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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 5. The 15 Messages of “New Media”: An Overview


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“As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of do it yourself.”

—(McLuhan, 1957, in McLuhan & Zingrone, 1995, p. 283)

5.0  Differences Between the “New Media” and Mass Media

The focus of this chapter is to identify the characteristics of the “new media” and contrast them with the electric mass media that McLuhan dealt with. According to McLuhan, the medium is the message, so we begin our analysis by identifying the characteristics, or messages, of the “new media,” which will help us understand how they differ from electric mass media.

I actually began this exercise back in 1996 when I first identified the five messages of the Internet (Logan, M., & Logan, R. K., 1996), which subsequently appeared in the first edition of The Sixth Language in 2000 (Logan, 2004b). Back then, the notion of “new media” had not yet been formulated, but already at that early stage in their development I identified the following five messages of the Internet: ← 57 | 58 →

Although one or two of these characteristics apply to electric mass media, what is unique about the Internet is that all five of these characteristics apply and help define the impact of this medium. As it turns out, all of these characteristics also apply to...

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