User:ThomasW/Notes McLuhan Marshall Understanding Media The Extensions of Man

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McLuhan, Marshall, (1994) Understanding Media The Extensions_of_Man, United States of America, The MIT Press


(writing is visual; television is aural and tactile), a, page xii

McLuhan suggests that in the twentieth century as in the sixteenth, the literary man prefers "to view wit h alarm to point wit h pride, while scrupulously ignoring what's going on." " page xvi

Travel differs very little from going to a movie or turning the pages of a magazine. People ever arrive at any new . place. They can have Shanghai or Berlin or Venice in a package tour that they need never open. Thus the world itself becomes . a sort of museum of objects that have been encountered before in some other medium. (198) page xv

If the media are nothing more than the means of storing and transporting information, and , if by assuming the character of information commodities can be moved by fiber optics, fax machines, and AT M cards, then whybother to maintain an infrastructure geared to the purposes of medieval Europe or ancient Rome? Page xvi

McLuhan accurately accounts for the orders of priority by saying that the historians and archeologists one day wil l discover that the twentieth century's commercial advertisements (like the stained-glass windows of fourteenth century cathedrals) offer the "richest and most faithful reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities."  Page xvii

Believing that it was the grammar of print that divided mankind into isolated factions of selfishly defined interests, castes, nationalities, and provinces of feeling, page xvii

Simone Weil once noticed, " it is the thing that thinks, and the man who is reduced to the state , of the thing," " page xix

we become what we behold. We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us"

Typographic man assumed that A follows B, that people who , made things—whether cities, ideas, families, or works of art—measured their victories (usually Pyrrhic) over periods of time longer than those sold to the buyers of beer commercials. Graphic man . imagines himself living in the enchanted garden of the eternal now. If all the world can be seen simultaneously, and if all mankind's joy , and suffering is always and everywhere present (if not on CN N or Oprah, then on the "Sunday Night Movie" or MTV) , nothing " , necessarily follows from anything else. Sequence becomes merely . additive instead of causative. Like the nomadic hordes wandering . across an ancient desert in search of the soul's oasis, graphic man , embraces the pleasures of barbarism and swears fealty to the sovereignty of the moment. PAGE XXIII

I n the electric age, when our central nervous system is technologically extended to involve us i n the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole of mankind i n us, we necessarily participate, in depth, in the consequences of our every action. Page 4

The content of writin g is speech, just as the written , wor d is the content of print, and print is the content of the , telegraph. I f it is asked, "Wha t is the content of speech?," it is , " necessary to say, "I t is an actual process of thought, which is i n itself nonverbal." A n abstract painting represents direct manifestation of creative thought processes as they might appear in computer designs. Page 8

content" of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium. . Page 9

Three hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets." Page 13

The alphabet, when pushed to high degree of abstract visual intensity, became typography. I lie printed wor d wit h its specialist intensity burst the bonds of medieval corporate guilds and monasteries, creating extreme , individualist patterns of enterprise and monopoly. But the typical . reversal occurred when extremes of monopoly brought back t h e corporation, wit h its impersonal empire over many lives. Page23

A tribal and feudal hierarchy of traditional kind collapses quickly when i t meets any hot medium of the mechanical, uniform, and repetitive kind. The medium of money or wheel or writing , or any other for m of specialist speed, up of exchange and information, wil l serve to fragment a tribal , structure. Page 24

Margaret Mead described in Time magazine (September 4, 1954): "There are too , many complaints about society having to move too fast to keep up wit h the machine. . Page28

.The price of eternal vigilance is indifference. Page 30

Hans Selye and Adolphe Jonas hold that all extensions of ourselves, i n sickness or i n health, are attempts to maintain equilibrium. An y extension of ourselves they regard as "autoamputatdon," and they find that the autoamputative power or strategy is resorted to b y the body when the perceptual power cannot locate or avoid the cause of irritation.  Page31

Wit h the arrival of electric technology, man extended, or , , set outside himself, a live model of the central nervous system it , -self. T o the degree that this is so, it is a development that suggests , a desperate and suicidal autoamputation, as if the central nervous , system could no longer depend on the physical organs to be protective buffers against the slings and arrows of outrageous mechanism. Page 43

T o behold, use or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological for m is necessarily to embrace it. To listen to radio or to read the printed page is to accept these extensions of ourselves into our personal system and to undergo the "closure" or " displacement of perception that follows automatically. Page 46

By continuously embracing technologies, w e relate ourselves to them as servomechanisms. Page 46

Our private and corporate lives have become information processes just because we have put our central nervous systems outside us in electric technology. . Page 52

To have a disease without its symptoms is to be immune. . P65

Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those w h o would tr y to benefit fro m taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the , earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly. . P68

Language does for intelligence what the wheel does f or the feet and the body. . P79

As a civilized UNESC O experiment, running water—with its lineal, organization of pipes—was installed recently i n some Indian vil -lages. Soon the villagers requested that the pipes be removed, for , it seemed to them that the whole social life of the village had been impoverished when it was no longer necessary for all to visit the communal well. T o us the pipe is a convenience. We do not think . . of it as culture or as a product of literacy, any more than we think , of literacy as changing our habits, our emotions, or our percep, , tions. P87

Division of labor always creates a separation between producer and consumer, even as i t tends to separate the place of , wor k and the living space. . P100

Since all media are extensions of our ow n bodies and senses, and since we habitually translate one sense into another in our ow n experience, it need not surprise us that our extended , senses or technologies should repeat the process of translation and assimilation of one for m into another. This process may well . be inseparable fro m the character of touch, and fro m the abra, sively interfaced action of surfaces, whether i n chemistry or , crowds or technologies. . P116

W e are confronted here once more wit h that basic function of media—to store and to expedite information. Plainly, to store is to expedite, since what is stored is also more accessible than what , has to be gathered. The fact that visual information about flowers . and plants cannot be stored verbally also points to the fact that science in the Western worl d has long been dependent on the visual factor. No r is this surprising in a literate culture based on . the technology of the alphabet, one that reduces even spoken , language to a visual mode. As electricity has created multiple non. visual means of storing and retrieving information, not only cul, ture but science also has shifted its entire base and character. For . the educator, as well as the philosopher, exact knowledge of wha t , , this shift means for learning and the mental process is not necessary. P158-159

Electric means of moving of information are altering our typo -graphic culture as sharply as print modified medieval manuscript and scholastic culture. P171

A n y student of the social history of the printed book is likely to be puzzled b y the lack of understanding of the psychic and social effects of printing. In five centuries explicit comment and . awareness of the effects of print on human sensibility are very scarce. But the same observation can be made about all the extensions of man, whether it be clothing or the computer. A n extension , . appears to be an amplification of an organ, a sense or a function, , that inspires the central nervous system to a self-protective gesture of numbing of the extended area, at least so far as direct inspection , and awareness are concerned. . Page172

A new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one i n peace. , I t never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them. . P174

Once a new technology comes into a social milieu it cannot cease to permeate that milieu until every institution is saturated. P178

Every technology creates new stresses and needs i n the humlan beings wh o have engendered it. The new need and . the new technological response are born of our embrace of the already existing technology—a ceaseless process. P183

Joyce called an "allnights newsery reel," that " substitutes a "reel" worl d for reality. . P193

To understand the medium of the photograph is quite im -possible, then, without grasping its relations to other media, both old and new. For media, as extensions of our physical and nervous systems, constitute a worl d of biochemical interactions that must ever seek new equilibrium as new extensions occur. I n America, people can tolerate their images in mirror or photo, but they are made uncomfortable b y the recorded sound of their ow n voices. The photo and visual worlds are secure areas of anesthesia. P202

1962, when Minneapolis had been for months without a newspaper, the chief of police said: "Sure, , I miss the news, but so far as m y job goes I hope the papers , never come back. There is less crime around without a newspaper. to pass around the ideas." 205

As automation takes hold, it becomes obvious , that information is the crucial commodity, and that solid products , are merely incidental to information movement. . P207

The y woul d gladly pay the reader, listener, or viewer directly for his , , time and attention if they knew ho w to do so. . P207