Newmedia on Wed, 18 Jul 2001 20:41:50 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> File Under: OPEN vs. CLOSED SYSTEMS


"Language is metaphor in the sense that it not only stores but translates 
experience from one mode into another.

"Money is a metaphor in the sense that it stores skill and labour and also 
translates one skill into another.

"But the principle of exchange and translation, or metaphor, is in our 
rational power to translate our all of our senses into one another.

"This we do every instant of our lives.

"But the price we pay for special technological tools, whether the wheel or 
the alphabet or the radio, is that these massive EXTENSIONS of sense 
constitute CLOSED systems.

"Our private senses are not closed systems but are endlessly translated into 
each other in that experience which we call con-sciousness.

"Our extended senses, tools, technologies, through the ages, have been closed 
systems incapable of interplay or collective awareness.

"Now, in the electric age, the very instantaneous nature of co-existence 
among our technological instruments has created a crisis quite new in human 

"Our extended faculties and senses now constitute a single field of 
experience which demands that they become collectively conscious.

"Our technologies, like our private senses, now demand an interplay and ratio 
that makes RATIONAL co-existence possible.

"As long as our technologies were as slow as the wheel or the alphabet or 
money, the fact that they were separate, closed systems was socially and 
psychically supportable.

"This is not true now when sight and sound and movement are simultaneous and 
global in extent.

"A ratio of interplay among these extentions of our human functions in now as 
neccessary collectively as it has always been for our private and personal 
rationality in terms of our priviate senses or 'wits,' as they were once 

(Marshall McLuhan, "The Gutenburg Galaxy," 1962, University of Toronto Press, 
page 5)


"In one of the first cases of criminal prosecution under a 1998 federal 
copyright law, a 27-year old Russian cryptographer was arrested at a Las 
Vegas hotel on Monday morning, a day after giving a presentation to a large 
convention of computer hackers on decrypting the software used to protect 
electronic books . . . "

(Jennifer 8. Lee, NEW YORK TIMES, 18 July 2001, page C8)


Mark Stahlman
New York City

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