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The Triumph of Form Over Content When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

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Mission and Purpose

We've all heard that the medium is the message, but what does that really mean? Does it mean that how you say something can be as important as - or more important than - what you say? Does it mean that the medium through which you communicate can influence what you are able to say? Or does it mean that the medium through which you communicate can influence what you are able to think?

Many such questions surround the complex interplay of events, language, technology, and communication. This site was created to explore these questions through a philosophical glossary of ideas, a regular newsletter, and an email discussion group. I hope you find something of value here, and look forward to hearing your ideas.

The mission is simple: to get people thinking about the kinds of invisible technologies that excercise so much power over our lives without us even being aware of it. We take as our starting point the following premises, which will be explored and discussed in more detail throughout the glossary:

  1. A technology is anything that seeks to abstract or otherwise manage reality.

  2. This can be through metaphor, model, or analogy. As such, technology is more than hardware and software. Any process, system, or medium which seeks to abstract or otherwise manage reality is a technology. Modern economics is a technology. So is language.

  3. If every medium can be understood as a technology, then it can be studied as such. In this sense, media studies and technology studies are flip sides of the same coin.

  4. The form of a technology encourages certain kinds of ideas to be expressed, allows other kinds of ideas to be expressed, and discourages still other kinds of ideas from being expressed. That is, the form excercises some influence over the content.

  5. Sometimes, a technology becomes so embedded in our culture that it becomes invisible. For example, even though language, which is fundamentally a way of abstracting and managing the world, is unquestionably a technology - and an incredibly sophisticated one at that - no one ever discusses it as such.

  6. If we cannot see a technology, then we cannot understand how it drives our understanding of the world.

  7. If we cannot understand how a technology drives our understanding of the world, then we cannot see past its boundaries to the truths that exist in other ways of thinking.

  8. If this happens, then the form has triumphed over the content.

My purpose, then, is simply to return content to its rightful place as the main purpose of communication. I am not arguing that form is irrelevant. Quite the opposite, in fact. What I'm saying is that the form should serve the needs of the content, not the other way around.

Ryan McGreal (This email address uses numerical character entity codes instead of characters as an anti-spam measure. Click here to read how it works.)

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