In 1966-67, The Medium Is the Massage was released in five different mediums: Book, record, film, multimedia “magazine,” and lecture. Quotes from The Medium Is the Massage provides quotes from all five versions as well as links to a video walkthrough of the book, a recording of the record, a video of the film, an archive of the multimedia magazine, and a record of the lecture. Each section includes alternate versions as well, including both the 45 rpm promotional single of the record and Paul Miller/DJ Spooky’s remix of the LP. There’s also quotes and audio from Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Adam Michaels’s The Electric Information Age Book and The Electric Information Age Album.
The Variable Media Questionnaire is resource for helping creators think about sustainability and preservation of their digital work, originally designed by Jon Ippolito while working in the curatorial department of the Guggenheim and now faculty at the University of Maine’s New Media Department. The project, in its third generation, is now being developed by the University of Maine’s Still Water lab under the direction of John Bell.
The Variable Media Questionnaire is designed to help a work’s creators and users write guidelines for translating their works into new media once the original medium has expired. This Questionnaire is unlike any protocol hitherto proposed for cataloguing or preserving works. It requires creators to define their work according to functional components like “media display” or “source code” rather than in medium-dependent terms like “film projector” or “Java.” The variable media paradigm also asks creators to choose the most appropriate strategy for dealing with the inevitable slippage that results from translating to new mediums:storage (mothballing a PC), emulation (playing Pong on your laptop), migration (putting Super-8 on DVD), or reinterpretation (Hamlet in a chat room).
Ippolito has a short article on the questionnaire, “Accommodating the Unpredictable: The Variable Media Questionnaire,” which is taken from the book Permanence through Change: The Variable Media Approach.
I regularly promote Charles Stross’ novel Accelerando which traces three generations of the Manx family as we pass into the Singularity. It’s one of my favorite SF novels. I’m currently rereading it and stumbled upon the Accelerando Technical Companion, a glossary of various concepts and terms in the novel, useful for even some regular SF readers and a godsend for anyone teaching the book.
You haven’t read Accelerando? You should give it a try. In fact, Stross offers it for free download in the following formats: ePub, MobiPocket, Aportis, and Rich Text Format.
The winter 2009 issue of the Antigonish Review has a piece by Eric McLuhan on his father’s use of James Joyce. Quite useful for discussions of The Medium Is the Massage. Also helpful is the last minute or so of this clip from the documentary McLuhan’s Wake. McLuhan starts talking about Joyce about 3 minutes in:
As my technological literacy collage is intended to serve as an example of an assignment prompt, I also wrote a short explanation of how I composed the piece. If interested, you can find the assignment guidelines and accompanying documents at the course web site. Any comments on the assignment or the collage are more than welcome.
On Composing “On the Dangers of Reading Conan Stories and Playing Computer Games; or, the Making of a Technorhetorician: A Technological Literacy Collage”
I began writing my technological literacy collage by writing stories that illustrate my practices and values involved with reading, writing, and exchanging information. In all, I wrote about 13 pages, 11 distinct passages, all written by hand, in the period of a few hours one afternoon. The passages ranged from a paragraph to a few pages. Of the 11 passages I wrote, 6 made it into my final draft in one form or another. While a few of the passages made it into the final version almost unchanged, others made it in after a lot of pairing down. Seven additional passages were composed at the computer over the period of a week as I thought about other ideas and how I might make a collage out of the passages I had initially written.
With those 12 passages typed up, I printed them out, one passage to a page, figured out which one wanted to start with, and then started piecing together the rest of the order. One passage that I’m really fond of just didn’t seem to fit anywhere, so I took it out. As I decided on the order of my passages, I came up with an idea that would work well between passage one and two, so I wrote it out by hand on my print out of my old passage two that had now become passage three. I then read the collage straight through and realized I wanted another passage at the end. I was going to end with the line that Tolkien liked Howard’s Conan stories, which tied into the title I’d come up with. I decided, however, that it didn’t seem right as the final passage, so I wrote the bit about logos and mythos, which allowed me to return to teaching, reading, and writing; preseningt those activities as acts of storytelling; get in another dig at Plato; and return to my definition of technological literacy.