Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Understanding Media

Sitting here contemplating the aphorisms of McLuhan and the attempts through stringent applications of copyright laws to prevent the circulation of ideas--even if the original author is long dead--I had a most interesting thought. What if a thousand people each did what fair use or fair dealing allows them to do, and put a paragraph from Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media on their blog? Could the entire book (or--less ambitiously--a chapter or two) become available, piece by piece?

Here's how I see it happening. I put the first paragraph up on my blog. I or someone else puts a comment on my paragraph page, with a link to the second paragraph; from the second paragraph someone else puts a comment that links to the third.... and on and on. Could it work? There are lots and lots of reasons why this wouldn't work, the most obvious of which is that there aren't a whole lot of people with McLuhan's book at hand, but it's an interesting thought...

...but then again...
(update, a day later) The experiment would be quite wonderful from a theoretical or philosophical standpoint, but the whole process would of course be tantamount to thumbing one's nose at legitimate copyright owners, who have every legal and moral right for people not to distribute the text. This inconvenient truth I ignored when I first thought of this, as well as many practical problems, but it's still a bit thrilling to imagine a real global network created out of a single McLuhan text. Oh well. Some days I have good ideas, and some days I have harebrained ideas.

link to paragraph 1


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