Week 3: Making Sense of Digital Networks

This week we were asked to read a couple of papers written by N. Katherine Hayles, a professor and post-modern literary critic at Duke University, and Manuel Castells, a sociologist specialising in information society, communication, and globalisation. However, the reading that interested me the most was the “Introduction” in Critical Terms for Media Studies, edited by W. J. T. Mitchell and Mark B. N. Hansen. In it, Mitchell and Hansen discuss Marshall McLuhan and his most influential work, Understanding Media (1964). McLuhan believes that “media is … [an extension] of man,” meaning that there is a “fundamental correlation” between “the human and the technical” (xii). I find it fascinating that he came up with this idea over fifty years ago when technology wasn’t anywhere near what it is today.

I’m mesmerised by how far we’ve come in such a short time. I can distinctly remember my 8th grade science teacher talking to us on the playground, telling us about machines that were being invented where you could feed in a piece of paper and have it come out from another machine … maybe even across the world! (hello, fax machine!)

He’s also the one who told us that soon we’d be able to use phones that would show you a video of the person you’re speaking to in real time (Skype, anyone?) I mean, this was back in 1985; to me, it doesn’t seem that long ago, but when we consider how quickly technology has taken off in just the past ten years, it feels like eons ago.

Now, I can’t imagine my life without technology. For me, it truly has become “a prosthesis” of sorts (xii). I use various social media sites for networking: Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, Twitter for educational and/or political posts, and Instagram for fun. My iPhone is never more than an arm’s length away from me, which, now that I think about it, is kind of pathetic.

I’m like a forlorn iPhone lover, pining to hold it even if it’s charging in the next room.

“My precious…”

Works Cited

Cappell, Tanja. “Collage of Digital (Social) Networks.” Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/frauhoelle/.

Fawahl, Omar Jordan. “iPhone 6+ Screen.” Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/omarjordanf/.

Mitchell, W. J. T., and Mark B. N. Hansen, editors. Critical Terms for Media Studies. Chicago, IL, The University of Chicago Press, 2010.


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