Thursday, November 6, 2003

Introduction to "Today's McLuhany"

Because I am trying to understand McLuhan's writing about media and its effects, I would like to start a regular subtitle on my blog: my reflections on McLuhan's writing, as an effort to digest his work. McLuhan's writing has such a depth in it that it has not been possible to read him like I would normally read other books. So I am hoping that the process of "reading" McLuhan "aloud" in my blog will help me understand and retain my understanding of his work in a more meaningful way. I am also hoping that there will be other people who would like to join in the process and help me recover from my 'lunacy' over McLuhan so that I don't end up as a complete lunatic incomprehensively talking to herself about McLuhan and all things related...

McLuhany #1: On media as an extension

"After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding. During the mechanical ages, we had extended our bodies in space. Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man- the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended or senses and our nerves by the various media."

- from Understanding Media: The Extension of Man.(pg. 3)

My thoughts: I am always amazed to remember that he wrote this nearly 40 years ago. It was as if he looked into the future and saw the internet, even seeing it in a form that has yet to be developed but will inevitably reach. What does he mean by extensions? That for me is intriguing. Some of the things he lists as extensions are: our skin, hand, or foot to tools, wheels, cars, road, clothing, housing, money, machines, cities, language, games, the printing press, telephone, telegram, movies, photography, TV, radio, and weapons. Extensions, he says, "affects the whole psychic and social complex". And extensions he also calls "media".

Your thoughts?

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