Surfing The Laws of Media

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ruby on Rails and McLuhan's Media is the Message

Ruby on Rails, the web programming language, has always claimed to be "opinionated software." I was reading Scott Raymond's "Ajax for Rails" where he states it this way:

Every piece of software is opinionated - it encourages (and discourages) certain ways of thinking, of solving problems, of structuring ideas. Software embodies a vision of the world.

This is exactly what Marshall McLuhan wrote about in "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man" and "The Medium is the Massage." It is great to see that this concept is now an accepted part of our culture and understanding of new technologies.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Weinberger on metaphors

David Weinberger had a comment about metaphors that might be useful with the Laws of Media. I'll have to investigate.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Early Draft

A very early draft explaining the McLuhan’s Laws of Media is available. This is also a preview of the full site.

I’ll be updating it soon. I use pen and paper on the subway commute to make corrections. Now that my broadband is working again, I’ll post the corrections later this week.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Content of New Media is Old Media

I've always been attracted to McLuhan's concept that "the content of new media is old media." It goes a step beyond the idea that we build our culture on the shoulders of those that come before us. The very interesting aspect of McLuhan's concept is the relationship between two different artifacts. Since relationship could be mapped to a relational database, it provides a very interesting extension of the work on tetrads.

If the tetrad database works out as I expect, it will become a mini-encyclopedia of artifacts and their effects. Besides surfing tetrads, you might also be able to surf the genealogical tree of human artifacts if this relationship is provided.  Maybe Phase 2, but interesting.

BTW, started re-reading "Scrolling Forward" to see how I might map these relationships - even if he never mentions McLuhan.

Citations and Source

Tetrads are not your standard document. I keep thinking of them as a poem. There are many tetrads in McLuhan's two posthumous books. There are also many scattered around the web. So I was looking for a way to cite and link both. This is what I've come up with.

For web or print, both have a title or name of a site. This becomes the source. There will also be a citation which is free form, but is meant to indicate publisher, page number, etc for print. The third field is URL, which obviously works for web source of tetrads. It will also contain the ISBN for books and my code will produce a link (or links) to a page for that book - probably to Amazon or BN.

Thanks to my literate "agent" for talking through this with me.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Tetrad favicon.ico

Favicon is that little graphic that can show up in browser addresses, in bookmarks and in FeedDemon. I made one up for the tetrads that you might be able to see in your browser now.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Developing the Ratings

The other title could be "Keeping the Kooks at Bay".

More than academics are interesting in Marshall McLuhan. Conspiracy theory crazies and who knows who may find the "answer" in McLuhan's poetic use of the language. Amazon, eBay and other community web site encounter this problem and use community ratings to solve it.

Surprisingly none of the community web books that I own even have "ratings" in their index. I was hoping to find an existing algorithm to help me build a rating system. It looks like I'll have to be creative until help arrives from the web or friends.

So here are my thoughts. First, every tetrad can be rated. Second, until otherwise determine, everyone's ratings are given equal weight. Third, everyone's ratings are not equal. This is determined by other members of the community. Fourth, a statistically significant sample may not be possible so an external factor may be needed. For example, if a college professor is a member, that might enhance the significance of their ratings. Fifth, the overall rating of any tetrad should be the sum of all ratings where each individual rating is multiplied by the rating of the person suppling the rating. OR do it like amazon with two different rating systems - one for comments and one casual.

Overall observation - ratings and comments are very closely tied. Maybe a comment service has this nailed.

I want to make this simple to start.  Very simple. Cannot afford the overhead of an like system.

So there you have it. The problem of the night.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Tetrad: Phraselator

McLuhan Laws of Media Tetrad
Giving orders in foreign language
Cliche shouting match
Captain Kirk's (Star Trek) personal communicator
English to XXX Phrase Translation Books
Slate's Tomorrow's Soldier Today contains a brief mention of Phraselator.

This is just a quick brainstorm and reaction to Andrew Chrystall's post on "Medea Wars: cursory examination of US .mil's Phraselator." The fact that this device completely bypasses the western alphabet is significant. It becomes its own language.

The enhancement assumes that someone will listen. The reversal is interesting as the devices depends on "predetermined phrases" or cliches. There are certainly other retrievals. I would think it would make human translators much more human - translating more than just phrases (body language). And the intent is to obsolesce the pocket translation books, but only half of them, so far, because it is a one-way device. XXX-English lives.

Certainly some unintended uses of this device will be seen in the field.

Retrieval is to obsolescence as enhancement is to reversal
Captain Kirk's (Star Trek) personal communicator is to English to XXX Phrase Translation Books as Giving orders in foreign language is to Cliche shouting match

Retrieval is to enhancement as obsolescence is to reversal
Captain Kirk's (Star Trek) personal communicator is to Giving orders in foreign language as English to XXX Phrase Translation Books is to Cliche shouting match

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Tetrad Wizard

McLuhan Laws of Media Tetrad
Pure information (credit)
Personal power

Who is Marshall McLuhan, p. 265

Retrieval is to obsolescence as enhancement is to reversal
Personal power is to Bartering as Transactions is to Pure information (credit)

Retrieval is to enhancement as obsolescence is to reversal
Personal power is to Transactions as Bartering is to Pure information (credit)

Above is a tetrad for Money. This entry was creating using a Tetrad Wizard that I created. This will probably be a key component of the site. Let me know if you find it useful.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Concept

The medium is the message . Marshall McLuhan's and Edmund Carpenter's ideas are important. I want to bring their ideas, concepts, observations about media and artifacts to the internet.

In the decade before his death, Marshall McLuhan developed the Laws of Media. They are four questions that apply to all artifacts presented in a tetrad format. While the tetrad was new, three of the four questions were from his book, "Understanding Media" of which Carpenter was an early co-editor. The fourth was the topic of a later book. Books about the tetrad were not published until several years after his death.

I've been toying for years with how to bring to the web the important ideas that McLuhan and Carpenter taught me. I knew that "past times are pastimes", "the content of a new medium is old media" and "the media is the message" were the starting point. I was glad to see "Global Village" get rediscovered, but I thought that it was the result of more important concepts, so I excluded it. But before I could finish articulating all of the key concepts I had the idea of "Surfing The Laws of Media."

The concept of "Surfing the Laws of Media" is that the tetrad for any one media or artifact has a relationship to other tetrads. For example, the tetrad for television obsoleces radio. The radio tetrad obsoleces the newspaper. In my mind this made the tetrad perfect content for the web. This is what I am trying to build a community web site around.