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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 7. Scaffolding and Cascading Technologies and Media: Understanding New Media as the Extensions of Earlier Media or the Extensions of Extensions


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7.1  Media as the Extensions of Man

Marshall McLuhan (1964) in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (UM) developed the hypothesis that media and technologies are extensions of the human body and psyche. He also observed in this revolutionary work that the content of any new medium is an older medium. We extend these two propositions of McLuhan’s by combining them to develop the hypothesis that a new medium is the extension of an older medium and, hence, recursively, is an extension of an extension. We also show that new media emerge from and are extensions of older media as part of a cascade of technologies paralleling the “ratchet effect” of Tomasello, Kruger, and Ratner (1993), Clark’s (1997) notion of cognitive “scaffolding,” and Logan’s (1995, 2004b) notion of the interplay of the cognitive, technical, and social aspects of technology.

Marshall McLuhan’s (1964) revolutionary book UM was built on the premise that media and technologies represent extensions of either our bodies or our psyches. Physical technologies are regarded as extensions of the body so that clothing is an extension of the skin, the hammer an extension of the fist, and the wheel an extension of the foot. Media of communication are regarded as extensions of our psyche or nervous system. The notion that technologies ← 99 | 100 → and media...

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