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Dead medium: Definitions and Connections
From: ilff3@cc.uab.es (David Casacuberta) Dear Bruce,

Here are my five cents on Dead Media Theory.

As a philosopher, I am mainly interested in studying people's reactions, hopes and fears in front of technology.

In that sense, Dead Media offers a very powerful instrument to do what we could call "retro-science- fiction". When a new medium appears, everybody starts to "foresee" its future uses, they forecast great benefits and/or terrible menaces ahead, so they start to imagine these science-fictional scripts about this emerging medium.

What is interesting about dead or old media is that we can check how many of these predictions were actually true and how many were plain wrong. Then,we can use this information to debunk some of our own fears and hopes on the newest technology.

Let's consider for example "MSX." This is not an in- depth analysis; just a very quick example to show what I mean.

I remember when the first MSX computers appeared in Spain. It was like an incredible revolution, everybody started to talk about them and how important it was that *every* kid get one of these. "If you don't buy them one, they won't have a future" was a quite common sentence those days. These machines usually ran on BASIC, so bazillions of private academies appeared, and lots and lots of kids were sent there to learn this "language of the future."

The sad truth is that MSX was almost born dead (I don't have the exact numbers here, but PCs running DOS appeared two years later), so these machines became quite useless.

The poor students that went into BASIC... Well most of them didn't learn much apart from

10 print "hello"

20 goto 10

because they get totally stuck on what the hell was a 'variable.' Most of the teachers weren't well prepared either technically or pedagogically. The students that learned something forgot about it in a couple of months. Probably just one percent got some programming skills.

It is not difficult to link this retro-science-fiction situation to the current situation on Internet hype. Now we have bazillions of Internet courses that don't lead you very far, and maybe Internet is going to be eaten by an even-more-super-terrific technology.

In that sense, I especially enjoy the pieces you send from time to time that feature Dead Media hype: on how this- and-that gadget was going to change our lives completely.

Thanks a lot for keeping this list. It is very interesting.

Best wishes

David Casacuberta (ilff3@cc.uab.es)
Philosophy Dept.
Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona
Spain