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The shift in perceptions of media

Since the dawn of human civilization, humans have developed five general language devices for self-expression, personal communication, and information transmission: the images found in the caves of prehistoric humanity, spoken language, written language, typeface print, and digital print. What is important here is that, in the progress of humanity’s language technology, new devices did not simply obliterate old ones or make coexistence impossible, but rather created a more dynamic and complex relationship, where the value and place of each device was readjusted.

Operating on the theory that humans expand their senses through additional mediums, Marshall McLuhan (<1911 ~ 1980> Canadian philosopher of communication theory and a public intellectual.) outlines the history of mediums using the following narrative. First, prehistoric peoples communicated through spoken language and oral traditions, and were multi-sensual beings who utilized sight, hearing, smell, and their all other senses in balanced proportion. After the invention of written language, however, humans gradually evolved into more visual beings. Yet even when the written word appeared, it was only used by the privileged minority, meaning the majority of humanity was still composed of multi-sensual beings who utilized a balanced mix of hearing, smell, and other senses. Through printing technology, however, most people ultimately adapted to using an alphabet, initiating a massive shift from the original balance of senses.

In the fifteenth century, for instance, Gutenberg’s metal typefaces rapidly accelerated humanity’s swerve toward a vision-oriented state. The linear nature of writing and reading in particular served to intensify modern humans’ linear perspective of the world. With the printed word came the knowledge revolution, which relied on reason, and thus the whole of human experiences was reclassified and reevaluated according to the logical principles of linearity, sequential order, and uniformity. Printing technology, therefore, distorted human experience by measuring everything to a single standard, and this not only influenced the human senses but also massively impacted the arts and sciences. The philosophy of perspectivism that was born in the fifteenth century was an expression of faith in a fixed viewpoint, similar to the faith the reader placed in the written word.

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Transmedia Storytelling

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)