Marshall McLuhan

Posted by Eryk Salvaggio | Wed Mar 22nd 2006 12:51 p.m.

Hi Eric,

I had just been reading "The Gutenberg Galaxy" when you wrote your post, and found it odd, and worth discussing, that after that book I had reached a seperate conclusion on McCluhans ideas than you did.

Sorry to obfuscate anything. McCluhan says it pretty specifically, on pg 255:

"the increasing seperation of the visual faculty from the interplay with the other senses leads to the rejection from consciousness of most of our experience, and the consequent hypertrophy of the unconscious."

This seperation of the visual faculty, according to McCluhan, is a direct consequence of the seperation of text from meaning. In oral cultures, learning and meaning are always collaborative, always respond to another person. The library is stored in
other people. In this situation, there's a fundamental shift both in how we percieve information, and how we percieve the value of other people.

I haven't read Virilio, but I was making my own observation, based on my experiences (particularly in the partisan political side of the net) that the way we treat the web is to act as though it is an ongoing conversation, when in fact it is really
an archive of text masquerading as conversation. In other words, we treat the "dynamic", "collaborative" web (as opposed to the "static" web) as if it were an oral society where information is transactional, instead of acting like it really is- a
textual archive of recorded conversations, and therefore, still very much dismembered from any interpretation of our environment or any ability to engage or interact with people.

This does touch on your interest in the interaction of humans in physical and virtual spaces. To state that geography has collapsed is correct, by our current perceptions one can play a game with someone in China or the Soviet Union, and so cultural
exchange and conversation is possible. But it is a far cry from there, in my opinion, to say that nationstates are therefore irrelevant- global politics have always operated without any real consideration for the people they are supposed to
represent. They are a political fiction, run with real consequences for real people, regardless of whether those people are capable of engaging culturally through a virtual space. Particularly if that virtual space is misunderstood, which it is.
Right now, as an example- I am not purely engaging in a public conversation with you. I am not "typing a conversation". I'm building an archive. There's a drastic difference between conversation- a purely collaborative process- and the rapid
archival of critique and response, which is the basic, logical eternal process of "dialogue" we've had with most cultural responses in history since text (essentially, we're writing a collaborative essay, which is a far cry from dialogue).

So what we are doing is more directly connected to archive, the development of reference. This kind of conversation is radically different than what we think we're doing, which is conversing. Your thought that I am obfuscating a point and
contributing nothing is not something that would happen in a "conversation" taking place between two people in an effectively "collapsed geography". It happens because you are concerned with the development and the construction of the archive of
your ideas. T

I think that's one way to look at it. Of course, the oral culture has no reference, an archive of the conversation doesn't exist, there's no concern for it. I worry that this negative side of oral culture is the problem. Leaving the example of our
conversation and going back to my observation on the political sphere of the web: people seek out people who will help us construct an archive that reflects our individual view of reality, instead of using objectively constructed, carefully observed
and interpreted references. (In oral cultures, objective reality is held in check- not precisely, by any means- by the fact that information was stored in other people, who could verify it but also challenge you if you use it incorrectly. Text loses
that). For most of the seething political conversations which are dominating the media and the electorate (in the USA, anyway) the reference is "conversations" with individuals of like mind: no ISP has yet built in a system that intercepts and
corrects packets containing bad information, warped logic or, not that we'd want it to, deviant thought (which is the downside of the oral culture).

Here's where I am trying to add something to McCluhan's equation:

Is this search for a mirror archive of our desires simply because we are in a transition period from "one to many media" (the broadcast) to "many to many media" (the rhizome)? Instead of a collaborative textual conversation (which might be
impossible for some) and the use of the greatest research archive in human history to share information and observation, we're seeing people previously choking on the input of the one to many media (with no response mechanism in place) using the
new, many to many medium to emulate the behaviors they've seen- they becoming broadcasters instead of collaborators. They kind of just perpetuate the cycle of abuse!

One example: I helped build a community access, public radio station in a small NH town two years ago. I was also an administrator in the management of this station. It was shocking, to me, how much of a battle it was for people to give up emulation
of what they had been hearing for decades on corporate run media. Any culture where a tool is used by elites for very long, and suddenly becomes available to the many, will in fact be used in much the same way that the elites had used them- because
that history of consuming media creates roadblocks for understanding ways that the media had not been used. It's cultural conditioning, and in talking about the media it's an important thing to recognize, especially as we're seeing it now on the

Or, alternatively, are we seeking a mirror to archive our desires online simply because, as Beaudrillard wrote in "Impossible Exchange", we seek verification of our private reality in order to convince ourselves that it is real (or right, for that

Sorry if you mistook my previous response for "emotional".


Eric Dymond <> on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 at 12:45 AM -0500 wrote:
>when i read the reaction to my original post, i was surprised at the level of emotion it elicited.
>The original post pointed to current tendencies in a remote field of critical discourse .
>The proposed passing of McLuhan's Global Vision to Virilio's Dromology seemed pretty straightforward to me when I was pointed it out. It wasn't transformable, it wasn't about a new sociological representation of a networked community.
>It was a way to identify where and why we do what we now do as humans interacting physically and virtually.The virtual was intended as a background field , a field tied in with the figure ground relationship.
>Unfortunately that wasn't the perception.
>Perhaps the listserv is a bad place to make bold statements.
>But those of you who make confusing statements, and employ otherworldly metaphors simply obscure our view. The use of pseudonyms and alias' simply makes understanding cloudier, and there is nothing clever about it.
>I am sorry, but I find most of these reactions difficult to follow. They seem to offer up a way to make things fuzzy and inaccessible. At least Virilio makes things clear and understandable. Neither Eryk, Machinus?, and Kandinsky(I don't care how
>you spell your pseudonym) have added anything to this discussion.
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