The internet, though, is kind of a different beast than radio or TV because it is so interactive. It's not just 1-way, 2-way, or many-to-many; it's all those things simultaneously. I'd love any recommendations on books/authors that pick up the torch from McLuhan and Postman, and try to cast some light on what "the medium is the message(/metaphor)" means in the hyper-connected age.
edit: Just a thought, it's not only the interactivity that makes the internet unique, it's also its infinite flexibility: it can emulate print, radio, TV; but it can also invent its own versions of those media (podcasts, youtube, twitch, etc). It can invent entirely new kinds of media too: VR, AR, etc. So maybe the internet is a kind of "meta-media", which makes the analysis much more difficult; but promises some real gems of insight - if any can be found.
Hmm. But isn't the internet/new media heavily balanced towards the 1-way communication model ? Does sharing, re-sharing and commenting in the void qualify as 2-way or m2m or is it just an amplifier ? The potential is here but does it really solidify into existence for the vast majority or is just for the vocal groups (NGO, journalists, lobbyists, etc.) ?
I have in mind the net delusion  and the submarine model .
as an aside, what are we doing right here, right now? HN uses the internet as a print medium. As a blog it is 1:N, and as a discussion forum is N:M. So yeah, it's complex :)
Go out in public and watch how people interact with their phones. Especially in developing countries who have had massive technological change thrust into their lives in under a generation.
* Also today's world, but wold is a nice word that doesn't get out enough so it stays.
Written in 1964, this remains both deeply relevant and deeply naive. "Media" in this context means the impact of technology on how we perceive and understand the world (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Understanding_Media#McLuhan.27...).
It's relevant, as new "mediums" play their part in the decline of democracy and freedom worldwide.
It's naive, as we as a society have definitely not yet recognized the importance of education enough — our "civil defense against media fallout" remains very weak.
That's turned out to be quite useful in understanding how distorted American history is, and floats independent of any controversial ideological content in her work.
People were a lot more naive in 1964 in general. I am not sure that McLuhan was taken seriously then.
Tow things I'll never fully understand about America in the post-war era - how is it that the Dulles brothers were allowed to operate as state-sponsored Filibusters and how is it that Jim Crow was so heavily defended?
 see William Walker in South America for that word - a person who engages in unauthorized warfare.
Even with those tools, the flaw ultimately lies within us humans as a species. The results of the Stanford Prison experiment and the Millgrim experiments show that humans have a natural tendency to obey perceived authority figures, even if it means going against our own ideals.
It's sad, but that's why history repeats itself. We are the same species as we were 70,000 years ago. It is our institutions, modern luxuries, and collective knowledge which make us civilized. Take that away we will probably act more savagely than people in dystopic, post-apocalyptic fiction. The bestial nature of humanity slightly reveals itself int he wilds of LA traffic. People will call you the worst things and hope that all the bad things in life happen to you for simply driving slowly because you are in an unfamiliar area.
In fact the Internet has torn down existing authorities and given people the ability to create new communities as well as new authorities.
For example, climate skepticism explicitly posits that traditional authorities (scientists, the news, etc.) are wrong and seeks validation in creating new authorities and sources of truth. You might claim that these people are lacking in critical thinking, but any act of skepticism, no matter how ill-founded, is in itself an attempt at critical thinking. Same thing with anti-vaxxers -- nowadays anyone with a crazy theory can find an online community that validates their beliefs.
The internet has also majorly eroded trust in our existing institutions based on elite opinion and one-way media, while not creating replacements for those institutions. At the end of the day, one important role of institutions is to 1) make a decision and 2) get everyone to go along with it, even if the decision itself isn't perfect.
The Internet has provided the tools for everyone easily criticize and pick apart any decision, without providing a viable alternative means to come to consensus.
TL;DR you think the problem is institutions and authority, while I think the real problem is that the Internet is helping break them without putting them back together again.
Actually, I explicitly stated that I think the problem is humanity itself. Institutions and authority are one of the few things that keeps behaving well. Whether you are in the urban sprawl of Detroit and the luxurious gated community of Bel Air, if electricity and water are out for more than 2 weeks and there's no authority around (police, security, etc), things are going to get very ugly.
30 years ago if you had some crackpot theory, good luck finding anyone around you who agreed and would validate your beliefs. You'd watch and read normal news like everyone else and that was your source of information.
Nowadays you can come up with some strange idea, look it up on Google, and then find a bunch of other people who will tell you that you're right, the media's full of liars, and the scientists are all in it too.
Of course, this happened historically too before the Internet, but the difference is that in the past movements usually only happened in cities and college campuses and the like, because people had to talk face to face. Nowadays, everyone with a smart phone and some free time can self-radicalize.
Eventually society will notice this trend and people will adjust to it, but until that happens you're going to see a more fractious society with more people who won't believe anything anyone else says (at least about particular topics).
Basically, it might be the taught habit of critical thinking which actually makes people give up on the values which have been beneficial to modern civilization.
The act of civilizing entails removing danger from peoples lives. Danger provides the visceral motivation to abandon intuition and think critically. Reason can not convince an unreasonable person to expend the effort necessary to use reason. It's a Catch-22. You either forego civilization, at which point people will pursue critical thinking in order to save their lives and avoid suffering, or you build civilization, and guarantee that there is no tangible benefit to thinking critically.
An infrastructure built for a civilization must be maintained, but once there is not enough support in the civilization to do that maintenance, it will fall. And humanity will return to what might be reasonably called its 'ground state' of killing each other over superstition. (Lest you think people might realize their error once danger re-asserts itself as a few pieces of the infrastructure fails, keep in mind the profound difficulty reason and science had being accepted by society even when it was actively saving lives. And for a preview, read anti-vaccine folks, they are the vanguard. When one of the children in their community dies of complications from the measles, is it because they have allowed their ignorance to kill their own child? Ah no, it's because the rest of that pesky infrastructure still stands. They just haven't gone far enough...)
Why draw a distinction? Because the algorithms behind those products can and do change.
Right now, hyper-partisan content is everywhere. Why? Because publishers have collectively realized that partisanship drives clicks. Take away those clicks by changing the algorithm: the medium changes, the messages change.
Facebook used to have a problem with Farmville spam. It doesn't anymore because the system changed. Perhaps the same could happen with hyper-partisan clickbait.
'All identity is created through violence' is another one McLuhan's probes, and it kept my head busy for months. I can't find a reason to disagree with it.
I think this passage is brilliantly relevant to these discussions. For me the internet provides an illusion of interactivity when really most if not all of it is one-way. The internet is a place where opinions are broadcast, but it is nowhere near as radically communicative as the telephone except in actual communication media built off of it (email, IRC, slack, or whatever else etc) and even then I would argue that is mostly not subjects communicating due to the delay not present in vocal or signed communication. That we can broadcast our opinions back does not mean that the speaker and listener are on equal footing as in telephony, because the communication is indirect.
Mobile Internet seems to have taken the role in this disruption that the printing press took in the Protestant Reformation in Europe. It is perhaps too early to see if a subsequent Enlightenment is to follow. We know from direct historical provenance that the regions where Islam held sway were perfectly capable of a high degree of culture. Right now, however, barbarism seems to hold sway.
During the rise of Sayyid Qutb, Nasser was able to control things. He did so somewhat ... brutally, but the situation remained in control.
Libya itself was mostly a criminal enterprise masquerading as a government.
George Orwell wrote at least one thing - "Poetry and the Microphone" which expressed skepticism about radio. In my own household, it's taken considerable effort on my part to explain to people that teh TeeVee isn't always good for your brain. There is still brilliant work done on television, more than in the past. You just have to be careful.
This because via the net people could keep up with what was happening without actually being pulled in. Only when the net connection was cut did the likes of Egypt flare up. This likely because people now had to get out on the street and talk to their neighbors to stay informed.
I do agree though that the middle east seems to be having its own 30 year war going.
1. Mcluhan didn't "miss" the internet at all he just referred to it as electric technology and was fully aware of the principles of the web as medium when he authored Extensions of Man
2. @Avivo he really wasn't too naive - he repeatedly wrote that he had never seen evidence any society had ever been able to educate and control the effects of media on itself.
ps: @cobbzilla- Postman is in any close reading a terrible interpreter of MC.
Why do we complete underestimate the power of intangible forces?
Nuclear weapons are BIG concern and very tangible.
Education/Propoganda are arguably equally as much of a concern for the human race...but they're intangible.. so they're taken much less seriously.
I also love the idea presented here of tribal class vs the business/political class.
It explains the current nationalism so well.
I'd argue that everyone is Tribalistic, just people in bigger cities consider their tribe to be entirety of humanity because of exposure to so many different types of people daily vs people in small towns who are in contact with fewer people thus have much smaller tribes.
I love the optimism of this notion. I may be jaded and cynical, but I fear that 'big city people' see their tribe to be other 'big city people' rather than the entirety of humanity. I came from a small town to a variety of big cities, and have met more people who are proud of having made that transition than those who retain a deep loyalty to the kind of people they left behind.
This is the part that angers me the most when I see it because these are the people who should know that the world isn't limited to just the people who have some set of things in common with themselves yet when they don't but have such an obvious example in their own lives it's frustrating.
I'm not saying that they aren't a big concern, but are nukes really that tangible? Unless you live in Russia, where nukes are literally paraded on the red square every year, how do you feel their presence? I mean, as far as I know, the government could by lying about having any. They are all stashed in submarines or silos somewhere, luckily it's unlikely that we will ever see one detonate, for your average John Smith nukes could as well be terrawatt lasers mounted on the moon. I wouldn't call them tangiable I don't think.
Could be America soon.
I fail to see how this rises beyond a deliberately obfuscated ad hominem. There is so much missed potential: one could muse about why messages spread on the Internet can be used to unite and divide, why classes and cohorts of people who (accurately or mistakenly) feel marginalized are attracted to rhetoric, or how a breakdown of trust contributes to a self-fulfilling cognitive dissonance about factually untrue reporting -- but none of this happens, just a quote and a quip.
> It goes without saying that the universal ignoring of the psychic action of technology bespeaks some inherent function, some essential numbing of consciousness such as occurs under stress and shock conditions.”
The fact that nearly everyone is ignorant of the effects technology has on our minds points to the technology itself being responsible for those effects.
The consequences of this can not be underestimated, but inevitably will be. We built factories to feed distribution. That packed people into cities near them. Because the valuable work here was solving that problem of distribution, and because 'machines were doing the work', workers were paid very little. Which led to adolescents no longer being able to get employment which would enable them to support any children they might produce. Which led to society suddenly for the first time needing to control sex. Which led to houses being built with separate bedrooms instead of common rooms where the whole family slept (and screwed). This is just one isolated consequence of the value of solving the problem of distribution (both of the product of work and work to be done) as an example of how wide-reaching it was. The consequences took centuries to unfold.
And now in the majority of cases, computers and the Internet go beyond making it a trivial problem to solve and straight into turning the extensive distribution networks and ancillary things built to serve them now actively destroy value. A musician could distribute an album directly to their listeners... or submit it into a supply chain that would involve thousands of other people, dozens of companies, delay the release of the album, and make it a worse product (DRM, restrictive formats, etc).
At first you might think this is a small issue, that it only affects a handful of industries where the product can be delivered digitally. But it is stupendously larger than that. It requires a complete rethinking of every aspect of economy itself. The drawbacks of mass-produced goods which were once compensated for by the profound value of solving distribution, both to consumers and to workers, are now uncompensated and will only become more glaring as time passes.
Socially, the Internet has more of the opposite role of radio. Rather than re-tribalizing man, it will amplify the individual and while it will facilitate collective action it will also facilitate freedom from any 'lock in' to the collective. Are you a member of Tribe X if you have participated in 4 out of 800 things done by Tribe X? If you 'join' and 'leave' within the hour? Is representative government still a legitimate compromise if it was initially created to serve a purpose which can now be achieved in a far superior manner by technology?
Radio gave a few groups the ability to unidirectionally communicate, and most the ability to bidirectionally communicate with one other person. The Internet doesn't just give everyone their own radio station. It gives them an arbitrary number of them. It can give every thought its own radio station. It will have consequences for the very notion of history, the concept of self, of society in ways we can only half-competently guess at if we throw out all of our assumptions (way harder than those not acquainted with a bunch of different philosophies presumes it is) and start examining 'necessary and sufficient' for quite literally everything.
Previously, we have rarely even considered "does this thing absolutely and fundamentally require physical co-location?" This will become the dominant, if not the only, factor which determines whether something will be rewritten. And those things which presently do require physical co-location (far fewer than you imagine if you have not specifically thought about it) will be made to not require it if the laws of physics make it possible. No other law or tradition will prevent it.
Anyway, I refrained from specifically mentioning Trump because he is far from the only individual who is capitalizing on the situation.
What is "internet fallout"? What fell out where?
You could as well praise the very thing you blame.
I do not see any evidence at all that this would create a better society for anyone (except the very few who'll be in power).
Of course, I might be wrong. But we have enough learnings from the history of human kind to make some rather safe predictions about the outcomes of certain directions and types of thinking.