Friday, October 15, 2004

What is the reversal of McLuhan’s tetrad?

Last night, I attended a session of Mcluhan Extreme which is part of the McLuhan Festival of the Future in Toronto. The above thought provoking question was raised at the end of the session. I'm attempting an answer, "a la McLuhan", by suggesting that one then needs to ask, what did the tetrad retrieve?

My answer to that question is that it retrieves the I-Ching, a philosophy of change. The Tetrad is a different form of this philosophy of change designed by McLuahn. I believe that they carry the same message.

Why do I say it retrieves the I-Ching? The I-Ching is based on the concept of reversals of 2 major forces: the Yin and the Yang. Too much yin “accelerates”, or flips into yang, too much yang moves into yin. Nothing quantitative about the process, it’s all qualitative. It becomes possible to divine at what point of change one finds oneself in because the underlying philosophy in this world of change is that everything is connected. Hence, the development of the 64 symbols of change. However, reading that process of change correctly is an art form.

So if the tetrad retrieves this knowledge of change, once it accelerates, it reverses into… an amalgation, a re-wholing of all knowledges of change, in some newer form of understanding change in relevance to our times. It could appear in the form of a complex computer program. It could just as well appear as a human social structure where individuals understand their connection with the unknowable whole and act in the context of their valuable place in a complex complexity. I’m not selling the idea of a utopia, but saying that we can find perfection in imperfection.

The Tetrad reverses into a new understanding of the processes of change. That understanding may be the herald of a new renaissance of human discoveries.


Gimble said...

The Tetrad reverses into a new understanding of the processes of change. Isn't a reversal when something turns into its opposite? If it retrieves a philosophy of change, that is, a way of understanding change, is the reversal not the opposite, i.e. a way of obscuring change?

Perhaps the question requires us to ask under what conditions does the tetrad get pushed into reversal? Maybe asking the question itself is one such condition...

(as a sidebar, it is interesting to note that where my knowledge on a subject such as this reaches the limits of its potential, my statements all reverse into questions...)

Cuauhtémoc said...

GJ, hi! Thanks for your comment. Thing about blogging is sometimes one doesn't really know where what one blogs came from! It's usually some insight that was plucked out of the atmosphere of that particular moment I was in. :) Your point about a reversal being the "obscuring of change" can be true too, if you observe that the "I Ching" doesn't really give you direct answers about the nature of change. I'm going to mull it over.

When we know too much, we don't really know? When we don't know, we actually may know?

The age of finding answers has come to pass, enter the age of asking questions, questioning and questing....

Gimble said...

"When we know too much, we don't know at all"

This to me is quite obviously true - this is why McLuhan didn't trust experts or specialists. I think perhaps since the tetrad is applicable to basically everything maybe it's reversal is that it reveals nothing when applied beyond its potential. A concept that reveals everything in the end reveals nothing? I think this is interesting when compared to the message of the I-Ching (which I know little about) but obviously carries a powerful message for those who understand it. Those who do not understand it are unaffected - and cannot grasp its significance easily.

McLuhan's ideas retrieve many characteristics of ancient philosophies and religions I would guess. Ideas that are extremely powerful, but also very difficult to explain to others.

Cuauhtémoc said...

GJ, I see you're a McLuhan fan. Whoopee! As you can see, I am one too. I like your posts: The Laws of Media and Blogosphere and Democracy. (I hope you don't mind my mind linking them here, it might interest other McLuhanists who drop by here occasionally.) I took a course, Mind, Media and Society II, for which we did a group weblog about tetrads, etc. The blog is dead now, but you might want to visit.

Mark, has put up a blog as process of his paper, Fifth Law of Media. Please have a look and comment, the more the merrier, right? He was actually the one who raised the question "what is the reversal of the Tetrad", which I attempted to answer here.

Gimble said...

Thanks for the links, Nui...I'm always interested in other perspectives on this stuff, and I spend far too much time talking about McLuhan to people who don't "get it". So it's nice to find more people who do.