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Re: <nettime> Jaron lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class
Newmedia on Wed, 15 May 2013 20:35:02 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Jaron lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class


Jon:
 
> As i said it appears to me that people have been struggling 
> with this since the 90s and i see no sign of it stopping. 
 
Thanks!  You are certainly correct that the various "professions" have  
circled their own wagons and not stepped up to the challenge of understanding  
the effects of digital media.  So, most of what has been said is in the  
popular press etc (i.e. Lanier, Johnson, Carr, Morozov etc).
 
Since I've been a part of those discussions -- which is how nettime  found 
me and invited me to "keynote" Metaforum III in Budapest -- and I probably  
personally know most of the people who have been writing about these issues 
for  the public, my observation is that -- 
 
1) While there are lots of opinions there has been little careful  
"thought," very little "science" and even less attention to the underlying  
"history."
 
2) As a result, most of what has been said becomes "special-pleading" with  
almost no "legitimacy" (outside of the author's fan-base) and is just more  
background noise in a world beset by "information overload."
 
3) To the extent that there are "policy-makers" who count, this lack of any 
 coherence (or even peer review) just encourages them to ignore the 
problems  caused by fundamental technological changes.
 
> I'd just guess life did not stop with Mcluhan

Exactly!   And, therein lies the problem . . . 
 
McLuhan lived in the television era and his most-remembered comments (i.e.  
those which were turned into "ad-copy") are best for understanding  the 
ONCE new effects of television (i.e. in the 1950s/60s) --  specifically when 
compared to radio (i.e. HOT and COOL) and books (i.e. Global  Village etc) 
but, since he died in 1980 (and was largely ignored after the early  70s), he 
did NOT have much-of-anything to say about "computers" or "networks" or  the 
effects of *digital* technology.
 
The McLuhan "revival" beginning in the 90s at WIRED etc wasn't McLuhan at  
all but the version of him that passed through the intestines of the Whole 
Earth  gang.  Their interest was in "co-evolution" of humans and machines, as 
 reflected in Kevin Kelly's books about "What Technology Wants," which has  
nothing to do with McLuhan (except perhaps in reverse.)
 
Grasping the *differences* between the effects of DIGITAL technology --  
social, psychological and economic -- and the corresponding effects of  
television etc (i.e. what McLuhan actually wrote about) would require a) first  
understanding what television did *to* us and b) some method/technique of  
comparing those effects to the ones *caused* by newer technologies.
 
Is there any body of research that does this -- with or without  McLuhan?
 
There have been a couple books published in the past few years  that 
purport to deal with this on McLuhan's terms but, alas, they  really don't (and, 
I'll guess that you never heard of them) -- an unfortunate  result of being 
published as "text-books" hoping to capitalize on high-priced  "media 
studies" college courses.
 
The Schmidt/Cohen "metaphor" of living in two *civilizations* echoes the  
work of Sherry Turkle (and others?) and, IMHO, is valuable precisely because 
it  requires an analysis that is based on *differences* and not treating the 
 Internet as if it's just another version of ad-supported mass media.
 
If you know of any "serious" work along these lines, please tell us . . . 
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY


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