4 Laws of Media Vortex



In what sense are we swept away by the effects of technological innovations?


How does the maelstrom metaphor relate to recent theories concerning chaos and complexity?

but chaos theory is really about finding the underlying order in apparently random data. with a set of twelve equations to model the weather. It didn't predict the weather itself.CHAOS THEORY: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION ´ What exactly is chaos? The name "chaos theory" comes from the fact that the systems that the theory describes are apparently disordered. named Edward Lorenz. He had a computer set up. However this computer program did theoretically predict what the weather might be. ´ When was chaos first discovered? The first true experimenter in chaos was a meteorologist. . In 1960. he was working on the problem of weather prediction.

pg. So. a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn't happen. does. Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos. Or maybe one that wasn't going to happen. (Ian Stewart. ´ The amount of difference in the starting points of the two curves is so small that it is comparable to a butterfly flapping its wings. ´ The flapping of a single butterfly's wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere.THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT. in a month's time. 141) . what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. Over a period of time.

´ But Electric media suppress the brain's ability to do this.chass. ´ Under electric conditions print becomes a selforganizing structure that continually governs the roles of all other media through adjustments to cultural feedback.ca/mcluhanstudies/v1_iss3/1_3art3. Frank Zingrone http://projects.utoronto.SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH SHOWS THAT THE BRAIN NEEDS THE STIMULATION OF CHAOTIC DISEQUILIBRIUM IN ORDER TO COMMUNICATE COMPLEX MEANING. producing a response of unfocused feelings and inattention to detail.htm .

How did McLuhan learn to pay attention to the invisible environment of communication. allowing them to fade into the background and become invisible. Can we do the same? ´ ´ . recognizing an orderly pattern emerging from the turmoil of the whirlpool.´ ´ We often ignore our environments. culture and technology? How successful was he in teaching others to be aware of their media environment? The sailor in Poe·s story escapes from the maelstrom by using his powers of observation.


such as memory? Does it amplify some human capability or augment some form of human action? Does it extend the individual. ENHANCE/EXTEND ´ ´ ´ What human trait or experience does the medium enhance? What is the intended function of the medium or technology? What does it improve or make more efficient? Does it extend part of the human body? One or more of the senses? ´ Does it extend an aspect of the human mind. the group or society? .1.

become an art object. OBSOLESCE ´ ´ What pre-existing technology. system.2. or medium does this medium obsolesce? What older technology does the new medium replace? What does it render unnecessary? What procedures does it short-circuit or bypass? ´ What happens to the old medium that is rendered obsolescent? Does it disappear entirely. or find a new niche? . method.

RETRIEVE ´ ´ What technology. practices or artifacts are brought to the fore? ´ What aspects of the prehistoric. medieval or early modern world are revived? . ancient. system or medium that was previously obsolesced or abandoned does this medium retrieve? What archaic elements are made relevant again? What previously marginalized or repressed ideas. method.

what will the medium reverse into? What effects will the medium create that are opposite to what was originally intended? ´ What are the contradictions inherent in the technology? What is the ecological impact? .REVERSE ´ ´ When fully utilized or pushed to its extreme.

TELEVISION ´ Television enhances our ability to see and hear across time and space. retrieves the hearth and campfire as the centre for communal entertainment and reverses into new forms of individual and societal isolation . obsolesces older media like radio (forcing them to reinvent themselves).

makes the horse and buggy obsolescent.THE AUTOMOBILE ´ The automobile enhances our mobility. retrieves the knight in armor and reverses into the traffic jam. .

WORD PROCESSING ´ Word processing enhances our ability to produce printed text. retrieves the scroll and the manuscript as open. . obsolesces the typewriter. changeable text and reverses into oral communication through word recognition and speech synthesis software.

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THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE? McLuhan is especially insistent that an analysis of media content is meaningless--misses the point--since it is the medium which carries the lion·s share of the communication. thus it is more powerful than the message. These perceptual transformations. which creates new forms of awareness. This is what the paradox. which largely appeals to the conscious mind. among the senses. Simply put. the medium affects the body and the psyche in relatively unconscious ways. the new ways of experiencing that each medium creates. or ratio. Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone write: The perception of reality now depends upon the structure of information. occur in the user regardless of the program content. "the medium is the message. The form of each medium is associated with a different arrangement. (3) ." means. In their Introduction to the Essential McLuhan.

and print is the content of the telegraph. means that the "content" of any medium is always another medium. He reveled in paradox. The content of writing is speech. just as the written word is the content of print. For example. It is a medium without a message. This fact. His method as a media critic was to launch what he called "probes" and hope that when they landed they would generate more light than heat. (151) . McLuhan illustrates the concept "the medium is the message" as follows in Understanding Media: The instance of the electric light may prove illuminating in this connection. McLuhan was untroubled by them. The electric light is pure information. much to the annoyance of his critics. as it were. unless it is used to spell out some verbal ad or name.Speaking of paradoxes. characteristic of all media.

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