Zeitgeist (and its sister concept serendipity) have for me been evidence for the inevitability of the process which I describe in A History of Media. Here's the argument. The conception-day gift mentioned above contains a means of storing information (memory) and a means of transmitting information (speech). Memory and Speech could thus be described as a first generation of media. This will get us to a hunter-gatherer society. How over historical time (which is too short for evolution to have much effect) did we manage to deal with the transitions to an agricultural society, an industrial society, and now an information society? Part of the answer is that we have extended our nervous system by storing information outside our bodies (Print and Film - second generation), by transmitting information outside our bodies (Telephone and Television - third generation) and by both storing and transmitting information outside our bodies (Multimedia and Internet - fourth generation). The co-evolution of the person and media as extensions is the Big Story of historical time. The many cases in that history of simultaneous discovery attest to the fact that the times are ready for the discovery (zeitgeist) and of "accidental" discovery to the fact that anyone who has drunk deeply of the spirit of the times will make that discovery. Those are discoveries - not inventions. "We invent nothing - we merely plagiarize nature " (Baudrillard). Whatever we discover is built into the Gift - the Big Story of human history is the invention of extrasomatic tools to enable the discovery of the full contents of the Gift as our species continues to unpack it.

      The Great Conversation has been used as a way of resolving the issue in the academy of elitism versus egalitarianism. A neighbor of mine, David Solway, whose book on education I reviewed for the Montreal Gazette, has often been accused of elitism. A careful reading of his book revealed that he was merely saying that any scholarly disciple is a hi-context subculture. Everyone is welcome to join. However, they must pay their dues. In order to join in the Great Conversation, they have to learn the language. You give me the insight that, in helped my students to unpack the conception-day gift, I have to make it clear that they have to pay their dues to become fully paid-up members of the species homo sapiens in order to unpack the Gift.

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