McLuhan’s Tetrad can be applied to many media examples but one in particular is the Film industry. There are many technological advances in the film industry, nothing more apparent the development of HD. The laws of media can be applied to film and its dominance until HD arrived on the market. This post attempts to apply the tetrad to the evolution of the film aesthetic. The tetrad gives a quadrant of questions that apply to existence of technology especially media technology. Enhance, retrieve, reverse and obsolesce are the components of the tetrad.
Film began in the late 1800’s and reached global dominance in the 20th century. Movies were made with film; celluloid, and as time progressed film development grew. Film dominated the feature film and television market.
What did film enhance? It enhanced the lifestyles and cultures of those who could experience, still or moving, images captured on film. The development of the film camera allowed for moving images to create an industry that created jobs and other industries. Film enhanced or amplified humans’ ability to record history and explore human narratives. The film (moving images) created opportunities for education and arts entertainment culture to advance society as well as to document human existence and behavior.
Before the discovery of film and its ability to enhance social growth, there was print media as well as radio that reined as the keys to communicating news, education and entertainment and therefore advertising. But what would it obsolesce? Film would almost make news and radio obsolete. The film industry in its “figure” stage challenged print media and radio and would create a “ground” stage associated with print media and radio.
When film was developed and became a dominant tool to further the human narrative. What did this technology retrieve, renew or reactivate? Film retrieved the expression of the human narrative. Film would allow societies to retrieve history and reactivated the spirit of the human story. What might have been lost in the pages of books could now be explored in a more visceral way. “The motional picture industry has provided a window on the world, and the colonized nations have looked through that window and have seen the things of which they have been deprived” (McLuhan & Fiore, 1967).
“Reversal” is the final component of the tetrad that can be applied to the discovery of film. When film development is pushed to it limits, what happens? When film is regulated and accepted as the norm or becomes “ground” what is the result?
Digital and HD cameras were developed to challenge the extended and growing cost of film projects as well create another format that could offer that same or better visual experience for the independent filmmaker. It would be the cost of film production and the growing digital technology that would reverse the dominance of film in the television and film industry.
McLuhan’s tetrad, which expresses the laws of media, is a valuable discovery and can be applied to all technology. The tetrad should be used as way to encourage media literacy and forming new interest in the development of technology. In secondary and primary education, individuals learn to create and dissect the English language; the tetrad should be included. The tetrad would be a powerful source of education and is an effective tool. No different than mathematics or learning to structure a sentence, the tetrad benefits human learning experience by creating away individuals can really see technology in the “figure” stage.