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McLuhan Question

Ed Leahy asked me:

“If the medium is the message…. What is the message of Author? In short, what are the new effects it will create?”

Good question. I will look at this from the Augmented Text Suite of Author, Reader and Liquid though, including Visual-Meta, rather than simply Author.

According to Laws of Media by Marshall and Eric McLuhan, the media Tetrad shows what any media ENHANCES, REVERSES INTO, RETRIEVES & OBSOLESCES.

I spent some time going though the examples and got stuck on how digital text is not just one thing. However, I feel fairly safe in stating that augmented text REVERSES INTO the fluidity of thought, from the rigidity of written text, while still retains the fixity of text on a substrate.

It is precisely this fluidity and fixity which I think is what it ENHANCES; augmented text can be easily interacted with to follow or create connections but it will stay fixed longer than our short term memory can support.

It RETRIEVES an extended thinking space once only possible in sand, and then only at a lot less functionality.

The last one is nice. It OBSOLESCES clerical work of formatting and creating paratexts. 

In short, the effect augmented text creates is an environment where fluid thought can be connected to fixed-moveable text, all the while removing barriers to a more liquid workflow.

Thanks for asking Ed!

What does the future hold? That depends on what we bring to it. I bring increasingly richly interactive text to augment our thinking.


Published inCorrespondanceScholarly CopyThoughts


  1. Nicholas Spies

    Was my comment of 7 Apr moderated into the trash?

  2. Ed Leahy

    We’re forgetting our organizing principle!

    Advances academic research with 21st century speed efficiency and convenience

    • The 21st century aspect appeals to you and me but it’s pointed out that students won’t think about that at all. It was 21 years ago…

      I have to be very careful not to conflate benefits of the internet and my own specific software, so that is why they three main bullet points are

      • quick and easy citing
      • integrated mind map
      • automatic export to academic PDF

      Ads on YouTube are skiable after 5 seconds so that does not give a lot of lead time before the main benefits are delivered! However, at least I am working on how to target the ads to only students and only Mac’s.

      This is the current ad:

  3. Ed Leahy

    If the press created the public and the locomotive created the American West and the book created world wide individual thought and the computer in the form of Skype and others is beginning the revolutionized the world wide work space and will make distance totally irrelevant. Driven by the pandemic offices, schools, media outlets world wide TV will never be what they were! Your app makes the library as real estate irrelevant. and reduce libraries and research into one giant pool of easily accessible knowledge!

    • I think that is more about the web than what these tools can do. However, I am working with the Visual-Meta approach to make documents a pool of knowledge, so that is fair. Linking by documents rather than by location.

    • Distance (and time too!) has been practically irrelevant since the Internet is around, just took many people a COVID-19 pandemic to realize, and some even today still don’t really get it. Libraries/archives might still be needed to keep/preserve physical media/backups, but their new role does not need to be to provide “access” or conspire in some lending nonsense, and instead be open/public centers helping people with their data needs. Will too take forever to transition, which is not because of technology, but because it takes forever to update and teach brains, and given the poor backwards inadequate education approach, there’s no way to have humans catch up with what would be needed or technically easily possible.

    • Want to add, identity is irrelevant too. Just consider the Turing test, forward or reverse, no way to find out or know who/what is on the other side, whether it’s real or not, which is why identity tends to get established per verification over multiple different channels/media.

    • Nicholas Spies

      It might be useful to point out that the world wide web (and cell phones) instantiates the ‘noosphere ‘ of Vernadsky and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, turning the idea into a reality. The way I understand it, just as multicellular organisms subsume the individuality of the cells comprising them, creating a supra-individual, the WWW is having the effect of subsuming people into a supra-mind on a planetary scale. This would seem to obsolesce the goal of becoming an ‘uomo universale’ and the goal of education for the past 500 years (or, if you prefer, since classical times), for the focus has shifted from us as individual humans to our role as ‘cells’ subservient to the needs of Gaia.

      This may sound like some sort of demented metaphysics but for the undeniable fact that we are now aware that we are facing multiple existential crises on a planetary scale. The survival of Gaia is now of more consequence than ourselves as individuals. Global warming, nuclear annihilation, environmental catastrophe, wealth inequities, race relations, and more have made the Trivium and Quadrivium quaint relics of obsolete conceptions of who or what we should be. Education is in complete disarray while some of those most successful in adapting/exploiting the technical bases of ‘globalism’ (e.g. Gates and Jobs) did so without the guidance (nor blinkers) of higher education.

      The objectives of Liquid software are to enable citation and relating ideas for redistribution; notably, it is not primarily focused on individual authorship. This is appropriate, for there is a desperate need for synthesizing findings from many disparate disciplines. As you say, this will “…reduce libraries and research into one giant pool of easily accessible knowledge!”

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