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Sound Media: Hypermediatic Extensions and Social Networking

Jos Luis Fernndez, Betina Gonzlez-Azcrate


Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Universidad de Buenos Aires,Argentina-University of Pittsburgh, U.S.A

Abstract. In this paper, we present some results of fifteen years of research on media of sound (radiotelephone-phonograph) in Argentina, and it relationships with the urban life. The main objectives are to relate
those results with McLuhans contributions and to discuss some key concepts of his theories. Following his
conceptualization of media as extensions of man, we show how sound media function, in fact, as
hypermediatic extensions and were indeed the first social network of massive reach created at the beginning
of the twentieth century. From that point of view, the notion of media itself and McLuhans prediction about
the global village are matched with the current knowledge about hypermediatization and global age.
Keywords: media, technical devices, extensions, global village, media discourses

1.
1.1.

Framework
Introduction

Somebody is driving a car and listening to the radio. Through the loudspeaker, the radio host is talking while
is interrupted by other members of the team. Everybody in the studio is now chatting at the same time. The sports
specialist takes the center of the scene and informs to the audience the result of a tennis match and the triumph of
a local player. The fact is that the radio team, working live, was watching live TV too. The program followed as
usual, alternating phonographic music, informative flashes, humoristic segments and phone interviews.
Nowadays, we can reach that radiophonic discourse from the air or from internet. But, if we are working
on the computer and only listening, the reception is, for us, the same (Fernndez 2009). Any way, that simple and
common example is showing, first of all, the complexity of the radiophonic phenomena, a complexity that it is
related to the present process of hypermediatization.
It is true that, from a common point of view, audiovisual mediatizations are more natural than others, like
print or sound media. Our perception of the world is audiovisual (plus the tactile, the smell, and taste). But,
natural perception is not exclusively audiovisual and, on the other hand, the importance of the print
mediatization cannot be overlooked even though writing, reading and understanding printed letters are, evidently,
the least natural possible relationships between perception and meaning.
The fact is that the center of our media culture, as well as the center of the political and the academic research
on communication, concerns what could be still defined like focused on letter, images and audiovisual
hybridities. Our usual example: the cell phone became an issue for the social sciences focused on
communication when SMS messages started (with the riskit supposes to normal writing) and when somebody
discovered the possibilities of thefourth screen). At the same time, the number of phone calls rose at least ten
times, but the theories about the phone conversation didnt feel pressed to change.
We accept that we are in an era of media convergence, an era that entails discussions on the lives and deaths
of old media vs. the emergence and the success of new media. While those elusive subjects are at the heart of the
theoretical concerns about media, the radio scene, far from disappearing, increases its audience and keeps its
advertising investments. The phone takes the center of our daily life, even more if we add the process of writing,
producing and distributing audiovisual texts using mobile devices; and all of this happens in spite of the crisis of
the phonographic, a crisis that could be considered the biggest in the recorded music industry ever.

Without a doubt, Marshall McLuhan was the first theoretical referent that paid attention to the radios specific
importance among electronic media at the same time that television had already won out the battle in the real
world of media.
McLuhan stays in a special place in our studies about media: their theories are an inevitable reference for the
framing of any work about communication and media, but they are also hard to combine with deep
methodologies and general models. Rather than because of their methodologies or theories, McLuhan thesis
found fertile ground among researchers because of their suggestiveness and intuitions. The reason for that
ambivalence is surely found in the power of McLuhan teachings and in his resistance to adapt them to the grey
rules of the academic life.
This is a good moment to go back to McLuhan, and to review and to confirm the importance of the
mediatization of sound, beyond the supposedly steady rein of images and letters. On this paper, we will refer
specially to his classic book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, a work full of suggestions
and questions that still help us to explore the media world. Here, well try to pay our debt to him.

1.2.

Objectives

To review essential terminology about technical devices, media, languages and discourses
and social practices (uses) about or inside the media.

To understand that the sound media system (radio + phonograph + telephone) was a milestone and a
point of departure for the connection of the first social network (phone) with broadcasters (radio) that
produces and delivers Hypermediatic contents (i.e. live or recorded music and information products).

To argue that radio broadcasters, through the air or through the Internet, have the possibility to maintain
broadcasting positions into the interstices of the explosion of the new media.

To discuss, from the point of view of our results, two central McLuhan's concepts: media as
extensions of man and global village.

1.3.

Methodology

This paper is presented as a result of UBCyT Project called Letter. Image. Sound. Building Cities through
Media, 2008-2011 (Code SO 94), focused on the subject of hypermediatization.
We arrived to the results we are presenting today three combined, interdisciplinary approaches:

A history of media in relation to the ecology of media as it was developed by authors like McLuhan and
Walter Ong.

A semiotic of media derived from Latin American researchers like Eliseo Vern.
An interdisciplinary analysis in relation to ethnomusicology, with references to the formulations of
Rubn Lpez Cano, its most important representative in the Spanish academic world.

2.

Results

2.1.

Terminology & Theoretical Models in a Changing Age

When we study a corpus that includes cases like the example we described above, we differentiate several
levels of analysis. We define those levels, schematically, as it follows:

Technical devices inside the media: technological tools that enable variations in times and
spaces, inclusion or not inclusion of parts of the body, related social practices in emission and reception, etc.
What is important in our example is the fact that the radio can be listened to while driving.

Media: group of technical devices and related social practices that allow communication to actually
happen; discursive relationships among individuals and/or social sectors, beyond true face-to-face contact1.
Radio is a media but its social recognition is related to its social uses and to the types of messages emitted.

Transposition: migration of texts (or parts of them) trough different media or trough different
technical devices inside the same media. This point is important because this is the analytical level where we
can identify, in our example, that the audience is familiar not only with tennis games, but also with television
sport transmissions.

Genres: Social categories for the classification of texts that make possible its social circulation and its
sociological links.

Discoursive styles: social classifications that differentiate rank and evaluate sets of texts.

Our focus will be on the technological levels (technical devices and their influence in the life of the
media). By focusing on this level, we hope to address some of the more famous McLuhan slogans like the
media is the message, the media understood as extensions of man, cool and hot media,
global village, etc.
Without denying the complexity of McLuhans contributions, we want to stress the importance of sound
media in this environment and to discuss with McLuhans followers the importance and the limits of his
contribution to this particular subject.
In the face of new and ever-changing media scene and under the symbolic umbrella of McLuhans old
metaphors and galaxies, it is helpful to review the terminology for technical devices, media, languages,
discourses, and social practices (uses) around or inside the media.
Now, we know that an important change in media life is not only the result of a technical novelty. To be
important, a media transformation needs to be supported in three different series of phenomena: 1) changes in the
technical devices; 2) changes in the languages, genres and styles supported by the technical devices; and 3)
changes in the social practices or uses associated with that particular media (Fernndez 2008 35-62).
McLuhans theories about media were mainly focused on the media as final results. That is why he can
hold propositions like this one: The content of a movie is a novel, a comedy or an opera (McLuhan 1964: 33).
From our point of view, we need to distinguish, i.e. the category fictional film as one of the possibilities that
the media we call cinema allows, while novels, comedies and operas are genres translated to the cinema from
other media (like the theater or the book) (Metz 1979).
If McLuhans most powerful insight is the idea of extension as the main effect of media on human life, the
most controversial of his contributions is, undoubtedly, the hot and cool opposition, not only because of the
description itself, but also because of the assumptions it presupposes regarding the effects of the media on
social life in general; for instance, the preposition that states that Nazism was successful thanks to the radio, but
that it would have been a failure if television had been its main means of propaganda and communication
(McLuhan 1964 p. 261). If we follow closely McLuhans argumentation, we will find that the hot vs. cool
opposition is more a classification of cultural practices than a mere classification of media:
A hot medium is one that extends one single sense in high definition. High definition is the state
of being well filled with data. A photograph is, visually, high definition. A cartoon is low
definition, simply because very little visual information is provided. Telephone is a cool medium,
or one of low definition, because the ear is given a meager amount of information []. On the
other hand, hot media do not leave much to be filled in or completed by the audience. Hot media
are, therefore, low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the
audience. (McLuhan, 1964, p.36)
As we can see, the opposition between radio and telephone is not based exclusively on the technological
aspect but on the amount of information they provide and on the amount of participation they
require or allow from the users2.

1 We understand face to face contact as the spatio-temporal coincidence and the possibility of
perceptual full contact among individuals and/or linked sectors.

There is, still, a technological aspect in this opposition (in order to function, in order to achieve
communication, the telephone necessary demands an input from the user; the radio doesnt) but the whole
concept resides on the measure of the participation or completion done by the audiences. The terms high
and low definition, then, seek to account both for a characteristic of the medium itself (the amount of
information it transmits) and for the activities the user is compelled to perform. And here it is where McLuhans
theory seems to lose some ground. As many researches on mass media and communication have showed, it is
difficult to account for the amount (and the characteristics) of the audiences participation without conducting
specific research studies on the reception and on the effects of specific messages (or contents). In other
words: while the medium and its technological characteristics are of extreme importance, it does not determine
the reception and interpretation of messages 3. In many opportunities McLuhan states that the content of the
medium is not only unimportant. Reading with certain disdain the findings of other researchers like Paul
Lazarsfeld, McLuhan states: Although the medium is the message, the controls go beyond programming. The
restraints are always directed to the content, which is always another medium. (McLuhan, 1964, p. 266)
Based solely in his classification of media as hot or cool, McLuhan places the radio at the center of the new
electronic era, an era supposedly characterized by a return to oral culture and for a massive process of
retribalization. That is how McLuhan soon takes the opposition between hot and cool media (an opposition
that sought to explain how audiences reacted to different mediums) further into the general realm of cultures in
order to explain the general effects of media on social life. He goes as far as to hold that
backward countries () are much better able to confront and understand electric technology. Not
only have backward and nonindustrial cultures no specialist habits to overcome in their encounter
with electromagnetism, but they have still much of their traditional oral culture that has the total,
unified field character of our new electromagnetism..( McLuhan, 1964, p. 40)
At the center of this argument is his analysis of Hitlers use of the radio as the main mean of propaganda for
Nazism. But instead of focusing on the analysis of the radio and his uses in Germany, Mcluhan (1964, p.261-3)
departs from the ungrounded proposition that, since Germany in the 30s was an unindustrialized country and
since the Germans had kept alive their oral networks, the radio had the power to awake a tribal past that, in
contrast to England and the U.S., had never ceased to be a reality for the German psyche. (McLuhan, 1964,
p.262). For that procedure, McLuhan places the radio at the center of the broadcasting system, a key
concept for his idea of global village.

Media of Sound System: the First Step to the Hypermediatic


Extensions

2.2.

As we have seen, the media of sound have and important place in Understanding Media: telephone, radio
and phonograph are given important roles, and they receive as much attention as the telegraph, cinema and the
television (besides numbers, clothes, comics, cars, weapons, etc. etc.) 4.
First of all, and very important for our goal of understanding the relationships among media of sound and the
hypermediatic age, McLuhan considered each media (telephone, phonograph and radio) as a single
media and with very different positions in what he calls the electric age. Even though he accepted that the
radio was very important for the reorientation of the phonographic industry to music (McLuhan 1969 p. 246-7),
each media of sound has a particular role in that age, but the relations between different media are seldom
considered.
2 Radio, for Mcluhan, does more than extending the ear: Even more than the telephone and the telegraph, radio
is the extensin of the central nervous system that is matched only but human speech itself (264). From this
proposition (radio as an extensin of the vernacular tongue) he derives the idea of global village. Any way,
Scolari (2004: 59-61) atributes to McLuhan the origin of instrumental metaphor to understand interface as
extension.
3As Todorov (1964,70) poses it, genres are horizons of expectative for the audiences and models or templates of
production for the emission of texts. Well introduce below the problem of the languages of radio.
4 The chapter about phonograph has a lot of very refined observations about the relationships between
phonograph and music. To see our results in this specific fieldwork, see: Fernndez et alt. 2008.

The three media of sound are placed in different positions in the main opposition between hot and cool, but
their importance is made more evident by the fact that McLuhan begins his whole argumentation of this theory
with musical examples (waltz versus jazz). Moreover, his first specific examples of this fundamental
oppositionthat seeks to explain the different effects of the media upon the usersare that of the radio (a hot media,
according to his theory) and the telephone (a cool, low definition media).
McLuhans consideration of each media as a single media excludes the idea of amedia system. From
that point of view, it is impossible to understand the media effects. In our opinion, from that perspective (one
that overlooks the system), the media effects only can be dissolved into the general and highly undefined
concept of culture. As we have argued before (Fernndez 2009), the sound media system (radio + phonograph
+ telephone) was the first step to connect the first social network (phone) with broadcasters (radio) to produce
and deliver hypermediatic contents (i.e. the emission of live or recorded music or information products).
Thus, the origin of the Internet or the so called social media had this important antecedent, which is the same
as saying that its origin was in fact audio and no exclusively audiovisual.
In addition, to understand the importance of our radio example, we have proposed (Fernandez 1994) the
existence of three different radio languages based in the relationships that hosts and spaces take trough
loudspeakers or headphones5. From that point of view, when through the speaker comes a social space, we named
this languages as radio-transmission; when threre isnt space around or behind the host voice or the music,
we called it as radio-support and, when the space offered through the speaker only is accessible through the
media, and the loudspeakers is presented talking with other voices (journalists, specialists, intervieweds,
humourmakers, etc) and relating musics with news, weather reports with traffic reportes, etc. we called it as
radio-emission6. Radio-emission is considered for us, both qualitative and quantitatively, as the most
important, the central, radio programming. This last language is the radio wich people think when asked about
the media, and never the audience?s speech can rebuilt its complexity.
To understand the ways through which a new media system is generated and processed by the culture, and
how at the same time it generates new cultural phenomena, we have described two movements that although
converging are conceptually opposite7:

accumulation: for a new novel phenomenon within the media to be consolidated and socialized, it
must recover, continue, register and feature previous media events, and

transformation: for a phenomenon to be considered as innovative it has to cause a change in the


previous discursive habits and customs

These movements can take place on: 1) the technical devices (which tend to be wrongly considered as the
only source of innovation in the media real), 2) on the paradigm of genres and styles, and 3) on the realm of
social practices and the meta-discourses accompanying the uses and customs of the various media. The objective
of this scheme is, basically, to emphasize that media is multidimensional, and that these dimensions are, at least,
three and that, in turn, may have relatively independent lives.
The appearance of a discursive phenomenon in media life depends on many elements: the available and
effectively used technologies in communication, genres and discursive styles, and the communicative practices in
the analyzed society. At the same time, a new discoursive phenomenon generates effectson the general style of
the epoch. These combinations, which can generate unpredictable and previously non-existent modes of
interexchange, determine different transformations of the social life.
When we speak about telephone, phonograph and radio we are thinking in very different mediums, whose
only common element is that they control sound-texts. This means that they isolate the sound from its source,
convert it into portable signals and transmit it. In the case of phonographic devices, those sounds may also be
recorded. From these technological processes those sound-texts, can jump to distant receptors, spatial or
temporarily (or both at the same time).

5 An special chapter should be necessary to adapt english terminology for our needs to present our research
results.
6 See below more details to understand the importance of the radio-emission at social and cultural life.
7 For the whole analytical model, see: Fernndez 1994.

While saying this may seems something purely technical, in fact, we are talking about one of the features that
defined our social life as we know it since when we refer to the system of sound media, in reality we are referring
to a phenomenon with little prior tradition.
Sound without image allowed many different uses and practices, from the dance accompanied at the rhythm
that emerged from the radio, to the performing of different tasks that dont require visual attention. Since then, all
media of sound (and radio especially) compete for capturing the attention of the listener in a context of hearing
that can be culturally very complex. The phone is a particular but paradigmatic case because it allowed the interindividual conversation and an urban network of relationships between individuals that stayed relatively in fixed
positions for decades.
The fragment of radio discourse quoted above defies in many senses McLuhans classification of media. We
find relationships not only among media (phone, phonograph and T.V.) but also among different areas of cultural
products (cinema, sports, humor, music, etc.). These characteristics prevent us from classifying it as a low
definition message. Therefore, it challenges McLuhans characterization of the radio as a hot media. What it
proves is that the listeners must work very hard in order to understand the messages.

2.3.Music Mediatization Facing the Internet Explosion


Music is without doubts the cultural area where social networking is introducing dramatic transformations 8.
Firstly, the changes were focused on the distribution and delivery of recorded music, but inevitably, the
changes (and the crisis) are arriving to the creative and industrial levels. In any case, the demand for recorded
music without the presence of images, is growing as never before. Then, musical life is one of the main
fieldworks where the new media are working, where new extensions and where new cultural practices
are been generated.
Musica and its transformations through the Internet are changing constantly. Surely, nothing can be defined
yet, but on this chapter we would try to advance the understanding of this complex and novel universe from our
previous research experiences with all the media of sound. We are trying to understand if the new development of
media trough the internet is tending to disolve the place of the old media or, more probably, it is just changing
their places in the system.
For instance, Last.fm presents itself as "a musical service willing to learn from you..." and proposes
"connect with other users with whom you share the same musical preferences and recommend songs of its
collections or yours". The site avoids to say that it is 'us it floods with Elvis and Japanese garage surf ballads...'
with the goal of ".. .always do most democratic musical culture: each one can hear the music you want, when
you want. More ever, "without an intermediary to read what you have to like". It is said that there is an utopian
proposal in the idea of permanent feedback feed, as that of Enzensberger (1984: 11-14), who, quoting Brecht,
thought imperave to turn the gaze to the "means of distribution in media.
Of course, that phenomenon is still in the incipient stages but already with a tremendous growth 9. We think
that a case like Last.Fm should be studied in connection to pre-existing sound media knowledge and not
viceversa. Otherwise, there will be no way to escape the vortex of the Internet and the effect of permanent
innovation that cancels any comparative study. Let us now review, briefly, the current scenario as we know it.
In that context, at one level, now the audiences can tune on radio stations thrugh the Web; some of them are also
present or accesible in the AM or FM dial. Anyway, there is an explosion of offers and nobody knows who will
survive.
How is Last.fm working? On the level of the technical device, Last.fm effects a change in musical
distribution: it is a social network that relates different individuals, allows them to select, and to share musical
8In the century of jazz we are likely to overlook the emergence of the waltz as a hot and explosive human
expression that broke through the formal feudal barriers of courtly and choral dance styles (McLuhan 1964, p.
36). In the first paragraph of Media Hot and Cold, McLuhan already showed us the importance of music for
the understanding of cultural history.
9We are taking in account that the downloading process is, at least partially, replaced for streaming
process but as everybody knows, academic time is today too slow in regards of the media changes
and, in an other hand, LastFm itself is migrating to a pay per listen model.

products with other listeners with similar tastes and criteria. Calvi (2004) has conceptualized this as a
phenomenon very different from the previous ones (like portals of peer to peermechanisms). LastFM has
developed what can be potentially thought of as "the biggest platform musical and social network of the world".
The key claims is: Share your musical tastes, look at what your friends listen to, discover new music and in
addition, create your own radio.
But what does it means for LastFMto 'create your own radio"? First, you register a profile and apply for
music; then, the site provides to you a lot of suggestions (lists of similar music) and, finally, connects the user to
other listeners with similar tastes10. In addition, it adds statistics, visual information about concerts and
recordings, videos and interviews.
From Last.fm, to create your own radio means to register a profile with your musical taste, and to have it
filled in (or completed) by the portal with anythingsimilar. If the live broadcasting model is still based on a
central server, this partial p2p system tends to be organized by the tastes of the users,and by the creation of
social networks that manage the general content. But, in fact, equivalent mechanisms are being used today by
radiobroadcaster stations in search of alternatives that can effectively compete with the online social networks
offerings (you can register yourself in the radio online portal, choose your music profile and get ready to receive
a stream ofsimilar music). Anyway, LastFm and its equivalents produce a very different relationship with
their audience compared to the radio-emission language of the past. But individual relationships to music will
be not in the future an exclusive atribute of the social networks. Therefore, radio-emiters broadcasters and
networks will compite offering individual (or very much segmented) musical services. The questions now are:
the radio as broadcasting will be disolved into the social networking? Or, in other words, will the radio
broadcasting model (and its relation) to music be irreplaceable?

1.4.

Radio as Media: Limits to the Death of Broadcasting

The mass media crisis (for as, only a transformation) is frequently related to the extinction of the
broadcasters. But it is very difficult to think about complex societies without broadcasting activity. In
McLuhans terms, what media extensions are necessaries to support a cultural / social life more or less
integrated? Could mass societies survive without any discourses, news or cultural products delivered throug
centralized media?
Radio and of its radio-emission language are hardly at risk of extinction from our cultural life. To support
this argument, well need to describe here in more detailswhat we understand by radio-emission. This
language is built on live emission, but introducing frequently recorded fragments. So, the emission is always
partially unpredictable about its results, and obviouslyabout its effects. The coexistence of live fragments and
recorded fragments, is supported by the presence, from the beginning, of telephone conversations that introduce
the outside spaces and real time information, and by the playing of phonographic recordings, inserting the past
time into the live sequence. So, radio as a media was already bornhypermediatic. Since the TV
captured the radio-play and transformed it into the telenovela or TV soap opera-, radio defines itself as an
informative medium in the broad sense: from the time and the weaher report of the city or the country of
issuance, to the latest music releases or entertainment, going through all the spectrum of political, social or
economic reality. Finally, and very important for social life, there is its permanent interaction with the social life:
you can receive and understand radio broadastings while working, driving cars or doing any other compatible
human activity.
Summarizing, the real and main radio, as we understand it, has a largest and dominant presence in our
culture but is still unknown to the communication studies. Only this explains how somebody can confuse
radiowitt an Internet phenomena as Last.fm. This proposition is not retro or nostalgic. On the contrary, we
think as we suggested abovethat the relationships between broadcasters and networks, are just beginnig
and both could be reinforced by their sinergic interaction. But, once and again, our comprenhension of its
characteristics needs to be specific.
10 Discussion of the notion of taste, related in fact, with the complex and more general notion of discursive
style in Fernndez 2009. For instance, Clapton and Hendrix, as guitar players, are similar from the point of
view of the genre (blues) but they dont match from the point of view of the style: Hendrix is closer to
Jimmy Page or even Pete Townshend than to Clapton.

2.

Main Conclusiones

Without a doubt Marshall McLuhan was the first theorical referent to pay attention to the specific importance
of radio and we reread his books to present this paper, we found out certain highlights that in our own research
history were very useful to suggest, or discuss, our conclusiones about the media of sound and their place in the
global era.
McLuhan remains in a special place in our studies about media but it is always difficult to incorporate his
findings when we think about methodologies and general models of research. The reasons for this ambivalence
are many and, as we said at the beginning of this presentation, they are sourced in his resistance to address the
question of specific contents as well as his resistance to adapt his intuitions to the academic life.
Regarding the contents, we already mentioned the imposibility of characterizing the content of a medium as
another medium (McLuhan 266). This confusion makes it imposible to address general habits of reading and
producing texts in any society, whereas the concepts of genre and style provide the correct framework to
understand how different texts migrate from an old media to new ones and how new discursive phenomena are
thus, in turn, created.
Due to his overlook of the importance of genres and styles as organizers of the activities of the receptor (and
of cultural consumption and production in general), McLuhan inevitably jumps into general assertions about
cultural and social life, going as far as to characterize entire populations arbitrary as cold or hot. It is this
disregard for the content what causes his brillant idea, the concept of extension, to lose part of its strenght. Aside
from the mater of genres and styles as organizers of our discursive life, the concept of extension is undoubtely a
powerful one, since addresses the specificity of technical devices. But, from our pespective, one of McLuhans
weakest points is his notion of media as a singular phenomenon. Or what is the same: the focus of his analysis is
always a single media, that is why he insists on the radical differences among radio, telephone, television, etc.
As we have demonstrated, those media are constantly interacting, they modullate each other, and they
combine its extensions in what we have called hypermediatic extensions. As many passages of Understanding
Media clearly show it, McLuhan was aware of this connections between different media. Take his assertion, for
example: One of the many effects of television on radio has been to shift radio from an entertainment medium
into a kind of nervous information system (260), an assertion that undoubtly holds itself solidly. But these
examples are scattered throughout McLuhans work and they do not conform the center of his theory.
There are problably at least two reasons that explain why McLuhan did not think in terms of hypermediatic
extensions. First, there is the matter of the context in which Understanding Media was written. During the 60s,
the big issue was not the notion of network, but that of what was pertaining to media as a specific field of
investigation in communication. Second, it is clear to any reader of Understanding Media that as ground-breaking
and powerful as it was for the 60s, it was still a work that was not based on empirical research of discourses.
Having the advantage of all the previous knowledge and discussions that constructed the field (including
McLuhans), it was only logical for us to see and address the phenomena of hypermediatic extensions from the
beginning of our research about radio in Argentina.
The overemphasis on the technological side of media would prevent us from seeing a key element in the
survival of radio broadcastings: the receptor not only lets the sound coming from the radio take part of his (or
hers) daily activities, but it is also exposed to a wide and complex offer of informative and cultural products. This
flood of information keeps the listener in touch with the now and the before of his or her society (both at a micro
and a micro level) and that is how that content interacts with his or her life in the more narrower sense of the
term.
All these characteristics of McLuhans theory prevented him from seein the coming of globalization beyond
the reduced (and reducing) image of the village. The whole concept of the global village is based on the idea of a
few central broadcasters that act as the bonfire of the village. It is necessary to say that, among other things,
horizontal social networks (obviously also existing in a tribal society) were left ouside of McLuhans design.
The media of sound amplified and articulated by the radio to a mass-audience were the first manifestation of a
structure that combines central broadcasting with telephone networks and the circulation of recorded music. It is

the general notion of current news what constitutes the firmest frontier for this broadcasting model with its
already old hypermediatics forces.
The limitations of McLuhans theories should not keep us from seeing its importance for the study of masscommunication in general, as well as for our particular research on sound media. What we can learn from those
limitations in themselves is that any understanding of the macro processes in a given society must be unavoidably
based on the discursive study of the micro practices and interexchanges in that same society.

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