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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 33. Automation (Plus the Factory)


← 270 | 271 →

· 33 ·


“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

—Thomas John Watson, Sr., (1943) president of IBM

McLuhan (1964) treated the factory, automation, and the computer altogether in Chapter 33 of UM and therefore we will treat each of these media individually and as an overall system.

Content and extension: The content of the mechanical factory is machinery, which extends and amplifies handwork through mechanization. The content of the automated factory is the mechanical factory and computers, which extends the assembly line and manufacturing through computing. The content of the computer is software and data, which extends the mind and the information created by the mind through the storage and processing of data.

Cascade: The cascade is from the hand to the hand tool to the mechanized factory to the assembly line to the computer to the automated factory. But there is another cascade from the mind to the spoken word to the written word and numbers to software and information to the computer.

LOM: Computing and automation enhance control and manipulation of information and processes, obsolesce the mechanical, ← 271 | 272 → retrieve customization, and reverse into information overload and “anarchy via the overlay of bureaucracy” (McLuhan, M., & McLuhan, E., 1988, p. 189).

McLuhan used the category of automation as a catch-all for computers or computing, which has exploded into a multifurcation of...

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