Monday, February 18, 2013

[insert your favorite ideogram here]

Marshall McLuhan’s critical look at “Technology and Political Change” in the 1952 International Journal proved to be a rather deep and dreary read. And if you haven’t already connected the irony of the topic and language therein with the publication’s title, I invite you to do so at this time.

If you haven’t already read the article, let me help shape or frame the idea that seems to center this piece. “Mental starvation in the midst of plenty is as much a feature of mass communication as of mass production.” Much of what McLuhan has to say centers on the idea that mechanical reproduction in any form—newspapers, radio, or broadcast—has made the masses slaves to ‘here and now’ and that the past is easily forgotten. He argues that newspapers, more than broadcast, have this effect on culture.  

“For listening is not hearing any more than looking is reading.” McLuhan, of course, references Plato multiple times throughout his piece and clearly took dialogues such as Phaedrus with him in his critiques of mass communication by the mid-20th century. He believed the popular mind was decades ahead of the academic mind because of the West’s insistence of reporting the world news on a daily basis, claiming “the most significant single fact about the newspaper is the dateline.”

In sharp contrast, I believe the world news and the news found in newspapers across the globe have relevance to many and would argue to be truly intellectual, one must account for the world moving around them. Keeping up-to-date on world events can, in essence, broaden one’s own perspective and reflections of self and one’s own nation can occur. While I agree that seeing Beiber’s butt retweeted thousands of times does not make me a more intellectual person, I can’t say the same about a Facebook share containing the image of Uruguay’s president getting out of a jalopy with a tagline, “poorest president in the world.” With the click of a mouse, I am able to verify the Facebook share with news stories about the Uruguayan president in fact being the simplest and poorest president in the world. And, be it a useless fact to carry, I am more intellectual than someone who did not see the Facebook share. Am I not? Does it not breed reflections of our political leaders?

“And naturally the technologically determined format of the press has had revolutionary political consequences. It has changed everybody’s way of thinking, seeing, feeling.” I might argue with McLuhan that I believe in many rights, this is a good thing. Without actually writing it, does he believe us to be sheep? Are we merely followers of the times? 

In thinking about how McLuhan believed reading or listening to world news as "everybody watching the stages of an experiment," I went to the Internet and I believe, I have found gold. Albeit a right-winged, conspiracy theorist, Mark Dice is also a media analyst and political activist--one that I might actually compare to McLuhan! So in keeping with the frame of 'experimentation and the masses,' consider this as a comparison to McLuhan's article and maybe we'll discuss it in class tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Interesting experiment.
    I also McLuhan got it right when he said many issues aren't reported if they are too complex...which means society doesn't take on anything that can't be easily followed or reported to the non-professional. Maybe that's what's wrong with Congress.