Marshall McLuhan’s Tetrad
Image via flickr photo by Oblong flickr.com/photos/oblongpictures/5685283018 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license
Idea taken from Douglas Rushkoff's book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus:
"Marshall McLuhan, the godfather of media theory, liked to evaluate any medium or technology by asking four related questions about it. 1 The “tetrad,” as he called it— really an updated version of Aristotle’s four “causes”— went like this: What does the medium enhance or amplify? What does the medium make obsolete? What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier? What does the medium “flip into” when pushed to the extreme? It sounds trickier than it is. The automobile, for example, amplified speed. What did it make obsolete? The horse and buggy. It retrieved the values of knighthood— the sort of jousting and machismo we see in everything from drag races to NASCAR. And when pushed to the extreme, it actually leads to traffic jams, working against the whole point of cars to begin with. Or take the cell phone: It amplifies our mobility and freedom. It makes landlines obsolete. It retrieves conversation. And flipped to the extreme, it becomes a new kind of leash, making us constantly available and accountable to everyone."