Marshall Poe is a history professor at the University of Iowa and the author of A History of Communications. This week, he'll deliver the talk "From Grunts to Tweets: Communication and Human History" at the University of Memphis as part of the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities Sesquicentennial Lecture in History. Poe's book starts with the grunting of cavemen. For this interview, we used a more contemporary approach: Twitter. Below is a condensed version.

Flyer: You forward a pushed/pulled theory of media (books, internet, etc.). Can you sum it up in 140 characters?
Marshall Poe: In media history, demand generally creates supply, not the other way around. How's that?

So society pushed, media pulled? Or is it the other way around?
Let's put it this way: You don't get a new medium until a lot of people need it.

Your book covers the history of media. What do you see as the future?
The internet will become TV. In fact, it already has.

In that a computer is another box we are looking at, yes?
I'm looking at one right now. I bet you are too.

Part of your talk is on what's new about the internet, but you've argued there's nothing new. What am I missing here?
The tubes don't do anything new, but they do old things better and cheaper than before. That's new. But, sorry, no revolution. When a medium does my dishes, the revolution will have begun.

One last question. Your bio mentions that you played basketball with Barack Obama. [Both were at Harvard at the same time.] How's your game?
Alas, my game is as dead as Elvis. But I schooled BO back in the day. I doubt he remembers ...

From Grunts to Tweets talk by Marshall Poe, the University Center at the University of Memphis, Thursday, March 21st, 6:30 p.m. A booksigning follows.


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