Chapter 30

The New Media Toolkit

Mark Pesce

Introduction: The Age of Connection

Anthropologists have appropriated the word “toolkit” to describe the suite of technologies that accompanies a particular grouping of humans. Fifty thousand years ago, this toolkit would have encompassed stone implements of various sorts, together with items fashioned from bone and perhaps some early fabrics. By five thousand years ago, the toolkit had exploded with innovations in agriculture, urbanization, transport, and culture. Five hundred years ago, this toolkit began to look recognizably modern, with the printing press, gunpowder, steel, and massive warships. Fifty years ago we could find much of our common culture within that toolkit, with one notable exception, an innovation that didn't begin to appear in any numbers until just five years ago. Identified by the decidedly vague words “new media” (justifying McLuhan's (1964) observation that the first content of a new medium is the medium it obsolesces, down to its name), this newest toolkit promises to restructure human cultural relations as broadly as agriculturalization, urbanization, or industrialization.

The roots of the current transformation lie within the urban revolution, the gathering of humanity into cities, a process nearly ten thousand years old yet only halfway complete. The tribal model of human organization—coeval with the emergence of Homo sapiens sapiens—likely began to fracture under the stresses introduced by the emergence of ...

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