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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 9. The Written Word


← 118 | 119 →

· 9 ·


Content and extension: The content of the written word is the spoken word, which is extended into space and time by the use of a portable and durable medium. Various media have been used for this purpose including stylus and clay; chisel and stone walls or stele; parchment and ink; and paper and ink. The written word, an extension of the spoken word, is ultimately an extension of the mind.

Cascade: The cascade of the written word is from thoughts to the spoken word to the written word. The spoken word in this cascade is most often not uttered but enters in the form of silent speech that the writer can hear in their head.

LOM: The written word enhances the storage and organization of information and abstract thought, obsolesces the spoken word as the principal medium of storage, retrieves memory of things past, and reverses into the need for formal education or schools. ← 119 | 120 →

9.1  Impact of “New Media” on the Written Word

The new media have had an enormous impact on the written word as has been observed by Bolter and Grusin (1999): “Postmodern theory errs in trying to isolate language as a cultural force for it fails to appreciate how language interacts with other media, other technologies and other cultural artifacts” (p. 57). This has certainly been the case for the written word and the new...

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