transmission.

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“Man’s culture depends for its transmission in time upon the permanent record: the building, the monument, the inscribed word.” – Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization

This reading was part of this week’s material for my Media and Culture course. Though it is a minor passage and in no way summarizes this particular reading or section, I highlighted it and jotted down a note nonetheless. My thought was this: with the exponential increase in information output and obvious structural changes that have come with our shift to a networked society, how will our generation be defined on the future? This thought had two threads: personal and societal transmission.

First, I’m curious how a networked structure and digital media will allow the passing down of family stories, baby books, photographs and the like. Will these continue to take print form? Will they transform to digital? I can’t imagine that handing your great grandchildren a USB drive of your family’s visual and textual history will have the same emotion tied to it.

Second, my larger question was how our generation will be remembered amidst the overwhelming influx of digital information. With media of the past, the means available restricted who and how many voices of a particular generation were read or heard. Though mass media offered much greater capabilities than known before, the digital revolution has not only exponentially increased reach but has also opened an unlimited number of doors for content creators. Anyone with access is able to publish online. Though I’ve previously wondered how “the classics” and other chosen memorabilia were designated as such, I’m even more curious how profound thoughts of our time will be amplified and preserved amidst the din.

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One thought on “transmission.

  1. Dave

    Great questions. I won’t comment on the passing down of family stories and memories because my family doesn’t really do that. Since I’m not very familiar with it I wouldn’t have much insight into how it might change and whether that change would be good or bad.

    As for how generations will be remembered and studied in the future, that’s a very interesting question. Having studied biblical exegesis in seminary, I’m well aware of the constant desire of scholars to have more sources for better understanding of ancient events. I wonder if future scholars will desire LESS information to examine.

    The publishing piece is very interesting, too. Now that it is radically less expensive to publish books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers than it was in the past, all sorts of voices can be expressed and accessed by the masses. I think that could have significant effects on the practices and methods of historians. How would they sift through the millions of sources of information on a given topic or event? How would it affect methods of verification and determination of reliability? How would they assign importance and weight to one source over another?

    I wonder how various types of media will be given more or less importance as well. I hear about Twitter all the time on the sports radio talk shows. It’s as if Twitter has become the dominant authority on what’s important, significant, and relevant. And with the speed of electronic publishing, will instant posts come to be more significant than books given our culture’s overwhelming emphasis on the new and immediate experience?

    I almost feel like these questions are obnoxious because there are so many pieces to consider. It’s also probably because I’m asking such vague questions.

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