Born to be Dialed

April 16, 2009 § Leave a comment

The World at your fingertips

The World at your fingertips

Reviewing the strange trends that have accompanied media revolutions, it occured to me that Marshal McLuhan’s thesis of new media overtaking functions of older one’s was worth pondering in relation to the Internet. Especially digital network media seem to be endowed with a revolutionary force no other medium has ever possessed. In their alleged annihilation of physical space, of lived experience, of social relations, in their drastic rewriting of the rules of business, and the vast opportunities of self-reflection and creation, the digital (network) media find their way into every conceivable act of interaction.

Yet, a quite opposite thesis would hold that these new media merely facilitate and improve what was already there. Now, everyone can make nice and professional looking pictures with a plethora of easy-to-use digital cameras and imaging software. While the developers are working on the next big hit in interaction design, it’s the bulky Yellow Pages disappearing from the hall. Search engine availability optimizes the use of one of the oldest modern media… the telephone. It has become so common to call someone in case of a knowledge gap or where actions need to be coordinated instead of finding an individual solution to a problem. Formulaic language is introduced, similar to a code pattern, that is exchanged vocally instead of a nuanced written text. The easy availability of contact data forces some to artificially close the channel, block off communication to be able to perform their assigned professional functions. On the back of ready access comes a new culture of exclusivity.

“I pick up my telephone receiver and it’s all there; the whole marginal network catches and harasses me with the insupportable good faith of everything that wants and claims to communicate.”

(Baudrillard: “The Ecstasy of Communication“)

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