'Marshall McLuhan'에 해당되는 글 3건

  1. 2009.07.07 Forget Domain War, Here Comes Memo-sphere (70)
  2. 2009.03.31 The Medium Really Is the Message - Part 2 (43)
  3. 2009.03.31 The Medium Really Is the Message - Part 1 (45)
Memosphere2009.07.07 14:57




Virtual cities at your fingertips



You have visited the Eiffel Tower.  What did you do before you climbed the Tower? You took pictures of the Tower with other tourists. Why? Because you wanted to photograph your brief encounter with one of the most famous historic monuments in the world. (For the purpose of my question, it doesn't matter whether you visited the one in Paris or  another in Las Vegas.) In other words, your knowledge about the Tower preceded your eventual experience of it.  


In fact, it is not just the Eiffel Tower or other tourist attractions that we've got to know them before we actually visited the place and touched them. To an ordinary soul with a decent access to the popular media, the knowledge about anything in the world is mostly acquired from the indirect contact with the various media outlets over their life time. Come to think of it, it might have taken a sheer will and the great leap of faith for many to believe in what the media tell you the world looks like. 


If you can accept nothing as real but you've actually watched, touched and walked through, the world as you know it would be a conceptual space borne out of the barrage of the news and information force-fed by the media. After all, no matter how busy you were traveling the four corners of the world, you will still have missed the infinite wonders of the life the rest of the world can show you.   


As Marshall McLuhan, the visionary media thinker sums up, the real message of the print is nationalism. The print technology--and mass distribution network affiliated with it--contributed greatly to the birth of the nation state as we know it today. Before some scribes recorded, stored and mass-disseminated the printed news on a regular schedule, average Joe could not escape the limited confinement of his vicinity in the real world and transcend the barriers of space and time across thousands of miles. 


Again, your knowledge preceded your actual experience of it. The perceived community in your brain named "nation," in that sense, is simply a concept or a virtual space, not unlike Cyberspace. Long before William Gibson introduced us to the groundbreaking idea in 1984 with 'Neuromancer,' his legendary science fiction novel, the modern mass media pushed us over the realm of virtual community, one after another in the form of a state, a nation or sometimes the world. Isn't it amazing then what is taken for granted and seemingly plain obvious, such as a nation and the world, is simply a byproduct of the relentless exposure to the popular media? 


To most people that cannot afford extensive travels, the perceived world in their head is a rough approximation of the real world. It is a virtual space or a media-generated dream world, imprinted over their life by the various media outlets.  As Morpheus sums up brilliantly in the Matrix, the world as you know it is nothing but a cluster of electric signals force-fed by the media, and then interpreted by your brain. 


Funny thing is, once the images of the world are imprinted in our brain, they will in turn direct us to behave in ways that we would rebuild the world according to the political and cultural lines projected on the Earth. If you have any doubt, just check out the popular NASA satellite picture that shows the worldwide distribution of urban lights, especially those sprinkled on the Korean Peninsula. Once imprinted with a media-generated world view, we will project the same images on the real world again, re-shaping the Earth according to the vision endowed to us. 


Each new media invented so far has brought us to a renewed understanding of the world and another; the print gave us the nation state and the television gave us the global village. And the Internet has brought us to a new frontier that is Cyberspace. 



“A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions”; William Gibson defined Cyberspace in 'Neuromancer' as yet another etherial human space.  As with the print and the television, the Internet gave birth another virtual space; Cyberspace, however,  has quickly evolved to a world as tangible and realistic as any other. Think of the multi-million dollar domain wars in 1990s fought over the rights of various high profile Web addresses--Pets.com, Sex.com and all those petty cyber squatters. 


Dentsu, the top advertising house in Tokyo, has paid Linden Lab 10 million yens in 2007, for instance, for 85 hectares of land in Second Life to build Virtual Tokyo. Dentsu was aiming to recoup the investment by “lining up over 30 blue chip companies to build their presence in the commercial estate of Virtual Tokyo,” after attracting over 3 million Japanese to the popular metaverse, according to the report by Financial Times. I have yet to hear any positive update about the fate of the online city since the global financial crisis hit Japan, but Virtual Tokyo will be remembered in the history as another example of the media-generated virtual space quickly gaining its real world tangibility and significance. 


As fascinating as it sounds, Cyberspace has its own drawback—it is a single layered virtual space. If somebody is squatting on a desired online location before you get there, you have to acquire it to claim a legitimate ownership over the space. That is why we saw countless cases of domain battles back in the heyday of the dot-com era. 


We have a new medium in place, however, that multiple layers can co-exist at the same time and in the same space, where prospective landlords can claim multiple ownership according to the intended design of their target space. Geeks named it the “augmented reality,” but my favorite moniker for the new media space is “memo-sphere.” 



GPS sensor, electronic compass and wireless internet connection; these are three essential elements required for a spontaneous formation of the memo-sphere. It would be easier to understand the concept if you picture yourself walking along the corridors of the Louvre Museum wearing a headset issued from the ticket booth. As you walk along one masterpiece and another, RFID tag behind them will wake up your receiver and trigger a series of recorded description corresponding to each artwork. It would be like you are swimming along a stream of info-sphere running through the corners of the Louvre Museum. 


If the receiver replays the same narration but recorded in seven different languages, one could say there are seven layers of info-sphere interwoven together in the Louvre Museum, switched on and off according to your choice of the language. Or think of the GPS navigation terminal in your car. Depending on the choice of your navigation software, competing service brands will offer you a road map festooned with various useful information. But what if the navigation software is intelligent enough to recognize your demographic, geographic and, yes, psychographic data? 


The navigation terminal can choose from the matrix of thousands of combinations of age, sex and taste. Literally,  city roadways will transform itself on the screens of the terminal according to a map that best corresponds with your implicit desires and requirements, superimposing a personalized memo-sphere on the physical street. For the same roadway, thousands of differing memo-spheres are being materialized here. 


Dentsu might have wished that citizens of Virtual Tokyo would let loose their hidden alter egos and do all the eccentric stuff that will make this metaverse a fun place, brimming with unbridled energy. 


Those weirdos and virtual funs should not necessarily have been locked up in Virtual Tokyo, however. A fascinating memo-sphere will be materialized if Dentsu decides to superimpose Virtual Tokyo on the Real Tokyo by capitalizing on a suite of latest location-aware mobile devices including Apple's iPhone 3GS. 


The coveted cyber items you have just won last night are up for grab for the mobile warriors in Tokyo, as you approach the corresponding locations in Shinjuku or Ginza. The heated Cyber battle in Virtual Tokyo permeates into the streets of the Real Tokyo, turning a seemingly plain Tokyo street to an unlikely arena for the treasure hunt or clever marketing ploy.


Unlike Cyberspace that allows for only one tenant per location or occasion, the memo-sphere will be generous enough to accommodate thousands of contesting service brands in a single space. Sky is the limit; the range of possible memo-sphere scenarios will go as far as your imagination allows. 


The memo-sphere will let you see the world as you have never seen before. I promise. 



*What follows is a transcript of my presentation for Open Web Asia Conference '08 held in Seoul. Below you can find the full presentation slides.



SNS in Memosphere
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Memosphere2009.03.31 09:57

In my first piece, I made two choices that were intimately related to the medium I chose --cyberspace. Firstly, rather than use a lower form of the Korean language, I chose to use honorifics. The Internet is not a place where one screams alone and disappears. Comments go up right away, the writer is influenced by these comments and his next piece evolves. It's a two-way street. Cyberspace is not a place where I simply proclaim something and disappear, but rather it is like a lecture hall where I share with you my knowledge and experiences. No one uses low forms of speech when conducting a dialogue with an audience. Accordingly, it was a natural choice to use honorifics.

In addition, I said I didn't know whether this serial would go on for dozens of installments or finish after just a couple. This is clearly a different approach from that of newspaper serials, which are run according to a table of contents in which the order of writing has been decided. This is because by leaving the fate of my writing to the interaction of cyberspace, posts can have an even greater sense of life. My writing will evolve, like a living organism, according to reader comments and my own circumstances. The Internet is not a newspaper published once daily or a broadcaster that changes its programming according to hourly time slots. In this space, the design of what I write follows the principles of the cyber world.

In my last piece, I defined not just newspapers and broadcasters, but all space in which meaning is exchanged as media. Do you, the readers, believe your own eyes? Are you confident that what you confirm with your own eyes is absolute fact? If so, why is it that magicians manage to fool us almost every time? Can you really believe your own eyes?

It has been pointed out that media controls content. Your eyes, too, are media. To put this a little more precisely, you see the world not through your eyes, but through the medium known as the optic nerve system of your brain. Even if information enters your eyes at the same time, the thing that decides what you see and what you don't see is your brain. The same world is seen in black and white through the eyes of a dog, but in natural colors through the eyes of a human. Media controls content. A magician is a person who has mastered the principle upon which your brain's optical nerve system operates. That is to say, he understands quite well that the brain is a very selective and incomplete medium that doesn't see things as they really are, but rather chooses only what it wants to see.

The optical phenomenon most loved by magicians is perspective. Newborn infants can't understand why their mothers keep getting bigger and smaller as they move closer and further away. The sense of perspective is not something we are born with, but rather an acquired capacity we obtain by training our brains over a long period of time. If you master the media's operating logic, you can also control the way the media's subscribers understand the world. You can control their worldview. It's all the same world, but between the readers of the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo (Korea's three biggest newspapers, which are generally conservative) on one hand and those of OhmyNews on the other, that world looks completely different. Words don't convey this. Media controls content.

Marshall McLuhan once expanded media to the body. A hammer, the hand; a car; the foot; TV, the eyes... Media decides the content, but more importantly, media is the scope in which the world is contained. How does the world look? Nobody has gotten a view of what the world is. How many places can you actually visit in your lifetime? With the media known as your eyes, trying your best, the world you can see would be hard pressed to exceed a radius of several dozens of kilometers.

Despite this, you know the distant United States, you know Japan, and you know there is a place known as Europe. How can you believe those places are really there without actually going there? This is because newspapers and broadcasters have informed you that such places do exist. Your worldview is as large as the scope the media covers. If those who control the media showed you only what they wished to show you, your image of the world as you understand it would be nothing more than what they showed.

If even the simple question of whether something does or does not exist is this complicated, imagine how much more so the complex world of ideology and socio-political tension must be.

Ultimately, there is no way to know what the world genuinely looks like. Nor is there a guarantee that the world as you understand it and the one as I understand it will be the same. Even if someone said they would show you the world, strictly speaking, there would be no way to distinguish whether what he or she showed you was true or false. Even with things we see with our own eyes, all we can do is make a judgment based on probability. Why? Because media controls content. We can only be sure that our worldview will change in accordance with the media's expansion and transformation.

You can't worry about something that doesn't exist. For example, when did you start worrying about and having an interest in events in some far off country? Wasn't this because the media informed you of those events? Scholars call this media role "agenda setting." This means that the media, even if it decides to simply show something without presenting any political analysis or opinions, can control its readers' or viewers' worldviews and ways of thinking.

They say you see only as far as you know. I've changed this phrase somewhat -- you see only as far as the capacity of the media you choose. The world you come to know through that will become the thing you understand to be the world of reality. For example, there is a world with the Chosun Ilbo stamp, one with an MBC stamp, and another with an OhmyNews stamp. The only thing you can choose is the image of the world these media provide.

Just as electronic signals inputted into the brains of the masses controlled "reality" in the movie "The Matrix," there is no way to prove whether reality as you know it is a dream or real. You can only be faithful to the logic of the situation as you feel and understand it.

You are what you read - 身冊不二.

I'll conclude my second piece on this subject right here.

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Memosphere2009.03.31 09:56
 It's been nearly ten years since I started writing in cyberspace. There are people who like what I write and there are those who are less satisfied. There are lots of people who have asked how they could write like I do. In fact, a certain publishing house asked me to write a book on writing for working people. Having given it thought, I answered that this issue wasn't simply of writing, but one of communication.

I don't think I have much talent other than conveying my thoughts through text, but in fact, my area of interest is all places of communication. Of the countless means of communication that exist in this world, be it in cyberspace or "real" space, I chose writing, and even within that sphere, I chose cyberspace, which agreed with me.

To follow an adage by Marshall McLuhan, whom I admire as my spiritual teacher, "the medium is the message." No matter what I write, or what message I produce, I can't escape from the cyberspace medium I have chosen.

Not so long ago, a certain daily paper offered to run my column. After considering it, I turned the paper down. This was because it would have been entirely inappropriate to adjust my writing style, which had become accustomed to cyberspace, to the demands made by the printed page. It's like one of my favorite phrases, "You are what you read." The medium you chose defines your existential identity.

Besides writing, another medium I've grown accustomed to is "PowerPoint." There are scholars who point out the harmful effects of PowerPoint, but the latest version of PowerPoint allows for colorful forms of expression that surpass Flash animation.

If I were to choose PowerPoint, of the countless words I would like to use, I would work hard to choose only those messages that are appropriate to the PowerPoint medium.

The main point of what I'd like to convey to you today is medium. I'll have to start writing to know, but in fact, this doesn't look like something I could convey in a day. It might require dozens of installments, or perhaps just a few pieces. Because my writing method, or to go even further, that which has exerted a tremendous influence on forming the point of view I use to look at the world is media theory, and I have waited a long time for the chance to share my thoughts with readers.

My first reason for bringing up this topic out of countless topics of conversation in this world is that I'm confident in this area, and the second one is the phenomenon of media as a core topic in understanding the 21st century global village, and the Internet Age in particular. In the last Korean presidential election, we witnessed just how dramatic a result could be called by the two candidates' choices of media.

Moreover, it would be too narrow a viewpoint to reduce "media" to newspapers, broadcasts and the Internet. Computer operating systems, mobile phone screens, department store windows, the electronic advertising screen at Gwanghwamun (in Seoul), movie advertisements in the subway stations, the signs on the bathrooms doors reading "men" and "women," traffic signs, ATM screens, university classrooms... media encompasses all spaces where meaning and communication takes place. In my column, I once called this space where meaning is exchanged "media space." I shall get another chance to explain about this media space.

Well, perhaps I should begin this article; one I don't know when I'll complete.

Part I - The Medium is the Message

Let's first try to remember the following inequality

Book > font > type > letter > language > thought > meme > ?

The book is the most familiar medium to modern man, regardless of age or gender. Of the countless forms of communication, a book is a dignified one that even if the Internet were to swallow the world whole, it would stubbornly resist, having withstood the test of thousands of years. This is the story of the book.

The book is an expression of thought. The book is also a medium. If one closely examines just one simple volume, you can see it's a complex medium that contains layer after layer of other media, much like an onion. A book contains type, which has been decorated by font. Type is the medium that contains letters. Letters are the medium that contains language. Language is the medium that contains the brain's thoughts. Thought is the medium that contain memes. Are you with me?

How about we put it this way -- memes are the content of the medium known as thought. Language is the medium of the content called thought. Letters are the medium containing the content known as language. Type and font are the media containing the content known as letters. Books are the medium containing the contents known as type and font. Oh my! Perhaps I've confused you more.

Let's try to think of a couple examples. People who have written on the Internet and agonized over which font to use would understand. With 11-point text, should I use this font or that font... it's the same piece of writing, but you must have had a different feeling depending on which font it was written in. 

For a love letter, unless you're an unfeeling stone, you'll probably avoid using Gothic type. You can see that within the medium of font, there are already particular intentions; to wit, messages contained inside. Purely through the varicolored choice of font, one can convey countless messages.

The medium I have chosen to convey media theory to you is text. I could draw comics, use Flash animation or PowerPoint, or I could even call you together and directly lecture you on the subject, but I have chosen text. This is because for the message I would like to convey, I judged the medium of text as the most appropriate. Of course, my judgments could also be wrong.

In Marshall McLuhan's book The Gutenberg Galaxy, a great vice of print culture was pointed out. That would be the lamentable way in which printing type has drastically condensed man's freedom of thought. McLuhan pointed out that despite the fact that expressions of thought could use innumerous and diverse media like pictures, music and dance, man has almost grown addicted to print culture, drawn by the bait of efficiency and productivity.

Like McLuhan pointed out, if we accepted the thesis that the medium is the message, the moment we chose the medium of print, we became shut off from the possibility of countless other messages.

If we rethink the problem from this point of view, we can conclude that things we take as common sense -- like campaigns to purify the Korean language, criticism of the jargon used on the Internet, and complaints made by adults about today's children who don't read books and are absorbed in online chatting and computer games -- are nothing more than the groundless ravings of a generation that has grown addicted to printed culture.

This is because the Internet generation -- compared to an older generation that has lived slave to print and books and hence were limited in scope of thought right from the start -- are experimenting with many more possibilities of expression.

Umberto Eco once compared Protestantism to MS-DOS and Catholicism to the Macintosh. In the age when printing technology was humble and bibles were the exclusive property of the clergy, the methods employed by the Catholic Church to convey its teachings to its believers were the sacred images that filled up the walls of churches -- icons -- and holy paintings. Splendid Catholic cathedrals were the best-suited medium of an age without printing technology.

On the other hand, the invention of printing technology was decisive in the birth of Protestantism. Martin Luther tried to awaken believers by propagating the Bible, and the fact that to this day, Protestants place more importance on Bible study than do Catholics is evidence revealing how Protestantism is a by-product of print culture. If one looks at the Reformation from a different angle, one could see it as the confrontation between the medium of sacred images or icons versus the medium of the printed letter.

I should probably end here for today.

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