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The book medium is a stronger message than its content

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 24 June 2020



The book medium is a stronger message than its content
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 240
Posted DateWednesday 24 June 2020 10:42 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen

I recently came across these words from Mel Alexenberg, where he reports on a lecture some years ago by Marshall McLuhan - the Canadian philosopher.

Interestingly, it relates in a way to the story of The Myth of Thamus and Treuth by Socrates where he questions the wisdom of the invention of writing. Here Marshall McLuhan talks about the limitations of the book.

The rationale for the medium of my blook on Conversational Leadership does not go all the way but was designed to overcome some the of these limitations, in particular serial reading.
When I was teaching at Columbia University, techno-prophet Marshall McLuhan came down from Toronto to lecture there.

He talked about how the linear pattern of information resulting from print technology limited the thought patterns of people who learned from printed books.

Word follows word, line follows line, paragraph follows paragraph, page follows page, chapter follows chapter, in a single necessary order from the first page to the last.

Learning through a medium that is a one-way street prevented creative, flexible, associative, open-ended, multi-directional and multi-dimensional thought.

Instead of just being authoritative, books became authoritarian, demanding thinking in straight lines from a fixed point of view.

The book medium became a stronger message than its content.

Designed to be read in privacy, in seclusion from others, the book ended dialogue.

It conferred the values of isolation, detachment, passivity, and non-involvement.

So, although we could not have build our modern knowledge culture without the invention of writing and the book,they do have their limitations and unintended consequences to which we should not be blind.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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