Questions for week 1 articles

Questions for the article “Digital McLuhan”

1. What are the differences between the pre-literate acoustic world and the alphabetical visual world? How does the media of television become a part of the acoustic world?

The acoustic world envelops us, connects us with that world physically, audibly, olfactorially, without necessarily allowing us to stop experiencing it. For example, we can not stop hearing the jackhammer, or smelling the landfill, we can only move further away from them — and even a newborn can experience those things and interpret them. Alternatively, the alphabetical visual world is interpretable only after you gain usage of the alphabet, which as far as I’m concerned, may not be an alphabet at all, but just an understanding of the basic forms of communication in a particular context. The television allows for the passive engagement with the content. You need not be looking at a television in order to experience that content. This is one reason that commercials are sometimes much louder than the show, because even while you’re getting your snack in the next room, you can still experience the advertisement.

2. Why does the alphabet have the segregating tendencies? How exactly does the printing press reverse the segregating tendencies?

An alphabet (which I see as a metaphor) is potentially segregating because those without knowledge of the use of the alphabet (or language, or practice, or actions) cannot make use of it to communicate or extract meaning from content encoded in it. The printing press allowed for more persons than before to gain access to the alphabet, as they got books in their homes, gained familiarity with the structure and use of alphabetic encoding of ideas, and made the alphabet theirs, they became part of the ‘haves’ and no longer were segregated. I see blogging as an extension of this idea, potentially allowing publishing to be in the hands of everyone.

3. How does the alphabetic communication in online communication make cyberspace acoustic? How is the online acoustic world different from the television, radio, or print acoustic world?

I don’t know that it does. Alphabetic communication in cyberspace is really very similar in my opinion to reading a newspaper, in that it’s a fairly visually oriented experience, if we are talking only of text on the digital page. If we are talking about a more sophisticated digital experience, such as text mixed with images, video, interactions, updates, and audio, then I feel that the experience is far more acoustic, and likely has a lower threshold of entry in terms of prerequisite knowledge to gain the message. My 4 year old might stare blankly at a page of text, such as this blog entry, but if I made a video on YouTube of myself reading the message, he would at least hear the message, and be able to try to interpret it. My 9 month old would be able to hear but not interpret the video message.

4. Not only do we invent media and media technologies but also we select their uses in different contexts. What are the two selection criteria? According to the selection criteria, please discuss what will happen to our online communication in 20 years.

I did not see these selection criteria in the reading, nor did I find anything about these criteria in some quick searches online, so I’ll make some guesses here. We select media based on the needs of the content and the capabilities of the audience. If the message absolutely requires the transmission of audible music, then sheet music will fall short of the goal. If a violinist is a great sight reader, but cannot play by ear, then the sheet music will be required, while the beautiful music being played for her will just be a taunt.

Questions for the article “The Internet”

1. The ideation of the Internet depends on a critical concept about data organization and delivery. What is the concept? How does this concept relate to the idea of a web?

The concept is packetization — breaking up the bulky data and sending it in tiny chunks, then reassembling on the other end. It is a binary act: counting and recording, then disassembing, sending, and reassembling the data. This relates to the web analogy in that the tiny pieces can be sent simultaneously, in parallel, in series, over the trillion fine silky strands of the internetworked nodes.

2. The creation of network communication is closely related to the Cold War. How does the incubation of the Internet communication bear the features of military inspired thinking?

The internet was created as a reliable, nuclear winter proof, hydra like communication network. A way to send messages over long distances even if major parts of the network were completely distroyed.

3. How do the commercial Internet services start?

The National Science Foundation decided to allow the use of what was once ARPAnet by the general public, and soon after, commercial internet services, AOL amongst them, became available.

4. At the end of the article, the author does not value the idea of selling goods and services on the Internet because people like shopping and traveling in actual physical space. Considering the idea of acoustic world in the article of “Digital McLuhan,” please explain why the author’s comments are incorrect in today’s Internet age.

The internet allows for a reasonable facsimile of the acoustic world, sans the effort of travelling in it. The author has a bias that people enjoy and prefer travelling in physical space, smelling the smells, and hearing the sounds of a mall for example. I for one am the living antithesis of the idea. Buying a book in a physical bookstore versus on, for example, is a case where both can be enjoyable, but one clearly requires less effort.


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