McLuhan’s Statements as Instruments of Exploration

Below McLuhan talks about how he disliked the idea of finalising things. It doesn’t help him in the way he like to explore. His statements are probes:

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5 thoughts on “McLuhan’s Statements as Instruments of Exploration

    • Even though we like wikis we do seem to always want to strive for finality or closure (even when we write wiki pages). Why do you think we find it so hard to just explore without looking for a final truth?
      (LOVED Lessig’s Code by the way: his regulatory forces shape a lot of my thinking about privacy and the net)

  1. I wish there was an easier way to make a comment without having to respond to a particular post. Oh well…

    Anyhow, I found myself unable to get past the first sentence: “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.”

    McLuhan is of course referring here to the predominant analytic tradition, wherein we understand the world by splitting it into smaller and smaller parts. This tradition is properly said to have begun with Descartes’ analytic method, and is to this day essentially the way we do science.

    When McLuhan says ‘medium’ he is therefore referring to an underlying substrate, which may as well be derived from Plato’s forms, Aristotle’s nature (or Spinoza’s spirit), a _physis_ underlying the accidental properties we perceive through the senses, an _essence_, if you will. In the context, we think of ‘the medium’ simply as the communications medium – print, light, electronics, whatever – but the first sentence makes a much more general point than that.

    The first sentence is a cure, telling us to watch communications for what _appears_ to be being said, and what is _really_ being said, where what is really being said is understood through understanding this underlying reality of the medium. The ‘appearance’ is the furniture in the room illuminated by the electric light; the reality is the fact of seeing the contents of rooms that would ordinarily be dark.

    That is all.

    • Thank you for your comments Stephen. I realize that having to reply to a post is awkward. If you’d prefer I could give you access to this blog as a contributor allowing you to create your own post. Alternatively you could write at your own “half an hour” site and tweet those posts with the #umrg hash tag for me to pick them up.

      After reading your post I literally stared at my smartphone for a few minutes trying to see it in its “platonic form”, the reality rather than the appearance. Didn’t make much progress yet…

  2. Pingback: #UMRG Links, Thoughts and Comments #2 | Understanding Media

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