SV: Robert Aunger essay

From: Mogens Olesen (
Date: Sat 15 Apr 2006 - 16:34:44 GMT

  • Next message: Jesse Micheal Fagan: "Re: Robert Aunger essay"

    Regarding whether the media substrate is neutral or not, there is an entire branch within Media Studies, which argues that it isn’t neutral. I’m talking about the Medium Theory school, normally connected to Marshall McLuhan who famously proclaimed that “the medium is the message”, that is: the choice of medium is actually more important for our way of life than whichever content it transmits. I think there is a lot of truth to that although it is stated in a rather extreme fashion – which is typical of McLuhan’s probing style.


    Taking a meme’s eye view, it certainly matters whether it is transmitted by e.g. a book or internet. It’s all about the replication ability of the transmitter. Therefore, I’m not sure whether we should distinguish sharply between a meme in a human brain and a virus in a computer – both are “units of cultural transmission” (Dawkins’ definition of a meme). The difference is rather the degree of human involvement, which is – at best – indirect in the case of computer viruses. It could be – as for instance Aunger points out – that we are witnessing an evolution of memes developing/selecting towards ever better replicators for themselves. This evolution takes them away from their human origin towards information technology that holds more replication potential.


    Well, just some thought on an Easter Saturday…


    All the best,



    Fra: [] På vegne af Kate Distin Sendt: 15. april 2006 11:39 Til: Emne: Re: Robert Aunger essay


    Robin Faichney wrote:

    Friday, April 14, 2006, 9:47:52 PM, Scott wrote:

    Do the provcesses of reading versus listening have any effects on the way content is apprehended by the receiver? Are the substrates truly neutral?

      Not sure what you have in mind there, but I'd insist that the book and the (unedited) tape or CD of someone reading it contain the same information, even though the medium might have various effects on the memetic propagation. I suppose it's a matter of degree, though, when the total packages -- content plus medium effects -- are compared. Maybe book and CD are 98% the same? Also, I think it's important to distinguish between effects on the individuals encountering the packages on one hand from distribution differentials on the other. I'd guess medium has more effect on the latter than the former.

    The substrate is not neutral. It has an impact in all sorts of ways - some media are not as good as others at long-term preservation, some cannot hold information with the same accuracy as others (CD vs. vinyl) and some as you say have a different impact on individuals encountering the information - but as you emphasise this doesn't mean that [almost] the same information cannot be preserved in each.





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