We’ve started to think about the histories and material underpinnings of the internet and writing technologies in the past two weeks. Consider the reading selections from Walter Ong, Marshall McLuhan, Friedrich Kittler, Manuel Castells and Mark Buchanan as you respond to this post. You may choose to respond to one article or make interconnected points between various readings, but be sure to include and unpack at least one quote from the readings in your post.
While some of these readings are quite challenging, think about and discuss why we might look to a material history of writing and communication technologies in order to understand other theoretical or aesthetic aspects of the course. We will return to many of the concepts introduced in the past two weeks as we analyze different digital artifacts.
For example, why is it important to understand the military history behind what we currently think of as the internet? Consider how Mark Buchanan and Manuel Castells discuss ARPAnet and the military rationale behind networked communication systems. Why should we understand the difference between distributed versus centralized networks? What does “small-world theory” indicate about emergent social groupings?
When Marshall McLuhan claims “The medium is the message,” what do you make of his iconic and provocative phrase? We talked about how we often consider content to be a “pure” expression that isn’t influenced by media technologies, but what does McLuhan suggest about such assumptions? Explain his example of the light bulb or the steam engine. When a new technology is introduced, how does McLuhan analyze counter-intuitive or unexpected consequences?
Walter Ong gave us ways to consider differences between oral and print cultures. Much like McLuhan, Ong helps us to think about the unanticipated impact of new writing technologies on human consciousness. What do you make of his claims that the introduction of the printing press leads to a wealth of other societal effects, including the development of science, the Enlightenment, democracy, and even our contemporary concepts of human history?
As always, you may respond to one or more of these prompts, or explore other aspects of the readings that interest you.