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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 40. E-Mail, Instant Messaging (IM), and Short Message Service (SMS)


← 320 | 321 →

· 40 ·


Content and extension: The content of e-mail, IM, or SMS is the text messages that extend the postal system, the written word, and the mind of the sender.

Cascade: The cascade is from the mind of the sender to the spoken word to the written word to e-mail (or IM or SMS) software to the transmitting computer (or cell phone) to the Internet (or a cell phone network) to the receiving computer (or cell phone) to the e-mail (or IM or SMS) software to the written word on the computer monitor (or cell phone) to the eyes of the human receiver.

LOM: E-mail (or IM or SMS) enhances personal communication, obsolesces fax, retrieves the postal service, and reverses into spam.

40.1  Introduction

The three communication protocols treated in this chapter handle, by and large, one-to-one communication, whereas the communications protocols in the next chapter, bulletin boards, Usenets, Listservs, and blogs, entail ← 321 | 322 → one-to-many communication. The one exception is e-mail, which can be sent to a list of more than one individual. E-mail and IM are transmitted by the Internet whereas SMS (a.k.a. text messaging or texting) is a smartphone function. E-mail and IM differ from SMS in that they are asynchronous.

All three forms of one-to-one messaging, e-mail, SMS, and IM, have an oral chatty character to them. This is particularly...

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