An Introduction

By Mindy McAdams
I use the word cybermedia to indicate a new medium's integration of Norbert Wiener's theories of cybernetics and Marshall McLuhan's ideas about media.

Wiener used the word cybernetics, starting in 1948, to encompass a broad range of communications between humans, between humans and machines, and between machines themselves. Within the scope of cybernetics he included the transmission of messages, especially those that exert control; the likelihood of information to degrade as time and distance intervene; and especially the function of feedback between humans and all the systems with which they have contact (Wiener, 1954). The ancestry of cybermedia begins with Wiener, who said, "To live effectively is to live with adequate information."

McLuhan (1964) separated "cool" media, which demand active participation and an "involvement in process" (p. 31), from "hot" media, like print, which come in complete packages and encourage passive consumption. In McLuhan's view, roads and vehicles, money, and weapons are media, just as movies, books, and radio are. Media act as extensions of the human body, and electric media are extensions of the human nervous system.

Cybermedia doesn't really exist yet. But it is rushing toward us. In my definition, cybermedia is vast quantities of electronic information stored in incremental form, with the increments able to be combined easily by any user into sequences and sets that suit his or her needs, without boundaries related to subject matter, original authors, or print-packaging conventions. It encompasses what is often referred to as "cyberspace" but also goes beyond.

Users of the World Wide Web can easily imagine that the Web may mature into precisely this -- cybermedia -- if the forms we use for conveying information evolve to take advantage of what technology now allows. I have no doubt that they will; the only question is "How soon?"

Related ideas at other Web sites:

Hypertext Breakdown Cybermedia Index


Cybermedia, by Mindy McAdams
Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Mindy McAdams. All Rights Reserved.
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