McLuhan Applied, week 5


McLuhan developed the Laws of Media and used the tetrad as a model to explain this principle.  The future technology selected for this illustration is augmented reality and its integration with field artillery counter fire radar also known as the TPQ-53.  This paper will create the tetrad with supporting evidence to describe McLuhan’s Laws of Media as they are applied to target engagement capabilities.


     McLuhan’s Laws of Media utilize five concepts to create the Tetrad.  The first is the medium that facilitates the tetrad and then the four genres.  The proposed augmented reality project is AR technology applied to the TPQ-53, counter fire radar.  Integrating AR into the TPQ-53 will enhance military capability to acquire targets; expand and strengthen command, control, computers, and intelligence (C4I) capabilities; as well as provide clarity for engagement capability.   The engagement capability will be illustrated utilizing the Laws of Media (McMahon, 2002)

The four corners of the tetrad for engagement capability are enhanced: target acquisition, reverse: enemy action/capability, obsolesce: ANQ 36/37, retrieval:  forward observer and the flip is the TPQ-53 Enhanced system.  The utilization of this model develops engagement capabilities into a common operating picture for examination by C4I for the appropriate troop/unit to task decision.  This is an example of McLuhan’s retransformation and revolution of technology for the commonality of society or in this case the military (McMahon, 2002).

So how do all of the capabilities come together to support engagement capability?  The first understanding is the capabilities listed in the tetrad and how they function together. The capabilities do not work independently or in chronological order but perform simultaneously (Wikipedia, n.d.).  The capability chosen to enhance was target acquisition.  Target acquisition by counter fire radar is the primary means Field Artillery units acquire targets and conduct counter fire operations.  This capability can be enhanced with AR to provide C4I with the capability to provide other lethal/non-lethal means.  The reverse capability is the enemy action/capability. The enemy action/capability is reduced when friendly military forces takes action in the form of lethal/non-lethal exploitation.  Obsolesce is the ANQ 36/37.  The ANQ 36/37 are target acquisition radars that are large, stationary, and have limited acquisition capabilities.  The addition of AR would provide limited enhanced advantage due to the radar’s vulnerabilities.   The last genre is the retrieval.  The forward observer is the retrieval.  The forward observer is a team of soldiers that radioed to the firing battery (the unit with artillery guns/cannons) and called for fire.  The forward observers also provided information that allowed the firing batteries to put “steel on target.”  The information provided included the distance away from the target the registration (initial) fire was from the target.  The forward observers continued to provide information and would then call “fire for effect.” “Fire for effect” is the destruction of the target.  These operations are all lethal fires/operations.  The flip is the TPQ-53 AR Enhanced System.  This future technology includes not just Field Artillery assets but includes C4I and the notification of acquisition to all units in the area of operation or further action.  This action does not have to be lethal but could be non-lethal in the form of key leader engagements (commander and local officials or leaders).



Tetrad with flip

Tetrad with Engagement Capabilities


The application of McLuhan’s Laws of Media can be used as the model to justify further research and development for AR enhanced technology for the TPQ-53 or other Department of Defense technologies.   The AR technologies used by the Department of Defense should not

fragment the current technology in the military inventor but should enhance military capability as well as providing the origin for the next generation of technology.


McMahon, K. (2002). McLuhan’s wake. (film), New York: The Disinformation Company.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). The tetrad of media effects. Retrieved from

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