Week 4 (Oct. 2) PROJECT 1


1. Question: The TETRAD

Marshall McLuhan developed a framework to assist in identifying the properties of new technologies according to four characteristics, which he called the Tetrad. Your task will be to apply the tetrad to recording technology. Think about recording technology in relationship with music and sound at large.

Look at Edison’s 10 Phonographic Usages for inspiration AND other tetrads pertaining to the CELL PHONE, FACEBOOK and other technologies.

Answer each of the four questions with one point. (Remember: there are no right or wrong answers – you’ll gain a lot just by grappling with these questions.)

1. ENHANCEMENT: What does this new technology enable, enhance, intensify/amplify or accelerate?

2. OBSOLESCENCE: What is pushed aside or obsolesced by this new technology?

3. RETRIEVAL: What recurrence or retrieval of earlier actions and services is brought into play by the new form? (McLuhan: “The content of any medium is an older medium.”)

4. REVERSAL: What characteristics does this technology reverse into when pushed to its limit?

 2. Companion Exercise

Make a 5-minute recording of a space with which you are intimately familiar. This space should involve people: either a public space or a more private gathering.

Pass this recording to your assigned listener (the next person on the list) without including any information regarding its context, meaning etc.

The listener should make three categories of notes corresponding to three modes of listening: reduced, causal and semantic. Read about these modes here.

You can also use these questions (associated with Project 2) to help formulate your notes.

Bring both the recording and your notes to discuss in class.





socializing without leaving one’s home (party)

event management

centralization of content

marketing – enhancement of the scope of distribution of commercial information

the ability to design a precise persona (“profile page”) for one self based on likes, dislikes, and other attributes, how one hopes to be perceived (resume)

the desirability of making private information public – accelerates the sharing of personal information (vs. other kinds of information)

the potential of creating mass movements through shared activisms

monitoring the behavior of others pervasively




the need to introduce yourself (all you have to do is read the “About Me” page)

sending out physical invitations, mass emails to events

the need to periodically maintain relationships by meeting physically

the necessity of power to get authority (now attention is all that is needed – you no longer need the expensive distribution system)


public display of status and wealth (visible opera boxes) – flaunting consumption (not hiding behind avatars)

the gift economy (the history of gifting is also preserved by unlimited archiving)

social Darwinism – updating statuses, revitalizing one’s cyber identity constantly (new pics)

the “resumé” – one can examine a person’s status in their social circle

shaman or tribe leader (most popular)

urban legends, gossip


small town mentality (everyone knows everything about everyone else) – complete loss of privacy, and even the sense that privacy is important – monitoring the behavior of others

stalking (creeping), observing without divulging one’s presence or one’s persona (one-way surveillance)

depreciation of the quality of friendship vs. quantity of friends

total collapse of the trivial on top of the essential, and an increased inability to distinguish between the two (not seeing the forest from the trees of insignificant details)

becomes a diary rather than a mode of communication

loss of job, status through negative postings

tracking of after hours events by the police

the use of smaller, more targeted, niche aggregations (too many friends on FB)

increased surveillance

mistaking the façade of realism (and all the simulations of FB – the “wall”) for real face-to-face encounters

cyber malice – the propensity to inflict greater harm on others because of the lack of physical interface with the targeted individual

into a control mechanism for an individual’s life and sense of self – it doesn’t exist until it has been validated through FB



the ability to remain in constant contact with someone / something, independently of time / location

the ability to blurt out a thought to someone else immediately, with no need for reflection the time it takes to get to a pay phone / landline – i.e. response time

attention deficit disorder – phone always ringing, always interrupting something in the real world

the capacity for out of control telemarketing

quick access to emergency services (no need to look for a pay phone)

access to the internet, from wherever, whenever

email-like interactions, through text messaging wherever / whenever – reincorporation of written language into telephonic communication (telegraph)



the PDA (centralized utilities on the contemporary cell phone)

the corporate office – meetings can take place anywhere there is a cellphone

context in language (when texting), due to size limits

the necessity to communicate with individuals in one’s physical surroundings – friends are only a phone call away anytime / anywhere – the typical example of having a coffee with someone and then them answering the phone

privacy and anonymity (calling in full public view)


the phantom limb phenomenon (the phone buzzing / not buzzing in your pocket)

the telegram (short pithy sentences, like cell phone texting) text + transmission

exchange of symbols (emoticons), shortcuts, hieroglyphs

ball and chain – individuals are no longer tied to their home phone, but are now tied to their cell phones like a leash – it rings, you answer


into surveillance (CSI demonstrated that cell phone signals could be easily tracked by law enforcement)

into dropped calls when the system (computerized) crashes, something that rarely happens with landlines

with heavy usage, into a false sense of relationship (though the phone does this too)

the inability to function when deprived of constant connection through the phone

being cut off from one’s immediate physical surroundings (crossing the street / driving while talking on the phone is a dangerous activity) because one can always be connected to another world in telepresent fashion (present ventriloquized, absent physically)