Digital Essay 1

One of the strongest features that humans have come to master is our use of tools. Even since early cave men, humans have used tools as an extension of our mind and or body. As technology advances we gain more flexibility, mobility, and capabilities through new media. An example of humans interacting and evolving with technology is illustrated below.


“Designx” Stanford University. (13 October 2011). Retrieved on Jan. 30,2015 from

Arguably the most influential invention within the media field is the papyrus, an inscribed stone tablet developed in 3000 BCE ancient Egypt (Harold Innis, “Media in Ancient Empires” in Communication in History: Technology, Culture, and Society, 6th ed. ed. David Crowley and Paul Heyer (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2007)(Farman, pg. 11). The papyrus was so influential because it set the ball in motion for further media advances. With the papyrus, written media became portable. In 1440 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, allowing written media to become mass-produced. (James Burke, “ A matter of Fact,” The Day the Universe Changed, DVD, directed by Richard Reisz (London BBC, 1986)) (Lewis Mumford, “The Invention of Printing,” in Communication in History: Technology, Culture, and Society, 6th ed., ed. David Crowley and Paul Heyer (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2007)(Farman, pg. 12).

 Cooke produced the first commercial electric telegraph and Wheatstone in 1839 (Hubbard 1999, p. 52-3, 1965) (Goggin, p. 19) In the 1860s Dr. Loomis discovers that he can sen electrical discharges between mountain tops. This leads to the telephone, which was demonstrated for the first time in 1877 by Alexander Bell (Bell quoted in Bruce, 1973). (Goggin, p.20). Although Dr. Loomis experimented with sending electromagnetic waves; the concept was not fully explained until Heinrich Hertz dug deeper into it in the 1880’s (Ling & Donner, p.34). By the end of the nineteenth century the telegraph became a global communication network. (Hedrick 1991, p. 50-72) (Goggin).

 In 1910 Lars Ericcon, a Swedish electrical engineer, made the first mobile phone. The phone was built into his wife’s car (Farman, p.15). This transforms how we use the telephone similar to the way the papyrus changed the way that we originally sent messages. It allows us to carry communication over long distances with us, rather being stuck to a location. This capability was further advanced in 1973 when the CEO of Motorola, Martin Cooper, bade the “worlds first” call on a hand-held portable phone. Other technologies were being developed which tied into older ones as well. Following WW2 Bell labs made many computers, computer languages, and software advances(Goggin, Page 26). This included programming which allowed switching between telephone calls and changing radio frequencies.

So how are we using these technological advances today? One of the newer tools made possible from all of these advances is augmented reality. Liao and Lee Humphrey explain this in their article “Layer-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and re-appropriate public space” saying that “As augmented reality (AR) is becoming technologically possible and publicly available through mobile smartphone and tablet devices..” (p. 1) Liao and Humphrey also tell how augmented reality is made possible by the previously discussed technological advances saying “Advances such as GPS, telecommunications, and the Internet combined making augmented reality possible “ (Liao and Humphrey, p.2). The Goggin also evaluates how the convergence involved in augmented reality makes it a powerful tool which can be used to change experiences, give information, and or develop a different encounter (Aurigi and De Cindio, 2008; Brewer and Dourish, 2008; De Souza Silva and Frith, 2010; Sheller and Urry, 2006; Thrift and French, 2002).

Through augmented reality citizens have the power to manipulate structures and space. It also gives the option to inject non physical meanings and objects to a physical space. Liao and Humphrey explain that there are two types of special practices that shape urban space, strategic and tactical. Strategic forces attempt to “distinguish their own place” they are typically induced by powerful entities like the government or armies. Strategic actions seek to define and reinforce rules. Alternatively, tactical uses of augmented reality are “‘an act of the weak’ and refer to the specific devices, actions, and procedures in which people create meaning for and move through those spaces in subversive ways” (De Certeau, 1984: 37)(Liao and Humphrey p.6). Therefore augmented reality is one way that ordinary people can induce their own power by manipulating space.

Augmented reality also gives people the power to induce meaning into space. Liao and Humphrey explain this saying .” The use of these mobile technologies not only influences how people consume space, but creation of augmentation has the potential to reproduce space with code” (Liao and Humphrey, p.5). This changes the relationships between people and space because the space can be encoded to give additional information. Users can reference, for example, historic events that may otherwise be over looked or forgotten.

Augmented reality technology also gives the user the power to change the way that they view the space (through filters/layers) in a way that is not possible in the physical space. The video below demonstrates how augmented reality can be used to change the view of ones world.

Magicvisionlab. (Dec. 17, 2009) “Space-Distorting Augmented Reality (VR-2010)” retrieved on Jan. 30, 2015 from

For additional information on augmented reality, click Here.

Farman, J. (2012). Historicizing Mobile Media. The Mobile Media Reader, 9-22.

Goggin, G. (2012). Cell phone culture: Mobile technology in everyday life. Routledge.

Liao, T., & Humphreys, L. (2014). Layar-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and reappropriate public space. New Media & Society, 1461444814527734.

Unknown. (2015) “A Brief History of Paper.” Paper Case. Retrieved on Jan. 30, 2015 from

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