Friday, August 05, 2005

At Ghost in the Wire, Kenneth Rufo has a interesting analysis on the trope of media technology displacement and obsolescence. In part, he writes:
The other examples don't even come this close. With the Half-Blood Prince still flying off shelves, it's hard to say that either hypertext or video games have ended the culture of book reading. Newspapers are everywhere, with blogs largely parasitic off of their reporting efforts. And fear not, podcasts will not replace radio broadcasts any time soon.

So why is this claim so often incorrect? Well, a couple of reasons.

1. The displacement narrative confuses the current function of a medium with the medium itself. In effect, it reduces the potential of a medium to its operational economy. Typing puts word to paper more efficiently than does handwriting, and so handwriting will soon be pictured next to the dodo in the annals of history, or so the theory goes.
2. It ignores the importance of temporality in assessing mediation. Radio has the advantage of "live" broadcasts - commonly referred to now as "real time" - while podcasts do not. Podcasts can fulfill some of the functions of radio, to be sure, but they cannot catpure its rhythms. Those rhythms matter, as they determine the potential and the reception of particular media.

Read the whole post at

Cross-posted to Machina Memorialis.

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