"Disruption" is too narrow a concept
by Doc Searls Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Digital Disruption" is a hot topic at @OnPointRadio. So let's talk about that for a post or few. 

The problem with "disruption" is that it suggests impact from one direction, and calls to mind Newton's laws of motion when we look for effects. Those tend to be two-dimensional: balls dispersed on a pool table when struck by a cue ball, a ship exploding toward the sky on the horizon when hit by a torpedo. The effects of new technologies are more complicated and subtle than that.

Lauding disruption as a virtue (which Silicon Valley has been doing for decades) also tends to excuse collateral effects, including destructive ones. It tends to ignore collateral opportunities as well.

What Marshall and Eric McLuhan do with their Laws of Media is provide a way of discovering effects of disruption (caused by a new medium or technology) refracted in four different directions, each best visited as questions for which many answers are possible: What does a new medium (or technology) 1) enhance, 2) retrieve, 3) obsolesce and 4) reverse into once it fully succeeds? (These are formally called the Tetrad of media effects.)

I suggest a few answers in those four directions in Have We Passed Peak Phone? and The Actually Distributed Web, but will give it a longer and more thought-out treatment in the book I'm writing.