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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 51. Enabling Technologies Not Dealt With in Understanding Media


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· 51 ·


51.0  Definitions

There is a set of enabling technologies that make the new media that were just analyzed possible. They include:

51.1  Electronics

Electronics is an extension of electricity where the flow of electrons was controlled originally by vacuum tubes; it was used to process, store, and transmit information. Vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors, making use of solid ← 411 | 412 → state physics, and subsequently by integrated circuit chips or microelectronics, where an entire circuit was etched on a silicon chip.

LOM: Electronics enhances control of information, obsolesces vacuum tubes, retrieves mechanical steering and shunting, and reverses into microelectronics, which reverses into nanoelectronics, which reverses into quantum computing.

Microelectronics ushered in the age of microcomputers and sundry other applications such as computer control of traditional devices such as automobiles and appliances. The most recent developments still at the research level include nanotechnology, where a small number of practical devices have been built, and quantum computing, where a proof of concept has been achieved but practical applications have not yet been built.

It is interesting that McLuhan never dealt with electronics in UM, although it was certainly an important technology circa 1964, without which there would have been no radio, television, or computers, to mention just a few devices that require electronic technology. In fact, McLuhan failed to make a distinction between electricity...

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