The Medium is the Mass-Age #95Thesis

Is It Any Wonder People Are Afraid of Technology? Marshall McLuhan and Digital Technology

Many people have trouble accepting the idea that the medium is the message. But it’s a matter of integrity that the speaker and the spoken are in the moment of hearing one and the same. A lightbulb is a medium in its own right.

Thesis 5: People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice

A Medium according to Marshall McLuhan is “any extension of ourselves” has “psychic and social consequences” through “designs or patterns as they amplify or accelerate existing processes.” This change is always considered noteworthy, and completely different from predecessors, even though related. Mediums are extensions of ourselves. Each new medium is both an extension of the self and also an amputation.

As I write these words, I am literally both the words, the human writing them, and the keyboard which they are used to develop themselves through.

It is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and forms of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium (McLuhan, 1995, p. 152).

To be human is to recognize and interact with other humans. I’ve touched on this before in posts about Being as Communion. This relational ontology is still at the core of how I conceive human being, and human doing. To exist humanly is to exist in the presence of other humans, in relation to the world we all share. This does not mean one cannot choose to be a hermit, or that hermitage makes one subhuman, but it does mean that at the core of humanity is a relational element without which one is not quite dealing with humans. It is why we consider things like solitary confinement a form of inhuman punishment.

Conversations and community are natural to humans, exchange in some ways is too. However, Corporate Intelligence is obscuring our ability to recognize this voice. People recognize each other, but analytics, data, surveillance, targeted advertising and the other new realities we have to live with are making that distinctive voice harder and harder to hear. They are stepping to those spheres and attempting an analog SQL injection, filling the gaps in our lives with snippets of purchased narrative. Defacing the content of our lives with insertions, filling the spaces and making it harder for recognition to take place.

Markets aren’t the only party responsible for this though. Racism is an older form of this very same process. Diffferent rhetoric, near identical praxis which breaks down as follows:   An identity (in this case, race) is rewritten in a new way, by a new narrator, who delineates new boundaries, identities, and associations allows. The ideological underpinning is the same: rewriting identity for various economic, social and cultural purposes, with economics at the fore. Once, for plantations; now, for advertising. Both for profit.

Markets in their natural state, as conversations perhaps* do not obscure the deep connections that we long for. In my last post I discussed the difference between thin and thick markets. I believe that this thesis is about that thick market connection I mentioned previously.

The obfuscation of this recognition of the human voice, as noise crawls into the spaces once shared by quiet voices, the listening that creeps into our lives through Siri, and smartphones in general, and the new standard of warrantless spying for anything and everything are rewriting the rules of interaction for some, and changing the way we handle information the entire planet over.  McLuhan said “Every new technology necessitates a new War” and while looking for some sources on that, I found this.

The ways in which we can understand each other ‘from the sound of this voice‘ are being obscured, made more incomprehensible. Surveillance and information fascism are creating the general anxiety of a generation that socially shares everything information related, but can’t seem to feel relevant, heard, or significant. Perhaps we feel instinctually what McLuhan has said. Perhaps we know that we’re losing ourselves.

We feel our conversations becoming markets, as markets look less and less like conversations. But what if we imagined another world? What does a world with markets where we recognize ourselves and each other really look like? The world we find ourselves in operates in ‘thin markets’. These thin markets aren’t conversations, in fact they’re barely markets at all.

Using only the immediate, the choices we’ve made, the trends we engage, they ignore the deep, communal nature of being. Perhaps, as we think about Being, markets, technology and fascism, it is best we try to delineate a path for thick markets, and business models that could do this. If we would dare to have a better world, perhaps it is time we admit our fear of technology, and confront the abuses along the way.

Please Check Out Les and Johanna and Jakob too.


Technology OH MY GOD McLuhan

*I emphasize perhaps, because I am not certain.