Response to McLuhan
“The Galaxy Reconfigured: or the Plight of Mass Man in an Individualist Society” by Marshall McLuhan , describes how looking back in retrospect is necessary to fully grasp the phenomena of cultural change that takes place at the dawn of a new technology or thought process. He explains how change takes place slowly, like a
type of societal mass hypnosis that claims “one sense at a time” (199). Society is both observer and participant in the transformation because change can’t take place without its acceptance. The masses are swept along unwittingly, while “a very few people [ ] furnish the public with all the thought and reason possessed by the vast multitudes” (196). Mcluhan compares the magnitude of the creation of electronic technology to that of the Gutenberg printing press in its ability to change societies. Whereas the printing press moved the world from oral to written mass communication, likewise, new media created a shift from print text to electronic text. Once perceptions begin to change, McLuhan says, it’s impossible to return to the previous state of awareness because the change is, at first, so subtle we don’t recognize it until past the point of no return. In his article “The Medium is the message,” (Here’s the complete lecture).
McLuhan expands on the idea that “indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium” (203). Electricity is just such a medium, he says; Its presence is so pervasive that we no longer recognize it as the medium (of instantaneous light, for instance). That’s the way most users of the computer view computer technology; we just flip a switch and things happen. We don’t realize how that simple act has changed us. But, we aren’t just mindless consumers are we? The fact that I’m writing this blog and you’re reading it makes Baudrillard’s point that independence breeds subversiveness (287). When we read blogs written by average people from all over the world we are a part of the information revolution.
Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Print.
McLuhan, Marshal. “The Galaxy Reconfigured: or the Plight of Mass Man in an Individualist Society.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 194-202.
McLuhan, Marshal. “The Medium is the Message.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 203-209.
Baudrillard, Jean. “Requiem for the Media.” Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort 278-288.