McLuhan (1975) posited that information and perception serve as the foundation for one’s view about the world. McLuhan developed the “Laws of the Media” and used the term media to represent the extension of a human being. Consequently, media represented any entity that has the capacity to alter a person’s insight. And, just as genetics is a process that alters the human body to adjust to the changes in their surrounding environment; technologies undergo a metamorphosis to meet the needs of a society. Thornburg (2013e) describes these four laws of media that reflect the stages that emerging technologies simultaneously undergo which are the Extension/Enhancement, Closure/Obsolescence, Retrieval, and Reversal.
Cloud technology is an example of an emerging technology that abides by McLuhan’s laws of the media. Cloud technology, also referred to as cloud computing, is a service that is provided to individuals and organizations, to allow seamless access to data, applications, printers, and other resources (Tang, Wan, Cai& Chen, 2016). The following tetrad reflects how the emerging cloud technology performs a new function; renders an older technology obsolete; rekindles an old technology; and, positions itself to be replaced.
Cloud technology enables virtual access to data processing and data storage via Internet connections and web browsers on mobile devices. Researchers predict there will be more than 50 billion active mobile devices by 2020 with the trend leaning more towards applications as a service (Ansari, Sedky, Sharma, & Tyagi, 2015). Cloud technology enables users to access their data via any computer, tablet, or smart phone irrespective of where the user is located globally. No longer is the user dependent on the physical limitations of their desktop and laptop computers; nor the numerous iterations of upgrades to the software applications. This new way of storing data is cost effective and supports collaboration in the corporate workplace (Moran, 2015). Not only have organizations moved their data stores to the cloud; but, individuals use Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Facebook, and other popular virtual storage facilities to house their personal data (Moran, 2015). In addition, the cloud has become essential component in virtual collaboration that allows employees to simultaneously contribute and collaborate on projects from distant parts of the globe.
Cloud technology facilitates the transfer of data. Traditional methodologies for data transfer that have the propensity to become extinct are DVDs, flash drives, external hard drives, and email will no longer be needed as a vehicle to transport data.
During the 20th century, IBM dominated the computer industry with its large-scale mainframe computers which centralized the hardware and software components (Chesbrough, 2006). The mainframe computer was housed in the legendary “computer room” and the information was accessed via cathode ray tubes (CRTs) that became known as “dumb terminals” because the devices lacked data storage capacity. The cloud is similar in functionality to the mainframe computer. Both use a centralized approach to storing data; and the devices that rely on the cloud for data storage capacity today are similar in functionality to the CRTs that depended on the mainframe for data storage.
Cloud technology sets the stage to be replaced by the technology “highly engineered glass” which is highlighted in Corning’s video A Day Made of Glass. This video depicts Corning’s vision that focuses on processed glass that is touch sensitive. One could say that the glass is equivalent to a computer which retrieves data from a central virtual data source via the touch of a finger. This decentralized computing, uses the glass (tabletop, flat-screen, wall) as a computer; a finger as a mouse (peripheral device); and, the data is translated to information that is used in everyday life. The emergence of new technology in this arena appears to be cyclical and fluctuates between centralized and decentralized computing.
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