Sunday, October 28, 2012

McLuhan and Media Psychology

Understanding media does not have to be complicated and methods have been created to reveal simple this understanding can be.  McLuhan created a tetrad that breaks down our media and technology into their simplest form. Jason Ohler says, about the tetrad that "every new technology or medium does four things," enhances, obsolesces, retrieves, and reverses. (Ohler, p. 134) To understand better how media has impacted our lives, we look at the four aspects of McLuhan's tetrad in an aspect that impacts us as media psychologists.
As pointed out in Ohler's book, "this is not an exact science," (p. 135) but it is a useful way to show how media impacts our lives in a structured and semi-basic manner.  As media psychologists there are many forms of media that will be impactful in our professional field, but social media seems to be one that touches everyone. 

 Globally both Twitter and Facebook are used to share stories, daily events, and personal information with their friends, families, and online followers.  One such aspect social media allows, is a safe place for a person to "come out."  There are many forms of coming out and most of us do this on a daily basis without even realizing it.  Of course, when hearing the phrase "coming out" most people infer the person coming out is gay, but what if the person is undocumented, Transgendered, alcoholic, or Atheist. 

Historically the term "to come-out" has been associated with the gay community but today this term has been expanded to other avenues of the human experience.  Coming out simply means that people have disclosed something about themselves that society deems abnormal, and in many ways this is a life long and risky process.  Society does not like what it does not understand so the fear of rejection, abandonment, and physical harm are real concerns when one "comes out." While these possibilities do not disappear, social media has provides a place for people to come out in the comfort and safety of their own home, and allows their friends and family time to process the information on their own, rather in the moment of when they were told.  

To better understand how this form of media impacts us, let us look at McLuhan's tetrad for Facebook and Twitter.  With over 1 billion users signing in monthly to Facebook and over 500 million on Twitter, these two forms of communicating are now woven into the fabric of our daily lives. Social media has become one of the fastest ways for people to connect and control the flow of information.  By using the four aspects of McLuhan's tetrad on Facebook, I propose it would look like this:

While Facebook and Twitter are very common forms of social media they are not the only choices.  Many turn to blogging sites such as Tumblr, video sharing sites such as Youtube and Vimeo, and networking sites like Linkedin and Pinterest. All of these share the qualities laid out in McLuhan's tetrad. (see above image) Social media allows the user better control over who they reveal information to, the privacy of these options is still not that strong.  Privacy settings can be worked around and information is sold to third party users. The only true way to stay secure is to keep the information to yourself. 

There is a perception around social media that the ramifications of releasing information online will be minimal, but what many do not realize is social media is the equivalent of using a megaphone to whisper a secret. As media psychologists, it is essential to understand and apply the information we gain  about social media in terms of where it came from, how it impacts us today, and where it could possibly take us in the future.  

DeGroat, T. (2012, September 26). Coming Out as Undocumented: How Social Media Gives DREAMers a Voice | WaPo Labs. WaPo Labs | Focusing on digital innovation for The Washington Post Company. Retrieved from

Dimitri (2008, September 7). Media : McLuhan/LawsOfMedia. Media: McLuhan/LawsOfMedia. Retrieved from

Fowler, G. (2012, October 15). When the Most Personal Secrets Get Outed on Facebook - Yahoo! Finance. Yahoo! Finance - Business Finance, Stock Market, Quotes, News. Retrieved from

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Kristina , K. (Producer), & undefinedundefined (Director). (2007). McLuhan's Wake. [DVD]. Canada.

Lunden, I. (2012, July 30). Analyst: Twitter Passed 500M Users In June 2012, 140M Of Them In US; Jakarta ‘Biggest Tweeting’ City | TechCrunch. TechCrunch. Retrieved from

Ohler, J. (2012). Email communication. Retrieved October 23, 2012.

Image References

Amanda (2012, June 25). She's "off her meds". You can tell by her Facebook posts. | Thinking Of You Ecard | Free Ecards, Funny Ecards, Greeting Cards, Birthday Ecards, Birthday Cards, Valentine's Day Ecards, Flirting Ecards, Dating Ecards, Friendship Ecards, Wedding Ecards, Anniversary Ecards and more at Retrieved from

Amerland, D. (2012, January 15). Is Social Media Really Overrated? Technorati. Retrieved from

Crew, N. (2012, October 17). Coming Out | laFraise Blog. laFraise Blog. Retrieved from

Sunday, October 21, 2012

McLuhan and Media Psychologists

Technology advances at a rapid rate, most of the time as a help to society but at times can also create a hindrance to societal norms. McLuhan's ideas of the "medium is the message" and his views on "the global village" are great examples of why it is important to understand various forms of technology not only as citizens of the world but also as media psychologists. 

McLuhan said, "The extension of any one sense displaces the other senses and alters the way we think, the way we see the world, and ourselves." (Youtube, 2006) This is what technology does to us.  We focus our attention, thoughts, sight, hearing on a piece of technology, sometimes distracting and impairing our senses.  This does not mean that all technology is bad, however.  While using a cell phone when driving a car can impair one's reaction time, the car itself is a piece of technology important to society. 

McLuhan used the phrase "the medium is the message" to show the importance of context in the materials we take for granted.   The car allowed the development of highways, which allowed for people to move into suburbs.   To understand the meaning of the car, you have to look at everything together, such as the environment and the car. According to the Library and Archives of Canada, "McLuhan greatly admired important modernist art...because their work reconfigured the figure-ground relationship in ways that offered a critical commentary on culture and society."  This last statement is how media psychologists need to view their field. 

In order to properly examine how technology, new media, electronic media and so-on impacts or affects society we need to understand the message found in these various mediums.  In McLuhan on Youtube, he said, "I think of technologies as extensions of our own bodies, of our own faculties, whether clothing, housing, more familiar kinds of technologies, like wheels and stirrups and such are of various parts of the body.  The need to amplify the human powers in order to cope with various environments brings on these extensions, whether tools or furniture, these amplifications of our powers sorts of deifications of man I think of as technologies."

We use our phones to connect with people in the same room, find comfort in an online game when we feel uncomfortable in our real life, and want convenience over function when choosing the next thing to buy. His previous statement is a good example of this.  We want to "amplify the human powers in order to cope with various environments," and use technology as an extension of ourselves.  The way use technology creates what McLuhan calls a "Global Village."

It's an interesting concept, of course. We are connected in a broader, faster way and Eric McLuhan says it describes "the effect of radio in the 1920's in bringing us in faster and more intimate contact with each other than ever before in human experience." Where radio brought us together, for example families gathered to listen to shows, today it seems that technology drives a wedge through personal contact while enhancing a digital one.  According to Nielson, the average American home has three or more televisions and I know in my home, each member is watching something different, only occasionally gathering to watch the same program. Smart phones are also great tools that are used to connect digitally, but we also hide behind them with social networking and texting becoming a critical part of our everyday lives.  The fact that we can connect, digitally, using several different electronic mediums does create a global village, but as media psychologists we will have to examine and understand if this technology has or will affect the social and cultural construct we have built. 

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More than Half the Homes in U.S. Have Three or More TVs | Nielsen Wire. (2009, July 20). Retrieved from

Image References

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Rebecca (2010, March 30). Face Book and the “Global Village” « Rebeccamarie3's Blog.Rebeccamarie3's Blog. Retrieved from

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Advancing Online Education through New Technology

Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and our daily lives rely on much of this new technology.  We use it for business, to connect socially, and as an educational tool, but while the demand for technology is on the rise so is the need for greater utilization. Education is the cornerstone of civilization and community, and during this current economic and unemployment crisis we have the power to utilize our technology to advance peoples lives.   By combining the technology of the Microsoft Kinect and holographic virtual reality, we can take the 2-dimensional online education experience and augment it into our 3-dimensional world. 

Advanced technology is no longer a thing of science fiction.  Primarily used for video games the Microsoft Kinect uses "a highly innovative combination of cameras, microphones and software that turns your body into the video game controller."  (Crawford, n.d.) These combinations in conjunction with virtual reality or holographic technology can be used to help advance online education. 

As a throw back to the Holodeck of Star Trek, the device in question is called the Holoclass. By combining the functionality of the Microsoft Kinect with the illusionary realism of holographic technology, the student can step outside of a 2-dimensional box and into the 3-dimensional world of a physical classroom.

A study done by Abigail Hawkins and Charles Graham indicates that, "teachers in distance education had to assume a greater managerial or technical role in online learning environments than in traditional classrooms to prevent students from getting lost or forgotten." (2012)

While not every student wants the connectivity this could provide, some do, but are not able to relocate to the school they wish to attend.  The idea behind the Holoclass came from hearing complaints about students feeling disconnected in their current online platform. This got me thinking, what if we could virtually bring the classroom to them.  Imagine that the student could turn on their computer and have the classroom and those attending the class, get projected into the comfort of their own home. This would allow them to attend live lectures, ask questions in real time, and present work for critique in a live setting. It is "critical that teachers avoid the assumption that online learners are those who prefer less personal contact with instructors, are independent learners, have high motivation to learn, are self-disciplined and have high personal self-efficacy." (Hawkins and Graham, 2012) By bringing the classroom to them, they will not only get a sense of connectivity but  could also get time with their instructor not found in the traditional virtual platform.

This of course does not exclude those who want the anonymity that online offers.  If the student wishes not to attend live lectures, the instructor can prerecord a lecture that the student can access.  Like in video games, the student will act as the remote and interact with the material the instructor is presenting.  In regards to the Kinect technology used in video games, Eddie Wrenn (2012) says, "Instead of being tied to a controller, players could use their body to control the action in a myriad ways - for instance virtually pulling back a bow and arrow, or dancing as the console rated how good (or bad) you are at copying on-screen celebrities."  This idea could be translated into the educational system.

Hearing there is a disconnect between my class and myself, can be unnerving. Since reaching every student is not possible in the online world, the Holoclass is a way to offer more connectivity.  Of course, as advanced as the technology is, it is still up to the individual to access the materials given to them.  During the discussion of this technology Rori Paul mentioned, "From being able to "be in" the classroom for a more interactive experience to being in a meeting to "feeling" an experience while remaining safe from its true effects allows us another level of understanding and interaction we currently do not have."

The reach of this technology can and should reach more than just those seeking a degree in higher education, but for the moment the focus is just on them.  With the unemployment rate staying high, many people are seeking degrees to better themselves or compete in the job market, but are finding cost to be preventative. If we fold this into the cost of attendance and give more people accessibility to the classroom experience, college can become a reality for everyone.

Crawford, S. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "How Microsoft Kinect Works". HowStuffWorks "Electronics". Retrieved from

Fahey, M. (2010, November 3). Holographic Technology Is the Next 3D. Kotaku, the Gamer’s Guide. Retrieved from

Wagstaff, K. (2011, October 20). Microsoft Comes Closer to Star Trek’s Holodeck With Its Holodesk | Techland | Techland | News and reviews from the world of gadgets, gear, apps and the web | Retrieved from

Wagstaff, K. (2012, August 16). The Technology Behind the Tupac Hologram at Coachella | Techland | Techland | News and reviews from the world of gadgets, gear, apps and the web | Retrieved from

Wrenn, E. (2012, September 12). Microsoft files patent to bring Star Trek's 'Holodeck' to future Xbox consoles | Mail Online. Home | Mail Online. Retrieved from

Image References

Steele, M. (2008, July 1). HowStuffWorks "How Holographic Environments Will Work". HowStuffWorks "Electronics". Retrieved from

Wrenn, E. (n.d.). Microsoft files patent to bring Star Trek's 'Holodeck' to future Xbox consoles | Mail Online. Home | Mail Online. Retrieved from

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Digital Citizenship

In the world we live in today, it is almost impossible not to have some sort of digital presence.  E-mail has replaced snail mail, texting has replaced phone calls, and Facebook has replaced conversations.  As sad as this is, I am finding it to be true, especially after looking at my own digital footprint.  I am connected.  My phone is always with me and I check it a 100 times a day.  It has become an extension of my right arm, but I never fully realized how "plugged-in" I was until sitting down and looking at how I connect with those around me. 

I live in a state that has no connection to my family.  My immediate family lives in Georgia; I in Florida, and my extended family reside in West Texas.  I stay in touch with my childhood friends through Facebook, my college and industry colleagues through Twitter.  I met my fiancĂ© on an online dating website and I work with a few warm bodies, but teach online. After college, my world went physical interaction to nearly all digital and with the exception of the occasional national session, I attend school in an online platform.  However, with as much as my life is online, I feel more connected to people than ever before.  According to a study done on Facebook and the relationship it has to social capital, "It is clear that the Internet facilitates new connections, in that it provides people with an alternative way to connect with others who share their interests or relational goals."

I do not believe the Internet has changed how we connect with people but rather the ease in which it happens.  You no longer need to ask a person what their interests are to get to know them, but rather can click on their interests, join a site, or receive updates from like-minded people by simply clicking a button. To give an example of this connectivity outside of the typical e-mail or tweet, I will refer to the online petition site  According to Reuters, via, "The mother of a gay California Boy Scout denied an Eagle award because of his sexual orientation is fighting to overturn the decision before he turns 18, the cut-off date for the organization's highest honor,” they go onto say, "A petition launched by Andresen on, an Internet social change platform, calls on his troop to reject the Boy Scouts of America's discriminatory policy against gays and give the California teenager his Eagle rank." I use this as an example because, while the online world is a way to stay connected with those closest to us, it is also a way to spark social change. This is an area of the digital world that has just started to take hold.

Like in any society the advancements made can be used for great things, but they can also become a hindrance.  At a Ted Talk in February, Sherry Turkle talks about how technology has become a way for us to be together without being together, "People text or do email during corporate board meetings. They text and shop and go on Facebook during classes, during presentations, actually during all meetings. People talk to me about the important new skill of making eye contact while you're texting," she adds, "We are getting used to a new way of being alone together."

As I mentioned in a discussion post from class, "with great power comes great responsibility." (Spider Man, 2002) Ok so I quoted rather than mentioned, but this idea fits with what I have been talking about.  There needs to be a balance between how we juggle our online persona and our real life persona.  In his book, Ohler mentions (p.55), "a mediated culture changes a number of traditional roles, causing "'a very discernible rearrangement of the social stages on which our roles and [that causes] a resulting change in our sense of 'appropriate behavior'" (as cited in Meyrowitz, 1985, p.4).

This change, if not recognized can send us down the wrong path where we are alone. However, if we recognize it, we can use it to our advantage and become successful digital citizens.  We need to balance how we act online and not ignore the real world around us.  Clay Shirky, in his TED Talk tells us about two values, Civic value and Communal value. The former is the "value created by the participants but enjoyed by society as a whole." and the latter is the "value created by the participants for each other." In certain ways we create material (i.e. pictures of cute cats, the new apartment we just moved into, and emails to a far away relative) to stay in touch just for each other.  In other ways, as in the online petition and social issue blogs, we create material for ourselves that will help society as a whole. 

We live in this world, both physically and digitally, so as citizens it is up to us to take care of it.  We need to understand our physical world to participate in the digital one, which means finding a balance between the betterment of ourselves and the betterment of society.  We should transfer what we've learned in the real world and apply it to the digital realm and become citizens of both. 


Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C. and Lampe, C. (2007), The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12: 1143–1168. doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00367.x

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