Extending Marshall McLuhan – Second Edition
Chapter 3. Five Communication Ages: Adding the Mimetic and the Interactive Digital Ages
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FIVE COMMUNICATION AGES: ADDING THE MIMETIC AND THE INTERACTIVE DIGITAL AGES
3.1 Updating McLuhan’s Three Communication Ages
In the last chapter we reviewed the basic assumptions or axioms of McLuhan’s approach to media studies or media ecology, which will also form the basis of our analysis in Parts II and III of this book as we update McLuhan’s understanding of media. One of the assumptions that both Innis and McLuhan adopted, however, needs to be updated, namely, that there are only three basic communications eras: the oral, the literate, and the electric (A.14).
Innis performed his analyses before the advent of computing, and McLuhan completed his work before the introduction of the personal computer and the Internet. As a consequence, McLuhan and Innis never quite made a distinction between electric mass media and digital interactive media, i.e., “new media,” which, we will show, are quite different classes of media. They also developed their ideas before linguists and cognitive scientists such as Merlin Donald (1991) had added to our understanding of the origin of speech, and in particular the patterns of pre-verbal hominid mimetic communication. The purpose of this chapter is to update and extend the three periods (oral, literate, and electric) that Innis and McLuhan used to analyze human communication ← 31 | 32 → by adding two additional periods, namely, the pre-verbal or mimetic period and the digital interactive period. With these two additions we suggest that there exists...
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