Published on March 18, 2009
Is the technology the message? Lecture 3, 2009 ARIN2600 Technocultures Chris Chesher Digital Cultures University of Sydney
Marshall McLuhan • 1911–1980 Mechanical Bride (1951) Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) Understanding Media (1964) Medium is the massage (1967) Laws of Media with Eric McLuhan (1988)
The Medium is the Message
Media determinism • ‘Civilisations’ change with media change • Media extend human faculties • Media and thought are closely bound • inverts disembodiment of information to argue that medium is all-pervading • Switches between ﬁgure and ground • From Communication to Medium
Gutenberg Galaxy: Oral/Aural culture • Individuals are connected to their environment & community • Magical, emotional • Empathy and participation • Rituals and memorisation • Integration of the senses • Resistance to change
The spoken word was the ﬁrst technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way…
Print culture • Private individual • independent of environment • Possessive individualism • Uniformity and homogenisation • Alphabet + uniformity of print • Specialisation • Detachment • ﬁxed point of view
Electric age • Instantaneity — allatonceness • Decline in linear thinking • Instant connections; multi-tasking • Less specialisation • Retribalisation • Aware of others watching
The effects of new media on our sensory lives are similar to the effects of new poetry. They change not our thoughts but the structure of our world.
What is intellectual work? • For McLuhan… • Aphorisms & epigrams • Hyperbole & epochal generalisations • pattern recognition not Classiﬁcation • probes more than concepts • Teacher / public intellectual (academic as media event)
Annie Hall (1977)
New media are new http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbaETHAM0Og archetypes, at ﬁrst disguised as degradations of older media. These degradations happen when new media inevitably use old media as content. Using the older ones as content hastens the tidying up process by which a medium becomes an art form (1964)
Understanding several media simultaneously is the best way of approaching any one of them. Any study of one medium helps us to understand all others
The tetrad ENHANCE OBSOLESCE RETRIEVE REVERSE
The tetrad quot;What does the artifact ENHANCE or intensify or make possible or quot;If some aspect of a situation is accelerate? This can be asked enlarged or enhanced, ENHANCE OBSOLESCE concerning a wastebasket, a simultaneously the old condition or painting, a steamroller, or a zipper, unenhanced situation is displaced as well as about a proposition in thereby. What is pushed aside or Euclid or a law of physics. It can be OBSOLESCED by the new 'organ'?quot; asked about any word or phrase in any language.quot; quot;What recurrence or RETRIEVAL of When pushed to the limits of its earlier actions and services is potential (another complementary brought into play simultaneously by action), the new form will tend to RETRIEVE REVERSE the new form? What older, reverse what had been its original previously obsolesced ground is characteristics. What is the brought back and inheres in the new REVERSAL potential of the new form?quot; form?quot;
Video • McLuhan’s Wake • directed by Kevin McMahon. • narrated by Laurie Anderson
Overall focus of this unit of study… 1. How do technology and culture relate? • How does technological change affect perception / society / reality? 2. How can we study technology and culture? • ontology, epistemology • methodologies • disciplinary inﬂuences • theoretical abstractions
McLuhan’s inﬂuences and legacies
Innis • 1894-1952 • Space-binding media • Empire-building • Time-binding media • ‘plea for time’
Paul Levinson • McLuhan follower • sees McLuhan’s work fulﬁlled in digital media • Darwinian theory of media change • libertarian politics
Media professor/expert Paul Levinson on new media inﬂuence (excerpt_ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqZNGYit3kY
Other branches of thought inﬂuenced by McLuhan • James Carey Walter Ong • + culture +Orality and • Baudrillard literacy • + political economy Joshua Meyrowitz • Wired magazine +social space • ‘Patron saint’ Raymond Williams • critic of McLuhan & technological determinism
Limitations of McLuhan Probes fall apart on close inspection • Paradoxes or inconsistencies? Epochal analysis • Is this really a new oral/aural civilisation? Technological determinism • Media change seems to cause everything What happened to social power?
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