The Digital Experience Society
Media are understood as means of communicating information to the public, and mass media are instruments by which mass communication are realized in the information society. Nowadays, the Internet is one of most effective means of sending information to large numbers of people in a short period of time as mass media are. If the Internet is becoming dominant media for communicating various forms of information society, it is interesting to apply McLuhan’s law of media to examine the impacts of the Internet on the information society. Then, I like to show what changes will happen in the information society by answering the four questions raised in McLuhan’s framework.
What does the Internet enhance?:
If we follow McLuhan’s axiom that all media are extensions of people, the Internet will be extended human faculties in the society. As far as manual works are concerned, the Internet will extend our hands for operation of a variety of virtual work. For example, virtual or remote surgery through the Internet would be available in the future. Perhaps your barber would be able to give you a haircut while you be in some distant city. As far as knowledge is concerned, the Internet will extend our eyes and brain’s power through increased integration of real-time searching engines and location systems (global positioning systems). Through the diffusion of the Internet into various society setting, the Internet will make information revolution in which all enhanced application and technologies will extend and surpass human capabilities.
What does the Internet make obsolete?:
As McLuhan mentioned, new media and technologies do not necessarily extend our faculties. According to McLuhan, media simultaneously make obsolete social practices and human faculties. He does not mean the disappearance of certain social practices, rather that these are no longer dominant. The Internet simply extends our communication capabilities with low cost. The Internet technologies will make obsolete telecommunication infrastructure, such as fixed telephone line. The Internet will also make obsolete mental faculties. In the future, we will see more and more people working with their computer devices, rather than people, leading to weak interpersonal relationship in the society. One of the consequences of the diffusion on the Internet will be greater interest in doing the thing virtually rather than in doing the thing interpersonally or physically.
What does the Internet retrieve?:
The third question of McLuhan’s framework is that new media retrieve certain practices and cultural elements. The printing press is predominantly visual medium, which made obsolete the oral tradition. To the contrast, electronic media are aural and tactile toward the ear or other senses. We can say that electronic media are retrieving traits of the oral culture. What the Internet will retrieve is re-emphasis on our natural senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. The Internet as media will not simply present beautiful pictures, but a story which may contain information to satisfy all of the human senses.
What does the Internet reverse into?:
The forth question of McLuhan’s framework is that when a medium is pushed to its limit, it will be reversed into what it was originally designed for. When the Internet are reversed into its opposite, it will extend human capabilities wrongly. Consequently, we will become slaves of the Internet, instead of using the Internet as a tool. In such situation, artificial reality in which it is difficult to differentiate between actual and virtual human worlds will lead to creating confusion in the society.
By reconceptualizing the Internet as media with McLuhan’s framework, I have shown some possible changes in the information society. As the printing press introduced the eventual information society, the Internet will give rise to digital experience society in which extended five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) will be utilized to enhance human experience. Digital experience society is a natural progression in the evolution of the Internet. However, it is dangerous to ignore the implications of what digital experience society is, because digital experience will impact every aspect of our society, including business, education, healthcare, human relationship, and so on.