New media and the changing role of the user

McLuhan quotes Joyce’s words “My consumers are they not my producers?” — a line that brought me right back to our discussion of the Dynabook vision from last week. Allowing users to produce rather than just consume has become a foundational principle of much of the technology we use today. I thought McLuhan’s comparison between the opportunities for production afforded by new media and the consumption-based model of the printing press was really interesting. Perhaps this is a way to understand the deep and lasting impact of the digital revolution. Just as we now talk about the Gutenberg revolution allowing unprecedented numbers to access knowledge, perhaps the core of our digital revolution is the way it allows so many more people to not just consume existing information but also to create new knowledge themselves. And not only new knowledge but new tools as well. As I suggested last week, I think the App store model embodies this phenomenon. Final thought: if producing is so important, does that mean consumption doesn’t matter anymore? Does it matter if no one reads this blog, so long as I write it?

2 thoughts on “New media and the changing role of the user

  1. I really appreciate how incisively you get to the heart of the matter here, and out McLuhaned McLuhan, AND with such clarity and grace. Thanks! I’m going with a modified “yes” to your question. Production and creativity are foundational, but without reception, consumption, interaction and conversation they are much less powerful. It’s the resonance of the digital vibrations that give them such salience. And time is also bent by the medium. The post might get read (or even clicked on) one time, or nine times, or not at all… at first. But a reader of a later post or someone researching something else might click on it any time, and who knows where that might lead? (Do you have JetPack site stats turned on?)

    • Thanks! I think you’re right that it’s not about a simple creation-consumption distinction…it’s more about interactive communication, two-way or fourteen-way, expected or unexpected, solicited or not, synchronous or asynchronous. I love the idea of time being bent by the medium!

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