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      Virtual reality/cyberspace is the arena in which the extremists - technophobes and technophiles - will wage their information war. Communication studies can provide a balanced middle ground between those two extremes. Charles Darwin demonstrated that phylogenetic development was a process of continuous discontinuity, and Jean Piaget demonstrated that ontogenetic development was a process of continuous discontinuity. In both cases, there is a continuity with respect to function (adaptation to the environment) and a discontinuity with respect to structure (of different organisms in the case of phylogeny and different cognitive structures in the case of ontogeny). Media development is also continuous with respect to function and discontinuous with respect to structure. That is, the function of communication is common to all four generations, but the structure of technologies, as a means to this end, changes from generation to generation. Computers do not replace television sets any more than television sets replaced books and books replaced speech. However, as each new technology is assimilated, the structure of communication is transformed to accommodate it. Just as the first transition from speech to speech-print and the second transition to speech-print-television were documented by communication studies, so also will this third transition to speech-print-television-hypermedia. Eric McLuhan, in revising his father's Understanding Media, takes a bold step towards laws of media which help provide a language for talking about the structural shift in communication as we move into each new generation (McLuhan & McLuhan).

MEDIA BLUR

      Rationality can be superficially considered in terms of a full and accurate subjective map of the objective world. Bad communication reduces the completeness and accuracy. However, communication, which is too good, can paradoxically also reduce rationality. William Kuhns (1982) argues that the failure to distinguish what is real and what is mediated - media blur - is widespread in our media-saturated world. Virtual reality/cyberspace will dramatically increase the blurring of media and reality.

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