I am slowly making my way through the fabulous book McLuhan for Managers by Mark Federman and Derrick de Kerckhove. It takes Marshall McLuhan‘s theories/ideas and places them into context for managers. Thus far it has been a terrific tool to help me rethink some of my assumptions. I am particularly taken with a particular critical thinking tool or probe called the “Laws of Media tetrad”. My understanding is that the Laws of Media provide us with four questions to help us understand the effect of new media. Each new media will allow one to answer the four questions; no fewer questions, no additional questions. Wow. About the four questions (page 98):
A medium may EXTEND a particular characteristic or enhance a specific capability. When that particular item is EXTENDED beyond reasonable limits, the over-extension REVERSES into a complementary, but opposite action or form that directly and thematically corresponds to the specific EXTENSION. Similarly, the EXTENDED offering would OBSOLESCE some attributes of an earlier Medium that relates to the aspect being EXTENDED, and RETRIEVE an earlier form of that aspect belonging to some previously OBSOLESCED Medium.
So, essentially you want to find out how a the Medium: EXTENDS, REVERSES, RETRIEVES and OBSOLESCES. Examples given in the book are for foosball (apparently popular with the erstwhile Dot Com crowd), car, and computer.
I’ve been itching to apply this probe to some new Media in my own life to see what I come up with. First up is the BLOG. For convenience I have made a list under each category; however, it is really a circular thinking process with one idea in one category causing me to think of another idea in another category, and I go around and around until I can’t think of anything else. This is where I stopped today, but I expect there is lots more which could be added.
Laws of Media Tetrads: BLOGS
reporting of local events
inside knowledge to outside world
personal presence on the Internet
blogger’s ability to track items on the web, therefore it is a timesaving device
spam blog (“splog”)
very public arguments and embarrassments
libel and slander
traditional news reporting and photography
I’m now anxious to apply this tool to other areas of new initiatives I am trying to see what it might uncover.