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Have you ever wondered how we came to communicate?


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Marshall McLuhan Elizabeth Eisenstein
Neil Postman----

Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.
- Marshall McLuhan,
Understanding Media, 1964.

The ability to communicate can be deemed the most powerful attribute a human being possesses. It may also be regarded as a strict disciple, serving to educate, and inform society. Today, a higher level of learning and knowledge are maintained due to the volume of communication we are exposed to. Thus, communication may be regarded as a specialized function, as it encompasses our everyday lives, and helps us function more efficiently and productively.Communication insures understanding and provides knowledge of information. As a society we have all come to understand communication and in particular how technology, has radically helped to improve the way information is transmitted. To fully garner an understanding of communication we must first look at the first means people used to communicate.

For centuries verbal mediation served the function of informing and expressing information. Cultures depended on spoken words, opposed to written, ensuring a direct understanding between source and receivers were maintained. Oral communication left little room for ambiguity, and discrimination of the illiterate. Oral communication is present in our everyday lives, from the car radio providing the latest traffic reports, to a professor educating students in a lecture hall, all oral mediations serve to provide the same service: to inform and provide new information. Although oral communication seems most practical, there is a void between information and preservation of ideas.
With the evolution of the print press came the evolution of preservation. Ideas could now be stored for future centuries. Print mediation provided a society a way of preserving history and tradition, and also served as an independent learning tool. Marshal McLuhan suggested that print, “allows logical and analytical thinking to occur” (1998). He also asserts that, “technology of print communications can be seen as promoting both individualism and uniformity” (1998). Print mediation was both limited in quantity as well was only available to a select few audiences. However it was a way of keeping the society connected with the past but also knowledgeable of the future. Print media are prevalent everywhere, as an example books, newspapers, magazines, etc.

Communication must be understood as a process, which has evolved over time from these traditional mediations. Today, communication and the way we communicate have radically changed. Although, traditional means of communication will never be eradicated, it is important to understand that technology has aided in the way we interact. Technology assists in the transmission of information because it has the ability to surpass many boundaries. According to Manuel Castell’s idea of “space of flows” he explains this idea of the transmission of information. He goes on to define the space of flows as "the material organization of time-sharing social practices that work through flows" (147). There is no physical space, and time and space should not be disconnected. As an example, consider communication over the internet. The internet may be regarded as an open communication field which links people all around the world. We may stay connected and informed because such communication mediums are present and allows us to do so. The idea of the internet plays on Castell’s theory because two people do not need to be in the same vicinity to share information or interact. MSN, ICQ, Yahoo Chat, e-mail, are all prime examples of different ways people communicate over the internet and surpass, the idea of the physical space.
Another example is this Wiki assignment. We are all able to communicate together, on one shared space from various locations. We all interact, and work together to build on one bank of information.

Technology functions to improve our lives, and the way that we communicate. Information has the ability to span borders, allowing us to be interconnected in our global world. Although, technology serves as an improvement in the way information is transmitted and received, we must also consider that the “digital divide” which draws a gap between individuals. Overall communication is communication, and ideas, thoughts, and information will be transmitted by whatever channel they are transmitted over. It is important to note that communication is regarded as a form knowledge, and knowledge is thus, power.


Castells, Manuel. "An Introduction to the Information Age." The Information Society ReaderThe Information Society Reader. Frank Webster, et al. London and New York: Routledge, 2004. 138-149.

Evans, Daniela Lesley (1998). “A Critical Examination of Claims Concerning the ‘Impact’ of Print”, The Media and Communications Site, Edited by Daniel Chandler, March 1998. Online at: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/students/dle9701.html

Image of McLuhan: www.mcluhan.ca/----
Oral, Print, to Internet Communication

For many centuries, communication has had a major impact on the Western culture. In today’s society communication has improved the way information is processed and acknowledged. A definition of knowledge can be described as familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study. Many ideas have come together to reinforce the impact of oral and written communication in society. Oral communication to printed mediations has ensured the Western culture with a higher level of knowledge through traditional mediums (oral) to configurations (print). McLuhan and Postman believed that print allowed more logical and analytical thinking to occur. Also, McLuhan believed print culture separated writing from speech whereas in oral culture all of ones senses functioned at once.

Oral communication was the only medium available back in the twentieth century which maintained structure and tradition in society. Most people relied on oral communications which help society become more informed about what is going on around them. “Medieval People relied on day to day information solely on what they themselves, or someone they know, had observed or experienced in the world immediately around them” (CIH 74). Since facts were only transferred through oral means, people were only able to obtain information/facts through the word of mouth. As time passed, oral communication was not only a way of communication but a way to maintain knowledge.

During that time, “An individual that grows-up in an oral culture tends to be highly contextualized. Their cognitive structure is like a seamless web” (Clariana 1). Many people can collect information by many means and can expand their mind which in turn acts as a backbone of structure that ensures a higher level of knowledge. This can be seen in our everyday tasks such as, going out with friends to a movie and talking among each other which we create discussion that is very interpersonal. Furthermore, “Competent oral communication skills training should assist individuals to inform, to provide data, to give directions, to explain, to argue, to persuade and negotiate competently (Blair & Jenson 1). This causes familiarity and understanding among people and increases their knowledge through oral communication.

As time passed, people were not only maintaining information orally but also gathering information in print. People would do research on a topic, gather information for that topic, put it into print and sell it to the general public to become more aware of issues that reside within society.

This was made possible by the Gutenberg revolution which had a great impact on the entire world. “As new technology gained momentum, printing and reading became a cyclical process that reinforced itself” (MN 67). At first print was not very useful to the average person due to the fact that it was very expensive and most people did not know how to read because communication was predominantly oral. Through the twentieth and fifteen century a major revolution occurred. The first being script, which allowed people to learn the alphabet. Second there was the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and bible which lead to mass fabrication of print. This propelled “the development of a print culture [which] greatly diminished the importance of the spoken word” (Evans 1). Although communication was essentially the basis of knowledge, the evolution of print reinforced the ability to obtain facts and make people more knowledgeable without having to obtain a vast amount of information. The printing press was truly revolutionary and led to the restoration of many myths, tales etc… that could have only been keep by oral means in the past. Gutenberg’s printing press, allowed for the preservation of myths and tales and also a reconstruction of a knowledgeable society.

There are many avenues for communication via the internet. One program that is very popular that almost everyone that has access to computers uses is the MSN Messenger. People use this is form of instant communication where physical space dose not matter. According to Manuel Castells space of flows is not an actual physical space; it is the flow of information that is shared with others on the internet. It’s a borderless space that goes beyond the physical element of space (Webster). This is exactly how MSN messenger works. People are able to communicate to each other even if they are on the other side of the world. Not only did people communicate with words on MSN but now there are special crafted emotions and pictures that are used in this Peer to Peer (P2P) communication (Microsoft 4).

Many people also use yahoo or hotmail to communicate to each but this is not instantaneous like MSN. Yahoo and hotmail are two types of email (electronic mail) which are commonly used in today’s society to communicate to one another.

Another form of communication were people can post there thoughts and communicate to others would be in a form of wikis and blogs. There is only one difference between both, which is that “Wikis de-emphasis identity whereas Blogs emphasis them” (Next Build 2). People have access in posting information on whatever they please and others are able to read, view, add and change whatever already exists in that space. A good example of a blog is when teachers post information for students to view. This not only acts as communicating tool, but also a tool of educating which in turn generates more knowledge in society.


BLAIR, Deb and Sharon Jeanson (1999) ‘Workplace Education Manitoba Steering Committee’, Understanding Oral Communication in the Workplace. Online at: http://www.wem.mb.ca/ES13.htm

BURKE, James (2003) “Communication in the Middle Ages”, in Communication in History. Technology, Culture, Society. Edited by David Crowley and Paul Heyer.
Fourth Edition. Boston:Allyn and Bacon/Pearson Education, p. 74-82

EVANS, Daniela Lesley (1998). “A Critical Examination of Claims Concerning the ‘Impact’ of Print”, The Media and Communications Site, Edited by Daniel Chandler, March 1998. Online at: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/students/dle9701.html

BOY, B. Clariana. “Teaching Science within an Oral Culture”
Online at: http://personal.psu.edu/faculty/r/b/rbc4/sci/doc

STRAUBHAAR, Joseph and Robert LaRose (2001). “Media Now”. Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. 4th Edition. Belmont: Wadswoth/Thompson.

MICROSOFT Security Bulletin MS05-022. Online at:
Webster, Frank. “The Information society reader”

Next Build: Blogs, Wikis, and RRS as Enterprise Content Applications

Scholars Thoughts on Technology: Marshall McLuhan Foresees The Global Village

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Marshall McLuhan's insights made the concept of a global village, interconnected by an electronic nervous system, part of our popular culture well before it actually happened. Marshall McLuhan was the first person to popularize the concept of a global village and to consider its social effects. His insights were revolutionary at the time, and fundamentally changed how everyone has thought about media, technology, and communications ever since. McLuhan chose the insightful phrase "global village" to highlight his observation that an electronic nervous system (the media) was rapidly integrating the planet -- events in one part of the world could be experienced from other parts in real-time, which is what human experience was like when we lived in small villages.
McLuhan's second best known insight is summarized in the expression "the medium is the message", which means that the qualities of a medium have as much effect as the information it transmits. For example, reading a description of a scene in a newspaper has a very different effect on someone than hearing about it, or seeing a picture of it, or watching a black and white video, or watching a colour video. McLuhan was particularly fascinated by the medium of television, calling it a "cool" medium, noting its soporific effect on viewers. He took great satisfaction years later when medical studies showed that TV does in fact cause people to settle into passive brain wave patterns. One wonders what McLuhan would make of the Internet?
Like Norbert Wiener and J.C.R. Licklider McLuhan made a study of the extrapolation of current trends in technology, and specialized in the effects on human communications. He generally felt that the developments he described would be positive, but particularly worried about the potential for very sophisticated, manipulative advertising.
McLuhan's ideas have permeated the way we in the global village think about technology and media to such an extent that we are generally no longer aware of the revolutionary effect his concepts had when they were first introduced. McLuhan made the idea of an integrated planetary nervous system a part of our popular culture, so that when the Internet finally arrived in the global village it seemed no less amazing, but still somehow in the natural order of things.


Resources. Two of McLuhan's best known books are The Gutenberg GalaxyThe Gutenberg Galaxy, published in 1962, and Understanding MediaUnderstanding Media, published in 1964.
Link to Article

by Richard Seltzer, B&R Samizdat ExpressLink to Article

Technology makes that culture possible. So technology is essential. But only those innovations which support the underlying culture and help extend it -- which fill fundamental human needs -- are likely to survive.
Life is self-propagating and evolves in adaptation to the exigencies of the physical world. Of the many possible mutations, only a few -- those that serve a useful purpose in the current environment -- survive, reproduce, and flourish.
To some extent technology, too, is self-propagating. If something can be invented, it probably will be. Technology also evolves, adapting to the exigencies of human life and culture. It's survival of the fittest; the law of the jungle; Darwin rules. Of the millions of possible innovations, only a handful will flourish and serve as the basis for further innovation.
So when making investments in technology, it is important to understand the implications for the human environment/culture. How will it be useful in the human context? And with regard to the Internet, in particular, I'd ask -- how will this innovation affect interactions among people? If it will let people connect to one another more completely and naturally or in ways that previously were previously impossible or awkward/difficult, that looks like a winner.