Week 4: As We May Think

From telegraph to telephone, from calculating machine to information high way, from photography to television, As We May Think and Technology of The Third Mediamorphosis  both give me a clear-cut clue of the history of media technology. From Roger Fidler’s opinion, the third great mediamorphosis inaugurated by the powerful agents of technological change has had a profound influence upon nearly every individual, society and culture. The development of increasingly faster methods for transporting goods, which drove industrialization, created a supervening social necessity for high speed communication carrying huge amount of data.

Fidler focus on the transforming technologies that have emerged since the onset of the third mediamorphosis and the role that digital language is now playing in the development of new media and the transformation of established media enterprises.

Traditional communication systems were no longer adequate to deal with the rapidly increasing demands for faster exchanges of information. Communicate directly and instantly without the assistance of trained operators to technically mediate messages.

Vannevar Bush analyzes the progress course on a more philosophical level. He points out there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. He provides an important question: “Of what lasting benefit has been man’s use of science and of the new instruments which his research brought into existence?” First, they have increased his control of his material environment. There is an example in Bush’s article. Two centuries ago Leibnitz invented a calculating machine embodied most of the essential features of recent keyboard devices, but it could not then come into use because the economics of the situation were against it. The world has arrived at an age of cheap complex devices of great reliability; and something is bound to come of it. That is the point.

From his review on the progress of making records in photography, impregnated papers, facsimile transmission, television equipment, to Voder/Vocoder, we can conclude that new media technologies will be far more versatile than present commercial machines, so that they may readily be adapted for a wide variety of operations.

Bush also realized the needs of business, and the extensive market obviously waiting, assured the advent of mass-produced computers just as soon as production methods were sufficiently advanced. “It is readily possible to construct a machine which will manipulate premises in accordance with formal logic”. I agree that this process, however, is simple and rapid selection. People cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but we certainly ought to be able to learn from it. In minor ways we may even improve, for our records have relative permanency. Again for instance, about the records, memex, there is, of course, provision for consultation of the record by the usual scheme of indexing. It affords an immediate step, however, to associative indexing, the basic idea of which is a provision whereby any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another. This is the essential feature. From this case, we can say that the process of tying two items together is the important thing.

The arguments I like best and supposed be the theme of this article is: “In the outside world, all forms of intelligence, whether of sound or sight, have been reduced to the form of varying currents in an electric circuit in order that they may be transmitted. Inside the human frame exactly the same sort of process occurs. Must we always transform to mechanical movements in order to proceed from one electrical phenomenon to another? It is a suggestive thought, but it hardly warrants prediction without losing touch with reality and immediateness.”“Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems.”

Jing Gu

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