McLuhan, Liu, and Markdown

McLuhan, Liu, and Markdown

Understanding Media

Marshall McLuhan

I thought the McLuhan piece brought up some interesting points about what technology is and how our lives are shaped by it. The refrain, “The medium is the message” changed the way I perceived writing and speech by complicating and abstracting language and information: “The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph.” One does not normally perceive writing, print, and speech in this context; yet, the ways in which human beings interact with them is shaped by the medium. In the 21st century, I feel like students are not encouraged to think about text as technology, and therefore all critical thinking about our consumption of text is ignored.

I found the quote by David Sarnoff particularly illuminating: “We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.” This statement seems to highlight what the modern era perceives as technology (cellphones and computers at the forefront) - but it also encapsulates how closely technology is tied to human behavior. The relationship between humans and technology has never been one-sided; they continually transform and adapt with each other. This chapter elaborates on this concept, as well: cultures from all over the globe over centuries have created technologies and change communication as they progressed, regardless of social difference.

Overall, this piece was a really good introduction into the course, and I appreciated how it didn’t solely focus on Western technologies and perceptions, and endeavored to be more inclusive.

##Imagining the New Media Encounter

###Alan Liu

I thought that the most fruitful facets of [this article] ( were when the author delineates the specifics of modern media encounters:

  1. Narratives of new media encounter are identity tales in which media at once projects and introjects “otherness.”
  2. Narratives of new media encounter emplot their identity tale as a life cycle of media change.
  3. The life story of the new media encounter plays out in the key registers of human significance: Historical.
  4. When fully realized in their historical, socio-political, and personal entanglements, the identity tales created by narratives of new media encounter are unpredictable.

The article further emphasizes several significant points, albeit not in a numbered list: new media are old and old media are new; the socio-politics of new media cut both ways; the subjective experience of new media is profoundly reversible. Liu does an effective job at unpacking each of these declarations, and the main goal is to complicate our understanding of media. One walks away from this article with a different framework with which to comprehend their communication, their lives.

##Markdown as a Media Encounter

How does the Markdown medium shape the way you think about your messages (i.e. your writing)? What affordances does Markdown provide, or might it provide, and what limitations does it introduce?

This lab was my first encounter with [Markdown] (; I didn’t even know it existed before then. Once in a while I think about how complex technology is and how much I take it for granted. As an English major, I have the privilege to ignore the specifics of computer technology; I have never coded, except to modify my Tumblr theme in HTML. In this specific context, writing becomes wholly different than if I were just writing on paper. I feel closer to the actual process of computation, since I can see what words and symbols I’m typing and how they manifest into a final form of communication. I have more control and insight into how I choose to present my writing, which is one of the affordances of Markdown. Another affordance is the simple interface; once one learns the basics, writing in the program is easy to pick up. It is exceedingly less complicated than word, and takes up less space in a hard drive. A major limitation of Markdown is that one has fewer options about formatting text, editing, etc. Word, for example, can let the user change text to dozens of fonts, sizes, languages; one can edit and leave comments on another’s text, or insert symbols. Word offers a seemingly infinte amount of possibilities by which to display text. As I am finishing this lab, I am reminded that I do not know what the final product of this post is going to look like when this lab is posted on the website. While the panel on the right shows me what my final product would be like, it most likely will not translate exactly.

Overall, though, I thought Markdown was a good introduction into coding and how writing works in this technological moment, and I am enjoying writing in the program.