retrieves the ambassador, and reverses into the smartphone. ← 223 | 224 →

27.1  Impact of the New Media on the Telephone

There are several ways in which digitization has transformed the telephone. The first is the emergence of the smartphone, to which we will devote Chapter 37. Next in line is voice mail, which obsolesced the tape-recorder-based answering machine. The very term voice mail, probably a generalization from e-mail, indicates that this is a new medium. Because of the ease with which telephone messages can be created and accessed the functionality of the telephone has increased.

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