Screens as human and non-human artefacts: Expanding the McLuhans’ tetrad
Following Graham Harman in the charge that Marshall and Eric McLuhan’s laws of media are applicable beyond human-made artefacts, this article takes this framework in considering the screen as medium. The screen is a material and virtual principle found in both old and new communication technologies, as well as in non-human environments (e.g. beaver dams and solar objects). Employing Lucas Introna and Fernando Ilharco’s concept of screenness as starting point and common thread, we formulate tetrads of human-made, animal-made and natural screens. Expanding the tetrad is helpful in exploring human and non-human media ecologies and how they may interrelate. We reveal several resonances across media through the concept of the screen and argue that the proliferation of material surfaces of display occludes deeper histories of media objects as well as connections between human and non-human ecologies. This wider application strengthens the laws of media as an epistemology for the ecological workings of a medium. Our conclusion points to non-human theory in reconsidering both the tetrad and the kind of hard technological determinism read into Marshall McLuhan’s work more broadly.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Drexel University
Publication date: March 1, 2018
More about this publication?
- EME explores the relationships between media, technology, symbolic form, communication, consciousness, and culture. Its scope is interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. Media ecology provides a rich philosophical, historical and practical context for studying our increasingly technological and mediated society and culture with an emphasis on historical context.
Media ecology scholarship emphasizes a humanistic approach to understanding media, communication, and technology, with special emphasis on the ways in which we have been and continue to be shaped and influenced by our inventions and innovation. The Media ecology approach is predicated on understanding that media, symbols, and technologies play a leading role in human affairs, and function as largely invisible environments affecting the way we think, feel, act, and organize ourselves collectively.
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