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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 6. The “Digital Economy”: An Expansion of the Knowledge Economy


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6.1  Introducing the “Digital Economy”

There has always been a close connection between the technosphere and the economy. These two systems, which form an integral part of human culture, have historically coevolved (7.2.1). Biotic systems, which include living organisms and human languages, cultures, technologies, and economies all probe what Stuart Kauffman (2000) has defined as the adjacent possible for new forms of life, language, culture, technology, and economic systems, into which they may evolve. Natural selection chooses among these experiments of the biotic systems those that do a better job of surviving and replicating themselves. The adjacent possible of a system is all the nearby candidate systems for possible inclusion into the next round of evolution of a system.

We propose in this chapter that the “new media” will give rise to a new way of doing business that we will call the “digital economy,” just as:

When we use the terminology of digital, knowledge, information, or industrial economy it does not mean that at any given point in time all the organizations in the economy are organized as a digital, knowledge, information, or industrial organization. Rather, as a new economy emerges, like the “digital economy,” some organizations will be organized along the lines of a “digital” model and others will be organized along the lines of a knowledge, an information, or even an industrial model....

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