The medium is the massage: an inventory of effects

Booklet full of aphorisms. Oh-so quotable. I find myself wanting to use these quotes again and again. They are attractive. The attractiveness should not blind us. It will not, after so many years, I guess. The quotes are good to make a seminar or class attractive. Still. Together with the images.

So here, for future use. A digest.

“The medium or process of our time — electrical technology — is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life. It is forcing to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted. Everything is changing — you, your family, your neighborhood, your education, your job, your government, your relation to “the others”. And they are changing dramatically.” p. 8

“Electrical information devices for universal, tyrannical womb-to-tomb surveillance are causing a very serious dilemma between our claim to privacy and the community’s need to know. The older, traditional ideas of private, isolated thoughts and actions — the patterns of mechanistic technologies — are very seriously threatened by new methods of instantaneous electric information retrieval, by the electrically computerized dossier bank — that one big gossip column that is unforgiving, unforgetful and from which there is no redemption, no erasure of early “mistakes.”” p. 12

(This bit is followed by: “We have already reached a point where remedial control, born out of knowledge of media and their total effect on all of us, must be exerted.”)

“All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage. Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments.” p. 26

“The dominant organ of sensory and social orientation in pre-alphabet societies was the ear — “hearing was believing.” The phonetic alphabet forced the magic world of the ear to yield to the neutral world of the eye. man was given an eye for an ear.” p. 44

“Western history was shaped for some three thousand years by the introduction of the phonetic alephbet, a medium that depends solely on the eye for comprehension. The alphabet is a construct of fragmented bits and parts which have no semantic meaning in themselves, and which must be strung together in a line, bead-like, and in a prescribed order. Its use fostered and encouraged the habit of perceiving all environments in visual and spatial terms — particular in terms of a space and of a time that are uniform, c,o,n,t,i,n,u,o,u,s and c-o-n-n-e-c-t-e-d.” p. 44

“Printing, a ditto device (…) created the portable book, which men could read in privacy and in isolation from others. Man could now inspire — and conspire.” p. 50

“(T)he printed book added much to the new cult of individualism. The private, fixed point of view became possible and literacy conferred the power of detachement, non-involvement.” p. 50

“Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. “Time” has ceased, “space” has vanished. We now live in a global village . . . a simultaneous happening. We are back in acoustic space . We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling, the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of litercy divorced us.” p. 63

“Electric circuity profoundly involves men with one another. Information pours upon us, instantaneously and continuously. As soon as information is acquired, it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information. Our electrically-configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experience co-exist in a state of active interplay.” p. 63

“Print technology created the public. Electric technology created the mass. The public consists of seperate individuals walking around with separate points of view. The new technology demands that we abandon the luxury of this posture, this fragmentary outlook.” p. 68/69

“The invention of printing did away with anonimity, fostering ideas of literary fame and the habt of considering intellectual effort as private property. Mechanical multiples of the same text created a public — a reading public. The rising consumer-orientied culture became concerned with labels od authenticity and protection against theft and piracy. The idea of copyright — “the exclusive right to reproduce, publish and sell the matter and form of a literary or artistic work” — was born.” p. 122

From: McLuhan, Marshall and Fiore, Quentin, The medium is the massage: an inventory of effects, Corte Madera, CA : Gingko Press, 2001 (1967).

en,quotations,research,ubiscribe | October 2, 2008 | 14:11 | Comments Off on The medium is the massage: an inventory of effects |


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