Archive for the ‘McLuhan’ Category

“McLuhan’s probes stimulated others to ponder whether specific media environments were beneficial or destructive for those immersed within them. Neil Postman founded the Media Ecology Program at New York University with this question in mind. But, unlike McLuhan, Postman believes that the primary task of media ecology is to make moral judgments about media environments. “To be quite honest about it,” he once proclaimed, “I don’t see any point in studying media unless one does so within a moral or ethical context.”20
According to Postman, a new technology is never simply an addition to culture. It always presents us with a Faustian bargain?a potential deal with the devil. As Postman was fond of saying, “Technology giveth and technology taketh away….A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys. Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates. But it is never one-sided.”21 His media ecology approach asks, What are the moral implications of this bargain? Are the consequences more humanistic or anti-humanistic? Do we, as a society, gain more than we lose, or do we lose more than we gain? ??To answer these questions, we must consider the distinction Postman makes between technology and medium:
Like the brain, a technology is a physical apparatus. Like the mind, a medium is the use to which a physical apparatus is put. A technology becomes a medium as it employs a particular symbolic code, as it finds its place in a particular social setting, as it insinuates itself into economic and political contexts. A technology, in other words, is merely a machine. A medium is the social and intellectual environment a machine creates.22
A medium is a system. It’s not an object but rather a way of thinking, expressing, and experiencing. Postman amends McLuhan’s famous aphorism by stating that “the medium is the metaphor.” A medium doesn’t make a specific statement about the world, rather it colors everything we see around us. Like a metaphor, it unobtrusively suggests what our world is like by offering us meanings through a particular form.23
According to Postman, the forms of media regulate and even dictate what kind of content the form of a given medium can carry.24 For example, smoke signals implicitly discourage philosophical argument.
Puffs of smoke are insufficiently complex to express ideas on the nature of existence, and even it they were not, a Cherokee philosopher would run short of either wood or blankets long before he reached his second axiom. You cannot use smoke to do philosophy. Its form excludes the content.25
In the same manner, the form of television works against content that is substantial and significant. The medium of television suggests that everything should be amusing, which, in turn, makes everything trivial.
Contrary to McLuhan, Postman believes that the medium of television is detrimental to society because it has led to the loss of serious public discourse. Television changes the form of information “from discursive to nondiscursive, from propositional to presentational, from rationalistic to emotive.”26 Sesame Street, Sixty Minutes, and Survivor all share the same ethos?amusement. The media environment of television turns everything into entertainment and everyone into juvenile adults.”
Link: http://www.afirstlook.com/docs/mediaecology.cfm

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McLuhan on tools

“We shape our tools and they in turn shape us.”

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