| CO-EVOLUTION OF PERSON AND MEDIA|
Psychology is the study of the function of the nervous system, and the theory of evolution is the basic theory of psychology. However, evolution, culminating in its magnificent invention of speech, tells the story of our species only from the amoeba to Socrates. The story from Socrates and Plato talking in the Agora to you and I communicating here and now is best told as our co -evolution with media - the set of tools for extending the function of our nervous systems. During historical time, we have learned the tricks of processing information outside our bodies - storing it (print and film), transmitting it (television and telephone) and both storing and transmitting it (multimedia and internet).
Carl Sagan classifies tools as extragenetic (that is, outside the genetic code but inside the body) or extrasomatic (that is, outside the body) [SAGAN]. Any medium involves the use of tools for the storage and the transmission of information. Those two distinctions yield a two-by-two matrix, which can serve as a useful taxonomy of media (see Figure 1). In the first generation (speech), storage and transmission of information are both extragenetic; in the second (print), storage is extrasomatic; in the third (video), transmission is extrasomatic; and in the fourth generation (multimedia) - which is currently emerging to complete the taxonomy - both storage and transmission are extrasomatic.
Socrates was apprehensive that the invention of writing would destroy our memories. His concern was justified. With the capacity to store information outside our bodies, we have lost the motivation to store information inside our bodies. Few of us could recite The Iliad and The Odyssey word-for-word as could many of his contemporaries. I for one am happy to trade in this capacity in exchange for the gift of storing and transmitting information outside my body. (If Plato had not defied his mentor Socrates by writing down his teachings in his Dialogues, we would not even know about Socrates.) Anyway, it's a moot point. What differentiates the communication between Socrates and Plato from the communication between you and I is that we have those extrasomatic tools. The story of our species in historical time is best told in terms of the extension of the person by means of media.
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