McLuhan did not have the vocabulary of complexity at his disposal, although the effects he observes and about which he writes are indeed complex and emergent effects. In that sense, the changes – or messages – that act on an individual create perturbations in the social system of which an individual is a member; hence, an effect on an individual potentially ripples through to become transformative effects on a society.
Finally he shared some insight information about McLuhan’s appearance in Annie Hall:
In fact, Marshall regularly used the “do you think my fallacy is wrong?” as a probe to counter the many criticisms and critiques of his work and observations. By claiming his observations were fallacious they are by definition “wrong,” thereby not only disarming the critic, but making him look foolish in the process. He would then calmly walk away, leaving the would-be attacker puzzled in his wake.
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.
Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.
Will is still looking for the source of this quote. Is this maybe something McLuhan said on TV sometime?
Glenn Cochrane has written a reply to Tom Nickel’s question on whether modern financial instruments are extensions of ourselves. He refers to Michael Sandel’s latest book in which he explores how we are turning everything into markets (essentially commodifying things that shouldn’t be commofied, paid for prison cell upgrade anyone?). Glenn writes:
To continue with Sandel’s example in a McLuhan light, when culture is put wholly through the medium of market we become numb to any cultural goals except for accumulating money (perhaps with a nice side order of justification). It becomes a closed system that tends not to consider any outside suggestion about what to do with our lives, imploding on itself as all activities start to fit this ultimate goal.
I’ll finish by sharing some of my favourite quotes about art and artist in the introduction to the second edition of Understanding Media:
The power of the arts to anticipate future social and technological developments, by a generation and more, has long been recognized. In this century Ezra Pound called the artist “the antennae of the race”. Art as radar acts as “an early alarm system,” as it were, enabling us to discover social and psychic targets in lots of time to prepare to cope with them. This concept of the arts as prophetic, contrasts with the popular idea of them as mere self-expression. [..] Art as a radar environment takes on the function of indispensable perceptual training rather than the role of a privileged diet for the elite.
I was also delighted to read the following passage in the same introduction:
The machine turned Nature into an art form. For the first time men began to regard Nature as a source of aesthetic and spiritual values. They began to marvel that earlier ages had been so unaware of the world of Nature as Art.
For some reason I can only think of people marvelling at nature documentaries on their Hi-Def televisions.