Inaugural lecture

The Biases of Electricity

Derrick de Kerckhove

McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto.

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According to the technology with which we convey language, we can define three cognitive stages - in which the language itself and the cognitive model and cognitive skills of individuals are modified - in the history of humanity: the oral tradition, the written language and the age of electricity. The age of electricity, which extends, accelerates and redistributes language with increasingly more complex technologies and increasingly more refined codes, can, in turn, be subdivided into three phases: an initial analog phase, followed by a digital phase, up to the appearance of wireless technology. All three are characterized by common trends inherent to the new technologies which extend their influence directly during their use and functioning, but also the effects that these technologies have on social behavior.

The new cognitive space acts entirely through a screen, which has become the principal link with information and which has evolved from unidirectional communication to interactive technologies of exchange and participation in the process, reaching the stage of sharing information over networks, as in the case of blogs, which constitute an active digital personality that can be controlled and that permits the creation of network communities. Parallel to this, however, an ever greater interconnection of the technologies and of the information available in the networks is occurring - both that which the user themselves makes public and that which cannot be controlled - on the digital personality, be it with purely commercial ends or as a system of supervision and security. This fact has opened up a debate that questions whether this process leads us inevitably toward a loss of autonomy and private identity in the networks.





digital persona


  1. Technology and language
  2. Electricity
  3. Three phases
  4. Biases
  5. Virtuality
  6. Connectivity
  7. Hypertextuality
  8. Convergence
  9. Immersion
  10. Real time and random access
  11. Hypertinence
  12. Ubiquity
  13. Globality
  14. Transparency
  15. The body electric
  16. Screenology
  17. Am I a blogentity?
  18. Private identity