The other day I visited Edmonton’s telephone museum. I was struck by a transcript of the 1st phone call made from Edmonton. It read like a telegram. The interaction that was possible was beyond the conceptualization of the participants. “New media are new archetypes, at first disguised as degradations of older media” (McLuhan, 1964 p. 240). New ways of communicating are developed to improve the efficiency of old media by making communication faster, easier, less expensive etc. However, inevitably new communication techniques genuinely reconfigure our thinking.
In oral societies the possibility of separating the known from the knower was not even an imagined possibility. Counting was not something we always had, in fact many ancient societies only had words for one, two, some and many. The original quantitative recordings were tally marks of the variety that indicated what was being tallied (a big mark for a sheep a little one for a hen). It was a major conceptual leap to separate the idea of an abstract number from the object that the number represented. Communication techniques inevitably lead to new ways of thinking.
Originally the Internet was seen as a wonderful new way of transmitting the same old information. Instead of physically sending a piece of paper from one location to another through the mail the information could be sent faster, and cheaper via email (note: the name is a dead give away that conceptually not much had changed). E-Learning looked a lot like a teacher at a distance being able to hang the pages of a book onto a screen for students in different locations to consume. No big change in methods – students were expected to read the material written or chosen by the teacher, fill out some worksheets, then the teacher corrected the material and assigned a mark.
What is the new think? How has the advent of the Internet changed our thinking? Are we stuck using the thinking of an old paradigm to frame our use of a new medium. What does that look like? Communication theorist, Robert Logan claims that the introduction of new media is always in response to being overwhelmed by old media. If this is true it would seem to follow that if we use the new media in the same way as the old media but it is faster (so our transaction volumes increase) and cheaper (meaning we are likely to use it more often) then we would find our selves in the position of having an ever increasing volume arriving at a greater frequency of whatever it was that overwhelmed us in the first place. YIKES! mega-overwhelm! Sound familiar?
I think the ability to connect on a large scale and to genuinely collaborate and create rather than simply co-ordinate is what distinguishes Internet communication from previous communication forms. I think we are still finding our way in the new medium of the Internet, learning to re-conceptualize communication! Learning a new Lingo and a new way of thinking. Learning to Think Out Loud.
Most of the previous posts on this blogsite explore the concept of Internet Lingo and how it relates to the ways in which we work and think. My musings are greatly enriched by the thoughtful comments that have been added to previous posts and I welcome and encourage comments as a form of participating in Internet Lingo.
To demonstrate how very different the form of communication of a webpage is from the format of book I have added some images that illustrate what this post would look like if every link in this post were a page of a book
If you are curious about how these images were made – check out Kevin’s Meandering Mind and his post, Make the Web Visible, Literally, Thanks Kevin! __________________________________________
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, Toronto CA: McGraw-Hill.
image retrieved from http://www.telephonehistoricalcentre.com/index.phtml