Surfing The Laws of Media

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.


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