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Marshall McLuhan Messenger of Mediums. Biographical Info Born July 21, 1911 Born July 21, 1911 A Canuck A Canuck Earned BA & MA in English after briefly.

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Presentation on theme: "Marshall McLuhan Messenger of Mediums. Biographical Info Born July 21, 1911 Born July 21, 1911 A Canuck A Canuck Earned BA & MA in English after briefly."— Presentation transcript:

1 Marshall McLuhan Messenger of Mediums

2 Biographical Info Born July 21, 1911 Born July 21, 1911 A Canuck A Canuck Earned BA & MA in English after briefly attempting an engineering major Earned BA & MA in English after briefly attempting an engineering major Learned under I.A. Richards, friend of Walter Ong Learned under I.A. Richards, friend of Walter Ong Died 12/31/1980 Died 12/31/1980

3 The McLuhan Legacy “The medium is the message” “The medium is the message” “Surfing the web” “Surfing the web” “Global village” “Global village” One of the first “intellectual celebrities” One of the first “intellectual celebrities” THE figure in communications ecology THE figure in communications ecology Patron saint of Wired Patron saint of Wired

4 “The Medium is the Message” Everybody says it, but what does it mean? Everybody says it, but what does it mean? McLuhan posited that the content of media was not as important as the effect that the medium itself had on human minds and culture McLuhan posited that the content of media was not as important as the effect that the medium itself had on human minds and culture The Chain: The Chain: Each medium changes/emphasizes perceptual habits, which in turn effects social interaction Each medium changes/emphasizes perceptual habits, which in turn effects social interaction This effect is more powerful than any message the medium might contain….

5 Example: Lightbulb “The electric light escapes attention as a communication medium just because it has no ‘content’. And this makes it an invaluable instance of how people fail to study media at all. For it is not till the electric light is used to spell out some brand name that it is noticed as a medium” – page 203 “The electric light escapes attention as a communication medium just because it has no ‘content’. And this makes it an invaluable instance of how people fail to study media at all. For it is not till the electric light is used to spell out some brand name that it is noticed as a medium” – page 203

6 The Hidden Message of Lightbulbs “The message of the electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized” – page203 “The message of the electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized” – page203 Lightbulbs create lit space where once there was darkness – seems important, but radical and pervasive? Lightbulbs create lit space where once there was darkness – seems important, but radical and pervasive?

7 Cultural Impact of Lightbulbs Effective light 24/7 Effective light 24/7 Is the industrial revolution possible without the lightbulb? Is the industrial revolution possible without the lightbulb? Is the extended work week possible without the lightbulb? Is the extended work week possible without the lightbulb? Many analysts believe that the lightbulb is directly responsible for reducing birth rates Many analysts believe that the lightbulb is directly responsible for reducing birth rates

8 Every medium contains hidden messages “Any technology tends to create a new human environment…technological environments are not merely passive containers of people but are active processes that reshape people and other technologies alike” “Any technology tends to create a new human environment…technological environments are not merely passive containers of people but are active processes that reshape people and other technologies alike” “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”

9 Oral Culture to Print Culture Oral culture: active, participatory, social Oral culture: active, participatory, social Gutenberg Press & movable type turns the world upside down: Gutenberg Press & movable type turns the world upside down: Visual Visual Homogenized experience Homogenized experience Linear Linear Individualism/Fragment ation Individualism/Fragment ation

10 What did these cognitive changes do for print culture? Individualism Individualism Specialists Specialists Democracy Democracy Protestantism Protestantism Capitalism Capitalism Nationalism Nationalism

11 Onward to the future: Print Culture to “Electric Culture” Print Culture is nearly extinct Print Culture is nearly extinct McLuhan sees “Electric” culture as the future McLuhan sees “Electric” culture as the future Electric Culture: Electric Culture: Interdependence Interdependence Collective Identity Collective Identity The future is the past – a return to tribalism The future is the past – a return to tribalism

12 The Global Village – not as cuddly as we were led to believe… “In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture” “In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture” “For any medium has the power of imposing its own assumption on the unwary.” – page 206 “For any medium has the power of imposing its own assumption on the unwary.” – page 206

13 The dark side of the global community “Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain…and as our sense have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. “Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain…and as our sense have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. “…as we transfer our whole being to the data bank, privacy will become a ghost or echo of its former self and what remains of community will disappear.” “…as we transfer our whole being to the data bank, privacy will become a ghost or echo of its former self and what remains of community will disappear.”

14 McLuhan Criticism: where is morality? “Is it not obvious that there are always enough moral problems without also taking a moral stand on technological grounds?” “Is it not obvious that there are always enough moral problems without also taking a moral stand on technological grounds?” “To raise a moral complaint about this is like cussing a buzz-saw for lopping off fingers. It is a problem, but not a moral problem; and it would be nice to clear away some of the moral fogs that surround our technologies. “To raise a moral complaint about this is like cussing a buzz-saw for lopping off fingers. It is a problem, but not a moral problem; and it would be nice to clear away some of the moral fogs that surround our technologies.

15 Intersections with our readings: Baudrillard “But it is not as vehicles of content, but in their form and very operation, that media induce a social relation…” “But it is not as vehicles of content, but in their form and very operation, that media induce a social relation…” “The media are not co- efficients, but effectors of ideology.” “The media are not co- efficients, but effectors of ideology.” Baudrillard, NMR page 280 Baudrillard, NMR page 280

16 Intersections with our readings: Manovich “As we work with software and use the operations embedded in it, these operations become part of how we understand ourselves, and others, and the world. Strategies of working with computer data become our general cognitive strategies” “As we work with software and use the operations embedded in it, these operations become part of how we understand ourselves, and others, and the world. Strategies of working with computer data become our general cognitive strategies” Manovich, Language of New Media page 118 Manovich, Language of New Media page 118

17 Intersections with our readings: Manovich “During waiting periods, the act of communication itself-bits traveling through the network-becomes the message.” “During waiting periods, the act of communication itself-bits traveling through the network-becomes the message.” “So as the user keeps checking whether the information is coming she actually addresses the machine itself. Or rather, the machine addresses the user.” “So as the user keeps checking whether the information is coming she actually addresses the machine itself. Or rather, the machine addresses the user.” Lev Manovich, Language of New Media pgs Lev Manovich, Language of New Media pgs

18 Intersections with our readings: Haraway “Technologies and scientific discourses can be partially understood as formalizations, i.e., as frozen moments of the fluid social interactions constituting them, but should also be viewed as instruments of enforcing meanings.” “Technologies and scientific discourses can be partially understood as formalizations, i.e., as frozen moments of the fluid social interactions constituting them, but should also be viewed as instruments of enforcing meanings.” Donna Haraway, NMR page 524 Donna Haraway, NMR page 524

19 McLuhan Recap Each medium affects the brain differently, which produces a different social interaction Each medium affects the brain differently, which produces a different social interaction These medium specific changes are far more culturally important than the content of the medium These medium specific changes are far more culturally important than the content of the medium

20 McLuhan Recap McLuhan wouldn’t be terribly interested in the sex & violence contained in certain video games… McLuhan wouldn’t be terribly interested in the sex & violence contained in certain video games… …the question for McLuhan would be – how does the human brain process this medium, and how will that ultimately effect social interaction? …the question for McLuhan would be – how does the human brain process this medium, and how will that ultimately effect social interaction?

21 Print/Electric Culture McLuhan sees us moving from an individualistic print culture to an interdependent global village McLuhan sees us moving from an individualistic print culture to an interdependent global village The prognosis: The prognosis: This new form of tribal cultures says hello fear, goodbye privacy This new form of tribal cultures says hello fear, goodbye privacy Is he correct? Is he correct? What can we do to transition more effectively? What can we do to transition more effectively?


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