What Would McLuhan Say about the Smartphone? Applying McLuhan's Tetrad to the Smartphone

2016 Glocality  
In this essay, the smartphone as a new technology and medium is analysed with regards to its effects on individuals and society. McLuhan's tetrad serves as a framework for analysis, consisting of a set of four effects to examine media in their historical context and present environment as well as the characteristics and attributes of the medium itself. These effects include: enhancement, obsolescence, retrieval, and reversal. The smartphone enhances the accessibility and convenience of the
more » ... enience of the medium internet, which also accelerates the speed of real-time communication. Concerning obsolescence, the smartphone pushes feature mobile phones aside as well as decreasing the use of personal computers and home printers. The smartphone retrieves the use of cameras and (e-)books, reviving the linear focus on the medium. When pushed to its extremes, the smartphone transforms into a new form reversing its original characteristics, with imaginable evolvements being devices of Augmented Reality, (e.g. GoogleGlass), that might render its users oblivious to their surrounding environment and thus actually restricting human interaction instead of facilitating communication. To sum up, the smartphone facilitates many aspects of daily life and can be a very useful and entertaining tool. Nevertheless, possible negative implications and social effects should be considered, like the extreme cases of "smartphone addiction" or less human interaction.
doi:10.5334/glo.9 fatcat:zl3frsyhsnb5jo56alqhyphwte