September 2003 Archives

launch of OAI-rights effort

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From Open Archives Initiative and Project RoMEO Initiate OAI-rights:

"The Open Archives Initiative and Project RoMEO announce the formation of OAI-rights. The goal of this effort is to investigate and develop means of expressing rights about metadata and resources in the OAI framework. The result will be an addition to the OAI implementation guidelines that specifies mechanisms for rights expressions within the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH)."
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"The area of rights expressions is wide-open with many organizations proposing languages and mechanisms. Therefore, the OAI-rights effort will aim to be extensible, providing a general framework for expressing rights statements within OAI-PMH. These statements will target both the metadata itself and the resources described by that metadata. In the context of this broader framework, OAI-rights will use Creative Commons licenses as a motivating and deployable example."

MIT for free, virtually: OpenCourseWare

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MIT for free, virtually (serendipitous link discovery via ResourseShelf)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is making its course materials available to the world for free download

"One year after the launch of its pilot program, MIT on Monday night quietly published everything from class syllabuses to lecture videos for 500 courses through its OpenCourseWare initiative, an ambitious project it hopes will spark a Web-based revolution in the way universities share information."

Let's see how far (in time and space) this ‘revolution’ will reach! Maybe, if each school does not have to (re)create the course materials from scratch, the tuition will go down! :) Or maybe someone will be making more money.

Nevertheless, in terms of information and/or knowledge sharing there ought not to be any doubt that this is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the potentials can be utilized to benefit the society in general.

Discord at digital divide talks

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Discord at digital divide talks:

"Sharp divisions over how to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor have emerged ahead of a UN summit on the issue in December."

No wonder... with the presence of representatives from the private sector who ultimately care about their bottom line (i.e. $$$), it can hardly be expected that much will be achieved in terms of equality to information access. This sort of exercises lead nowhere unless there is a long stick that the ITU can use to implement the promoted initiatives, to even modestly tilt the balance of access to information.

"African nations have been rallying behind a proposal from Senegal to set up a new 'digital solidarity fund'"

"Many industrialised nations are wary of creating a new UN fund. Instead they favour encouraging investment by private companies and re-directing existing aid."

It appears that the issue of control and profits is the sticky point. So, the question does not seem to be as weather the developing countries should be 'helped' with advanced information technology. See my entry the seriousness of equal access to information for all - Information Summit where I've tried to present my concerns.

Academia Urged To Offer Library Services To Graduates

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Academia Urged To Offer Library Services To Graduates in ShelfLife, No. 125 (September 25 2003):

"Today's college and university students graduate expecting, even demanding, to have continued access to the kinds of information-rich facilities they grew accustomed to and relied on during their student days. So says Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), who argues that more must be done to accommodate these expectations. Lynch notes that the transition from an information service within higher education to one broadly available to the public is not always simple or quick. For example, there was a gap of some years between when college and university graduates first started creating demand for the Internet and when the commercial market place was prepared to service this demand, particularly at reasonable prices. Currently the demand for information services focuses on content rather than computation and communication, creating a market for the licensed, proprietary digital content that schools do not own but pay licensing fees for under contract with the publishers and other service providers who hold the rights to the content. Because many suppliers are not set up to license to individuals or want to charge absurd prices, libraries, both public and academic, represent a potential resource to serve both their graduates and the public at large. Lynch suggests that higher education institutions and their faculty have an obligation to put on their agenda the issue of making their information services available beyond their academies' walls. (Educause Review Sep/Oct 2003) http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0356.pdf"

Information Quality, Liability, and Corrections

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From Information Quality, Liability, and Corrections by Stephen Adams at Information Today:

"All of us have suffered the consequences of poor-quality information. For most of us, most of the time, the impact has minor significance and is of short duration. Perhaps we missed a bus or flight connection as a result of using an out-of-date timetable, or we lost an insurance claim because we failed to note the change in exemptions to the policy when we last renewed. As frustrating or painful as these examples may be, they are rarely fatal. However, in a small percentage of cases, poor quality information has direct, devastating consequences. For example, many of the arguments concerning personal privacy are based on the knowledge that an adverse comment on a person's reputation perpetuates itself, even after a formal retraction is published or a libel case is won. Some sorts of information are more "sticky" than others. Just as the garden weeds are more robust than the desired plants, bad information rears its ugly head more virulently than good information."

Workers reject IT that controls

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From Workers embrace IT that fosters coordination; reject IT that controls:

"Managers about to add new computer-based systems should be aware: a technology that fosters access and coordination will be embraced by workers while one that controls behavior to increase productivity will be rejected, say two Penn State researchers who studied how workers adopted IT tools such as software, cell phones and other Internet applications."

How about the IT that it presented to the workers as enabling access and coordination when indeed it is meant to control work related behaviors? I guess I'm saying that sometimes it is hard to know whether the IT is controlling or not.

"We have this production view of the world in which new software will improve workers' efficiencies and effectiveness, but new technologies don't just speed things up," said Steve Sawyer, associate professor of information sciences and technology (IST). "They can change the nature of work which can affect whether workers adopt them."

Information structures and information technologies do not develop in isolation. Similarly, the social structures in our society do not develop free from technological influence. The information technology and the social structures in our human society inform and shape each other.

"Managers and decision makers who understand how people work and how systems work are more likely to introduce technologies that will be both embraced and used productively. But systems developed out of context, with little regard for workers' preferences and implemented without considering their functional effects, won't be used to capacity. In those cases, workers' resistance leads not to an increase in efficiencies, but rather to a decrease."

Good point.... context and perceived functionality do matter in the process of IT appropriation by the employees, no matter what the developers of the IT tools might think have imbedded into it.

search engines' meaning mediation power

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As I was attempting to identify few queries (for the TA class I assist the professor) that will result in URLs returned that would have different relevance depending on the user (needs, interests, etc...), I tried to search for the word 'syntax' (in Google) due to its multiple meanings, especially as it relates to the natural language and computer language. The idea was to show that the returned search results have different relevances depending if the search was instigated due to your interest in natural language or computer language.

The results were really surprising! The first 40 or so results were almost exclusively about the syntax of computer languages or some other system syntax. The syntax of the natural language was absent altogether!

Should we be concerned with this? I think so. It is unreal and untrue that the word 'syntax' (as an example) is related only to computers and systems. How would middle school or elementary school children react to these results when searching for the English language syntax?

I've taken the word 'syntax' as an example. There are probably many other words and phrases that search engines provide biased results for, intentionally or not.

Has the word syntax lost its meaning as it is related to natural language? At least this is what the search in Google might suggest to those that rely on learning about what they don't know via searching the web.

In this scenario, Google search results seem to be mediating the meaning of the word 'syntax' and many other words and phrases. It would be interesting to understand why google's search results are biased in favor of computer and systems related terminology, when there are tons of natural language syntax resources on the web.

Should we be concerned over search engines' meaning mediation power about things that affect us in our daily or professional lives?

fairness in search engine results - the open source factor

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In An Open-Source Search Engine Takes Shape there is an assumed relationship between open source, open ranking, and fairness of returned results.

Currently, all existing search engines have proprietary ranking formulas, and some search engines determine which sites to index on the basis of paid rankings. Cutting said that, in contrast, Nutch has nothing to hide and has no motive to provide biased search results.
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"Open source is essential for transparency," he said. "Experts need to be able to validate that it operates correctly and fairly. Only open source permits this." If only a few Web search engines exist, he said, "I don't think you can trust them not to be biased."

I think this relationship is sounds. How does one test and evaluate that indeed the opens source search engine will result in 'open ranking' algorithms and thus lead to fairness?

The next issue to be dealt with is the scope and the understanding of fairness in the context of search engines. Should fairness be understood as proportional (returned results vs. the total number of searched documents), or equal coverage of the queries even though some topics of interests might be less represented on the internet. In addition, considering that no one single search engine can cover/index the entire webspace, what would be the criteria for domain/URL inclusion for indexing?

I believe that the open source search engine might be better in fairness, but there still remain a lots of issues to be dealt with as important factors in tilting the 'fairness' one way or another.

KM: what's in it for me?

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KM: what's in it for me? (via elearnspace.org)

A series of thoughts on knowledge management: KM: what's in it for me?. Worth reflecting on: "Social networking on the internet is beyond the communities of practice phenomenon, since the former is initiated and driven by the individual, and the opportunities for networking are more flexible, dynamic and fluid than communities of practice."

Re-use of Public Sector Information

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Article:
Towards a European Framework for the Re-use of Public Sector Information: a Long and Winding Road
by Katleen Janssen and Jos Dumortier

Abstract:
"Information owned by public sector bodies has, next to democratic importance, a considerable economic value for the industry in general and the information industry in particular. Since the 1980s, the European Commission has tried to stimulate the public sector to make its information available for re-use. In June 2002, it finally presented a proposal for a directive on this subject. This article gives an overview of events and documents leading to this proposal and attempts to make an assessment of the proposal. It is updated until 1 February, 2003."

The Age of Corporate Open Source Enlightenment

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In The Age of Corporate Open Source Enlightenment Paul Ferris enlightens us with a fair and balanced analysis of the open source software appropriation in the corporate environment.

The ideological connotations and the analogy to the church vs. state might be overemphasis, however, the article is very insightful and brings forth the philosophical background which appear necessary in the process to contextually understand the open source software and its environment.

the "perfect design" yardstick

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In Perfect design? Beth informs us of a book attempting to explain why there is no perfect design.

I would be interested to see what methodology the author has applied to explain the 'impossibility' of perfect design. Certainly, the actor-network methodology is a very good candidate to explain this, as it provides the necessary framework and theoretical background to explain the interplay between various actors (humans and things) and how they affect each other.

However, a simplistic explanation might be that since there is no yardstick to measure the 'perfect' of something, it is even pointless to assume perfectness. Rather, we are talking of things feasible and practical.

The Year of the Blog: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom

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The Year of the Blog: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom provides a set of educational related blogging resources.

Especially interesting are the viewpoints on blogs as writing practice, blogs as class content, and Academics Who Blog (under more resources).

The writings present the 'other' side of blogs and blogging, the side that is less talked about in the press. However, this side might emerge to be the most important one as far as education, academia, and research are considered.

A great resource! Nice food for thought! :)

From Swiss demand clear goals for Information Summit:

"At the opening of the third preparatory meeting for the summit in Geneva, Leuenberger set out his recommendations before more than 1,900 representatives from 143 nations, the private sector and non-governmental organisations. Leuenberger added that the main bone of contention was finding ways to finance the summit initiatives and he urged the participating nations to present more concrete ideas by September 26, the last day of the prep talks."

"The three-day summit, which kicks off in Geneva on December 10, hopes to develop an action plan to provide equal access to information for all people around the world."

The initiatives for equal access to information for all the people around the world are to be admired at least for recognizing the importance of access to information in today’s information society (or better said society relaying so much on information exchange).

However, with the presence of representatives from the private sector who ultimately care about their bottom line (i.e. $$$), it can hardly be expected that much will be achieved in terms of equality to information access. This sort of exercises lead nowhere unless there is a long stick that the ITU can use to implement the promoted initiatives, to even modestly tilt the balance of access to information.

What usually happens in such meetings though is that the private sector that controls the means of access as well as the information itself is unwilling to give up some of its power. So, what ends up happening is that the current private-sector players join forces with local private sector players around the world, as if that means equal access. The private sector is interested about the bottom line whether it is in the developed countries or in the developing countries. So, instead of equal access to information for all, the current private sector players extend their control of access to information even further, paradoxically via the vehicles (such as this summit) that were supposed to enable the equal access.

What is a possible solution? Perhaps the state representatives to the Information Summit need to change their policies in terms of access to access technologies and information. These types of summits are good, but ultimately the mains responsibilities reside with the states themselves, with NGOs playing an important role in pushing their governments to enact 'fair' policies regarding access technologies and access to information.

TA (Teaching Assistant) position

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I've accepted a TA (Teaching Assistant) position for this semester (Fall 2003) in the SCILS department for the LIS program.

I'll be assisting Prof. Nina Wacholder in her two classes: 1) Retrieving and Evaluating Electronic Information (547:220 undergraduate), and 2) Organizing Information (610:520 masters level).

Catalog Description for Retrieving and Evaluating Electronic Information:

"Examination and analysis of electronic information to evaluate communication processes, content viability, aesthetic and technical factors as well as the quality of information structures. Includes the exploration of information retrieval, information seeking behaviors, and user perspectives and preferences in meeting information needs."

Catalog Description for Organizing Information:

"Introduction to the options and methods for describing and organizing messages, texts, and documents of all types (audio, visual, linguistic, graphic, multimedia) for retrieval. Classification; indexing languages, vocabulary management, and thesauri systems; human and machine techniques; and rationales for decisions about the organization of materials In various contexts. Students apply theory by designing and evaluating an Information retrieval (IR) database."

I hope to learn few things myself from these two courses while working on my Ph.D. coursework. :)

What's a good learning culture?

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In What's a good learning culture? George presents a very informative and interesting personal experience about satisfying information seeking needs.

Apart from the fact that "information need" seems to be used interchangeably with/for "need for knowledge" (I'm of the opinion that information does not equal knowledge, and perhaps as such the processes to satisfying information needs would differ from those for satisfying knowledge needs), I agree with George that informal means of seeking information have become part of our lives indeed.

In what George has written, few parameters emerge: structured vs. unstructured content, structured vs. unstructured communication (for content delivery), formal vs. information contexts.

Depending on the particular information need at hand, some combinations of the above parameters is applied in the process of information seeking. If we are to identify the tools that help us carry the information seeking process, a distinction will be apparent. For example, e-mail communication is not a structured content. One to one e-mail communication does not appear structured and yet there might be an underlying communication structure (not necessarily apparent) because of the common background between the participants. On the other side, many-to-many communication (i.e. discussion lists) may presents a semi-structured communication process and semi-formal context, depending on how the discussion is run (moderated, semi-moderated, etc.).

Senate Votes to Repeal New Media Ownership Rules

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From Senate Votes to Repeal New Media Ownership Rules:

"By a vote of 55 to 40, the Senate approved a resolution that would roll back the F.C.C. regulations allowing television networks to own more local stations and that would have permitted conglomerates to own newspaper, television and radio stations in a single metropolitan market."
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"The measure faces a tougher battle in the House of Representatives. And President Bush, who has yet to veto a single piece of legislation, has threatened to veto this bill if it reaches his desk."

Why is the president so strongly opinionated about this bill?

Open source helps education effort in Third World

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From The Mercury News in Open source helps education effort in Third World:

"In Africa, in Asia, in much of the world -- especially in the developing nations -- open source is looking like the best way to usher in the information age. Money, flexibility and plain old independence from a monopolist's clutches are a powerful combination."

is IT alone really a solution to poverty?

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From Information technology must be used to improve life in poor countries:

"12 September – Information technology should be used to improve the quality of life in developing countries, thus helping to achieve the ambitious goals set by the United Nations Millennium Summit of 2000, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today."

"Noting that the World Summit on the Information Society is just three months away, he added: 'I hope you will all do your utmost to make it a success, by using it to spread the word about initiatives that make creative use of technology to improve the quality of life in developing countries. By so doing, you will enable others to benefit from your ideas, and to replicate them easily.'"

Lets just hope that the participants at the World Summit on the Information Society do not assume that the very presence and utilization of IT in developing countries will somehow automagically reduce poverty and help the poor.

It has been often stated that technology will solve the problems of poverty. While it might be true that technology has increased productivity in certain areas around the world, it is perhaps very much debatable whether it has decreased poverty in general.

If history is any indication, we should have already learned that technology alone does not solve social problems, not necessarily, and perhaps not unless it can be shown so. For example, it would be beneficial to hear how does information technology help developing countries escape poverty? It might, if the means of production in the developing countries are improved to build self sustainable economy based on access to information and information technology in general.

However, considering the conditions around the world at this stage, I would rather expect that activities related to building sustainable local economies (independently if they are related to information technology or no) are more important in escaping poverty. People in the developing countries can have access to all information technology they want (even this process is questionable because to achieve success with information technology one needs to first create the necessary economic conditions in order to bring the access to information technology to majority of the people) and still might not be able to escape poverty unless some sort of sustainable local economy is established to a certain degree.

Fubini's Law

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Apparently there is a 'law' called Fubini's Law that explains how technology and society inform and influence each other. This is the first time I heard about this law. Here it is (from Column Two):

1. People initially use technology to do what they do now - but faster.
2. Then they gradually begin to use technology to do new things.
3. The new things change life-styles and work-styles.
4. The new life-styles and work-styles change society
... and eventually change technology.

Very interesting observation. But, a law? Hmm....

Models of Collaboration

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Models of Collaboration presents, informs and suggests five models of collaboration around the contexts/situation of: Library, Solicitation, Team, Community, and Process Support.

"In this guest editorial we examine five models for collaboration that vary from barely interactive to intensely interactive. Granted the CS definition for collaboration requires some level of interaction by two or more people, and in the past we have said that reciprocal data access (such as you would find in a library or repository) is not collaboration, we have also said that technology, content and process are critical for any type of collaboration. This being the case we are expanding our definition of collaboration (slightly) to include content libraries as most of the vendors in this area have added collaborative functionality. In addition, content is often critical for a collaborate interaction to occur…" - David Coleman

(Found the link via eLearnspace.org entry)

Senate Panel Blocks FCC Ownership Rules

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Senate Panel Blocks FCC Ownership Rules

"WASHINGTON - A Senate committee voted Thursday to prevent federal regulators from letting media companies own larger shares of the nation's television market, defying a White House veto threat."

"The Senate Appropriations Committee's voice vote came six weeks after the House approved a bill that would also block the liberalized ownership rules. After Thursday's vote, the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee said he believed President Bush (news - web sites) would not veto the measure."

planning, Good vs. bad code

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Ed has made an interesting observation on Tesugen'sPeter's entry Good vs. bad code:

"The above quote just needs the one small edit I've made. Planning is a critical part of all development (i.e. determining objectives, users, requirements, design, etc), and to suggest otherwise is misleading."

And here is Tesugen'sPeter's quote referred by Ed:

"But with some apps, you just know that they are well written. Those apps speak their quality loudly. They are coherent, they have integrity, their UIs make perfect sense, they behave as you expect, and so on. Why is this a good sign of the code being clean? Because software can’t be planned. Software is always a dialogue with its users, with competing software, and with its programmers. Good software adapts, and for adaptations to take place gracefully, the code must be susceptible to changes. Bad code isn’t."

I definitely agree with Ed's observation. Planning is an important and indispensable part of any software or application development. Without proper planning, the software will perhaps be much more far away from its target functionality. Even the phrase 'target functionality' is very fluid as it almost always changes during the cycle of software development. Or, should I better say the planned functionality ought to change if one is to produce quality software.

Perhaps it is this concept of the 'moving target' always in flux that TesugenPeter has in mind when stating that "Good software adapts, and for adaptations to take place gracefully, the code must be susceptible to changes”. So, if by "Because software can’t be planned" it is meant to say that the initial plan is never modified, than it is justifiable to say that software can not be planned. Indeed, such planning that does not modify itself throughout the process of software development from inception, to functional requirements writing, to development, testing and deployment, is no plan at all because it wrongly assumes it knows all there is to know about the final software product. In most instances this is not true. To act otherwise leads to bad software functionality.
You may want to check the following entry that touches on the issues of Adaptive Structuration Theory and its relevance to software development, stressing on the issues of software features and spirit. From Adaptive Structuration and Information Use in distributed organizations:

"That the decision-making and the institutional schools are not appropriate explanation models if considered in isolation can be seen in light of technology's features and spirit. The social structure provided by any advanced information technology (AIT) can be described by its structural features (rules, resources, capabilities, etc.) and by technology's spirit as it emanates from the feature set. The spirit is the intent of the feature set in regards to values and goals, it is actually what the designers think and believe the feature set can do and how should it be used within the institutional/social structures. The spirit is in flux at the early stages of technology's development. It becomes stable as the technology matures, but by this time the technology has impacted the social structures and it has been impacted by them as well: "So, there are structures in technology, on the one hand, and structures in actions, on the other. The two are continually intertwined; there is a recursive relationship between the technology and action, each iteratively shaping the other" (Desanctis, p. 125)."

Having said the above, another statement is a bit puzzling: "But with some apps, you just know that they are well written. Those apps speak their quality loudly. They are coherent, they have integrity, their UIs make perfect sense, they behave as you expect, and so on."

The above quote insinuates some sort of a correlation between bad/clean code and software/apps behavior. From personal experience I know this is not necessarily true. A particular code can be neat and clean, and yet does not behave as expected. Of course, the emphasis here is on 'as expected'. I think that the correlation of expected behavior is stronger and more relevant with the systems (functional) requirements and design documentation.

Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography - Version 50

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The Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography

"This bibliography presents selected English-language articles, books, and other printed and electronic sources that are useful in understanding scholarly electronic publishing efforts on the Internet. Most sources have been published between 1990 and the present; however, a limited number of key sources published prior to 1990 are also included. Where possible, links are provided to sources that are freely available on the Internet."

Check the TOC.

Here is an article describing the bibliography, publsihed in The Journal of Electronic Publishing.

more things to learn in the new semester

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I've just created two new categories: 1) Quantitative Research Methods (for class 194:604), and 2) Mass Communication Theory and Research (for class 194:631).

In these two categories I'll be posting comments, ideas, thoughts, and reflections, pertinent to the two classes I'm taking this semester (Fall 2003).

It would be nice to hear if other bloggers are taking similar classes so we can exchange ideas and thoughts, and help each other. :) So far I've identified Edward Bilodeau who will be taking both Qualitative and Quantitative Research classes this semester.

Update (2/1/2004):
I've renamed the above category Quantitative Research Methods into Research Methods, Methodologies, Issues in order to reflect my targeted interest. In this new category I'll be writing about research in general as it pertains to my dissertation interests (for now) and not necessarily only about Quantitative research methods and methodologies.

some McLuhan quotes and phrases

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McLuhanisms provides set of quotes by Marshall McLuhan. Here are some that I find particularly interesting:

"With telephone and TV it is not so much the message as the sender that is 'sent'."

"We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future."

"People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath."

"All advertising advertises advertising."

"The missing link created far more interest than all the chains and explanations of being."

"The future of the book is the blurb."

"The ignorance of how to use new knowledge stockpiles exponentially."

The same site also elaborates on the origins of Global Village:

"In Understanding Media he put the matter this way: "...since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electro-magnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear." (xii-xiii)"

it explains the concept of media and technologies as Extensions of Man:

"It was R. W. Emerson who wrote that "The human body is the magazine of inventions, the patent-office, where are the models from which every hint was taken. All the tools and engines on earth are only extensions of its limbs and senses" (1870)."

and provides reasoning on why McLuhan considered that The Medium is the Message:

"Each medium, independent of the content it mediates, has its own intrinsic effects which are its unique message. The message of any medium or technology is the change of scale."

By Mentor Cana, PhD
more info at LinkedIn
email: mcana {[at]} kmentor {[dot]} com

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