My job is to determine the implications of
technological change on communication (voice and data)
and to try to predict the evolution of both the
commercial marketplace and the technological research
area. The reason that I began to consider whether TWL
was an example of a cool poem came out of my
realization that coolness is not just a property of
modern media as I think McLuhan implied. Rather
coolness is one way of coping with complexity. It has
a long historical context.
Thomas Allen of MIT made a study of what determined
the success or failures of projects in US National
Laboratories in eh 1960s. He found that in these terms
of researchers, there was a negative correlation
between the amount of literature research performed
and project success. To repeat this, the more a team
studied the relevant literature the more likely it was
This result seems to negate the value of study.
However it was really a reflection of the fact that
Allen found that success was directly correlated with
the amount of informal interaction that the research
group had with other people both inside and outside of
the laboratory. Knowledge is not something that can be
contained in articles or in the mind of one
individual. It is not universally relevant but must be
interpreted for individual contexts.
Organizations like the US National Labs are
concontainersr infinformaltworks. Individuals
volvoluntarilyke on roles as infinformationtekeepers,
in Allen's terms, track the developments in certain
specialized knowledge areas and provide it informally
to those around them in the organization. Informal
networks spring up and people seek out the knoknow
edge others who ahve have a certain topic a specialty.
Knowledge spread and knoknow edgeeation become
collective activities. Those who
ignoignorestheseonetworks consult the literature
extensively on their own are aqt atdaadvantage and
tend to fail more often then their networked
This has major implications for
moadmodernmcommunicationhnologies as it can choose of
not choose whether to recognize and support such
knoknow edgetworks. Products are failing today both
functionally and commercially becbecauseey hinder
ratRatheran help people in their work in such
In thinking about this, I realized that coolness comes
from the support of collective and communal effort.
Universities are a cool technology that allow for
tehtheeation of infinformaltworks. Universities owe
their success to this.
In thinking about TSE, I saw a man who also rejected
the proprospectsdividual success for anyone.
Achievement comes from the outside (revelation) and
collectively. His poems are not addressed to the
feelings of the individual but can only be interpreted
collectively using knowledge of societal images. He is
a cool communal poet.
When I read that McLuhan who much admired hot
individual study and opinions was a great admirer of
TSE, I was puzzled and so I asked the question about
TWL as a cool poem. How could a hot intellect like
McLuhan and a cool poet such as TSE be associated?
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