Sunday, February 24, 2013

Week 5: McLuhan's Tetrad


The tetrad describes four effects (enhance, reverse, retrieve, and obsolesce) that all technology/medium has on society. McLuhan believed that the introduction of new technologies/medium into a society has a determining influence on how that society is organized, how its members perceive the world around them and how knowledge is stored and shared (Collections Canada, 2007). McLuhan argues that media are languages, with their own grammar and structure, and that they can be studied as such (Collections Canada, 2007). McLuhan saw the goal of technology/media studies as making the invisible, visible.

McLuhan viewed all technologies as extensions of our bodies: the phone is an extension of the voice and the pencil is an extension of the hand. He believed these extensions altered their respective environments.


I find myself tethered to my mobile device. Communication today is moving at a very fast paced. There was a time when you could work at a slower pace but not anymore.  My mobile device is essential for my professional environment. It allows me to constantly be accessible. I can transfer my office phone to my mobile; participate in conference calls; draft and respond to emails; view and approve documents it all happens seamlessly and regardless of where I am and what I’m doing.

McLuhan’s tetrad examines the effects on society of any technology/medium (put another way: a means of explaining the social processes underlying the adoption of a technology/medium) by dividing its effects into four categories and displaying them simultaneously (Wikipedia, 2013a). The tetrad presents four questions: 1. What does it enhance? What is enlarged, amplified or increased (or minimized) or accelerated (if previously slow) or retarded (if previously slow)? (Ohler, 2010) 2. What do it make obsolete? What is displaced, pushed offstage, or sidelined? (Ohler, 2010) 3. What does it retrieve? What is renewed, reactivated, updated, comeback or revived that had been obsolesced earlier? (Ohler, 2010) 4. What is the flip? What happens when the medium is pushed to extremes? What does the subject turn into when its enhancement process eventually becomes the norm instead of the unusual? (Ohler, 2010) It is important to remember all four laws happen simultaneously and not in sequential order. Every technology enhances, obsolesces, retrieves, and flips, all at the same time (Ohler, 2010).

1. What has my mobile device enhanced? My mobile device has enhanced my ability to get work done. I’m able to work anytime and anywhere. I can respond quickly to issue via phone, text or email that will allow things to keep moving rather than sitting still and waiting for me to arrive at the office.

2. What has my mobile device obsolesce? It has made my physical presence obsolete. I can be anywhere and chime into a conference call, respond to an email, send an email, forward documents, etc. There was a time when you couldn’t sync your email to your mobile device. So there were limitations on how productive you could be especially without access to email during transit situations (i.e., commute to the office, walking from one meeting to another or in my case shuttling from one building to another, etc.) but now those limitations are removed. I can be more productive regardless of my location or activity.

3. What has my mobile device retrieved that was lost? It allows me to retrieve awareness, omnipresence. There was a time when town/cities were small; everyone knew everything about everyone but with modernization we outgrew walking a few blocks to work or living in the loft space above the office. Those were the days when as you walked down the street you were told all the latest neighborhood gossip.

4. What is the flip for Facebook when pushed to its extreme? Rather than working 40 hours week, I find myself working 60-65 hours a week because I’m always connected and accessible. I’m always “on.” There was a time when I left the office now I take the office with me, wherever I go.


Ohler holds high-regard for the tetrad and says, “It provides much grist for the mill even for novices who are trying to see the impacts of technology more clearly (p.134). He also believes the tetrad benefits students because they can use it as an investigative tool for modern technologies.

(2013a, February 18). Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Collections Canada. (2007, March 6). Retrieved from
Ohler, J. B. (2010). Digital Community Digital Citizen. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.




Sunday, February 17, 2013

Week 4: Marshall McLuhan (part 1)

Marshall McLuhan was a controversial professor, author, lecturer and researcher in media, technology and communication. Since his death, his work has continued to provide a powerful framework for analyze of communication and media. He is most noted for his for interests in predicting the future of technology, most notably the internet and coining for “global village,” “the medium is the message” and “retribalized.”
In a 1969 interview with Playboy ( the reporter asks, “Would you describe this retribalizing process in more detail? (mcluhanmedia, 2008)” McLuhan provides an in-depth understanding. In a sense he is equating “retribalized” to a “global village”; a community that is no longer fragmented by class, literate, access to information and educational resources. McLuhan discusses how in tribes everyone sat around; heard and shared stories at the same time; and how the alphabet and printing started the beginning of a fragmented society based on access to information, classism, education, etc. He equates a “global village” or “retribalized” as returning to everyone having access and receiving information at the same time. 
He associates retribalization to ethnic groups that remain close to their tribal roots. The sense of community allowed people tribalized people to communicate and share information. He describes Western civilization as fragmented, alienated and dissociated. He cites the alphabet and printing as the beginning of fragmentation in Western civilization. McLuhan says all media from the phonetic alphabet to the computer are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment (mcluhanmedia, 2008).
However his prediction of an electronically intertwine world set the stage for a “retribalization” or “global village.” “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village” (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967). It was through this global village that McLuhan identified the retribalization process, the reconnection of man in, “a new state of multitudinous tribal existences” (McLuhan, 1969, 2004).  The internet is proving a real-time link of accurate information about what is happening on a global scale and not all information is coming from the media. Instead the media is increasingly using social media as an indicator of what us accurate or true based on their numbers “followers” or “subscribers”…a “global village.”

McLuhan was obviously a man ahead of his time with enormous insight into the future of media, technology, and communication. I am personally interested in his predictions about politics and the USA political system. On September 24, 1976, he provided a candid interviewed with Tom Brokaw and Edwin Newman the morning after the Carter/Ford Debate. His predictions and theories continue to be analyzed and studied by a new generation of theorist and researchers that are looking to uncover or expand on theories from McLuhan’s work.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Week 3: Mobile Myself

I merge Yelp and Livestream. Yelp is an online business directory founded in 2004 with social networking capabilities and user reviews. Yelp had an average of approximately 86 million monthly unique visitors in Q4 2012 (Yelp, 2013).
You can access Yelp via the web or apps available on through iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. Livestream connects people and live events. More than 30 million viewers each month watch thousands of live events (Livestream, 2013). Livestream is available via the web or apps available through iPhone, 
Android, and Blackberry.
The new social media platform would be called Voyeur. The convergence of these two mediums would allow consumers to view “real time” streaming video footage of various establishments (i.e., restaurants, clubs, bars, grocery stores, shopping malls, etc, before venturing out which would allow them the opportunity to arrive at the optimum time.
There is nothing worse than arriving at your favorite restaurant only to find a line out the door and an hour and half wait; you need to go to the grocery store, but you want to go when it’s not congested and the lines are short;  it’s a special night, you and your friends are planning a night out but you want to make sure the club or bar you select is “happening” this new technology would provide all the normal information Yelp provides (contact information, reviews, ratings, photos, and suggestions - i.e., don’t sit at table #23, there is a constant draft; table #33 has the best view; ask for Sarah’s section, she is fun and knows how to pair your food with a great wine, etc.)  You would also have the ability (during operating hours) to view “real time” video footage inside any establishment before you leave home or while in transit. 

Livestream. (2013, February 6). Retrieved from
Yelp. (2013, February 6). Retrieved from

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Week 2: Digital Community, Digital Citizenship

If you have a Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or even an email account; you are a digital citizen. By merely using these technologies and others you have branded yourself a digital citizen. You elected to be a part this digital community (Facebook, email, etc.) it was not forced upon.  When you sign up for any social media account or even an email account (personal, work or school) you are required to agree with certain terms and conditions of that site before you are accepted. Your consent makes you a part of that community; you are automatically sent an email welcoming you to the service with your username and password. Once you are online, there are levels of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. If you post offensive or inappropriate content and a user reports you; it’s a violation the agreed on terms and conditions. You will be penalized in various manners depending on the site.
So, once you log into your accounts and begin to communicate and exchange information with others you are exercising your right as digital citizen. The term global citizenship or digital citizenship implies that traditional concepts of geography and place are not as important as they used to be to our understanding of citizenship (Ohler, 2010).
You are seeing the notion of geography cast aside in reference to anything digital. People are now working remotely, attending classes remotely and doctors are even evaluating and monitoring patients remotely. Your real and digital lives have crossed pollinated, geography is no longer a barrier but now you don’t know what is real because so much of your lives are lived through social media.  People are entering into long distance relationships, falling in love and believing they have finally met their significant others. The relationships are based solely on a series of images, status updates, and conversations through social media. In some cases, they have never seen each other and they have never communicated outside of social media with Skype, FaceTime or even telephone but they claim they are in love.
The focus on online relationships and how they form has become increasingly popular since the award winning documentary, Catfish which is now a weekly television show on MTV. A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they're not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances (Urban Dictionary, 2013). This practice was thrust into mainstream headlines a few weeks ago because of an incident involving a fake girlfriend hoax against Notre Dame Linebacker, Manti Te’o.  
In the PBS documentary, Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier they “present an in-depth exploration of what it means to be human in a 21st-century digital world” (PBS , 2010). Internet usage in South Korea has become a public healthcare crisis. The government has stepped in and is now teaching children healthy internet habits. Second graders in South Korea are taught how to use a computer right around the same time they are learning to read. They are learning more than just technical functions. They are learning something every digital citizen should be taught; Digital Citizenship comes with expectations and responsibilities.
I’m sure Douglas Rushkoff, author of books on media, technology and culture probably never thought we would reach this point. Rushkoff, reassured people for decades about the positives of the digital revolution but now he says, “I want to know whether or not we are tinkering with something more essential than we realize." (PBS , 2010)

Urban Dictionary. (2013). Retrieved from
Ohler, J. B. (2010). Digital Community Digital Citizen. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.