To add comments or start new threads please go to the full version of: The Message of "The Medium is The Message"
PhysForum Science, Physics and Technology Discussion Forums > General Sci-Tech Discussions > Other Sci-Tech Topics

coberst
The Message of “The Medium is The Message”

“So an attitude is caused when we think about something the same way over and over until it becomes automatic. The resulting actions in response to the thought also become automatic. Change the habit of thought and you change the attitude. Change the attitude and you change the resulting action.”

“The Medium is The Message” is the phrase that made Marshall McLuhan famous. It is a phrase most of us, young and old, have heard. Until a few weeks ago it was a phrase that confounded me.

Let’s get very fundamental here and go back to the invention of the alphabet to understand what McLuhan is talking about and why it is important.

“The Greek myth about the alphabet was that Cadmus, reputedly the king who introduced the phonetic letters into Greece, sowed dragoon’s teeth, and they sprang up armed men. Like any other myth, this one capsulates a prolonged process into a flashing insight. The alphabet meant power and authority and control of military structures at a distance. When combined with papyrus, the alphabet spelled the end of the stationary temple bureaucracies and the priestly monopolies of knowledge and power.”

“The phonetic alphabet is a unique technology…This stark division and parallelism between a visual and an auditory world was both crude and ruthless, culturally speaking. The phonetically written sacrifices worlds of meaning and perception that were secured by forms like the hieroglyphs and the Chinese ideogram. These culturally richer forms of writing, however, offered men no means of sudden transfer from the magically discontinuous and traditional world of the tribal word into the cool and uniform visual medium.”

“All of these forms [pictographic and hieroglyphic] give pictorial expression to oral meanings. As such, they approximate the animated cartoon and are extremely unwieldy, requiring many signs for the infinity of data operations of social action. In contrast, the phonetic alphabet, by a few letters only, was able to encompass all languages.”

Consider the invention of the printing press and the introduction of books to the society. A book communicates a message. Many books communicate many messages. ‘The book’ communicates the same message to everyone who comes into contact with a book. The book transmits the same message to everyone while many books transmit many different messages to many different people.

Evolution moves very slowly. We adapt to our environment very slowly. We survive because we do adapt. When we change more quickly than we can adapt we face problems that we have not had the time to make the kind of adjustments necessary.

The habits we acquire determine our state of mind. Our changing habits are part of this process of adaptation to our environment. Do not think of environment, as being just the quality of our air or water but it is a broad term signifying the world we live in.

The point to be recognized is--the medium is what is important and not the content being carried by the medium. The medium is form and its ubiquity (presence everywhere) changes us dramatically. The change is sudden and how we respond to the new medium changes us to the core. Since we do not consider anything but that the new technology can be accomplished and will serve some desirable purpose we are constantly setting ourselves up for unknown problems.

The quotes are from “Understanding the Media” by Marshall MaLuhan.
Burnt toast
Well... at least you're learning to have a point in your posts. However, several errors still abound.


QUOTE (coberst+Dec 20 2005, 09:05 PM)

All of these forms [pictographic and hieroglyphic] give pictorial expression to oral meanings. As such, they approximate the animated cartoon and are extremely unwieldy, requiring many signs for the infinity of data operations of social action. In contrast, the phonetic alphabet, by a few letters only, was able to encompass all languages.


Being Chinese myself, I know for a fact that this is bullshit. First of all, characters are not "animated cartoons". It'd be kinda cool if we could write "puking" complete with animation, but alas, unless someone is there to continuously rubbing them out and rewriting it slightly differently, characters are static.

Characters require the knowledge of something like 50 - 100 core radicals (basic subunits of characters) and their meanings. This might sound might sound a lot but keep in mind infants tend to learn something like 3 - 4 words a day. Once this happens though, meanings of characters and their pronunciations can be approximated by the combination of those radicals, something like guessing the phrase from a combination of pictures (rubis or something like that). Nevertheless, once you get used to it, it isn't unweildly at all. If it was, I don't think the system would have survived for all these thousands of years.

So basically, although there is a certain truth in this quote, I think it brings an unrealistic spin on things. There is much more than "phonetic, simple; pictographic, complex".


QUOTE (coberst+Dec 20 2005, 09:05 PM)

Evolution moves very slowly. We adapt to our environment very slowly. We survive because we do adapt. When we change more quickly than we can adapt we face problems that we have not had the time to make the kind of adjustments necessary.

The habits we acquire determine our state of mind. Our changing habits are part of this process of adaptation to our environment. Do not think of environment, as being just the quality of our air or water but it is a broad term signifying the world we live in


Irrelevant.


QUOTE (coberst+Dec 20 2005, 09:05 PM)

The point to be recognized is--the medium is what is important and not the content being carried by the medium.


As far as I can see, this point is not backed up by the content of your post at all.


QUOTE (coberst+Dec 20 2005, 09:05 PM)

Since we do not consider anything but that the new technology can be accomplished and will serve some desirable purpose we are constantly setting ourselves up for unknown problems.


This was actually the thing I was coming in to address. As I've said before... actually to quote myself:

QUOTE (Burnt Toast+ Dec 8 2005, 12:22 PM )

Exactly 4.36 metric fucktons of ethical committee approval, government approval, scientific trials, peer examination, etc. have to be gone through before any therapies are put into practice. Willy-nilly is not one of the adjectives to describe protocols involving human life.

...

I'm not saying that the outcomes of medical science are going to be gloriously successful and failure-free, just that there are lots and lots of testing and foresight given to all potentially dangerous/harmful treatments. Also, I still don't get what SPECIFIC changes you're talking about that spell impending doom to humanity.


That's basically what I came to say, you never did reply to that post.


Burnt Toast
Your fellow human (yfh)
Technology was never the problem,
the motive of the user of that technology is the problem.
If one can gain from it one way, then he shall surely do it.
Laws tries to make sure that humans dont go canabal on eachother... as much.
dry.gif


The way that someone in the media portrays somthing,
shows how much they value it.
Their judgement of value is taken into the mind of the viewers,
and if they do not take in a judgement oposite to this,
they will believe it.


With time people get harder to fool also,
because of them training their mind to detect falsehoods.
Trust must be learned and un-learned as we grow
and realize the stable and healthy things in life.
coberst
Toast

I used that rather crude expression "cartoon" because I am afraid that it is perhaps the only metaphor that we Westerner's can understand that might even come close to dealing with your language. I meant no disrespect to your culture but was using the best tool I knew how to use.

I do not understand your expression "4.36 metric fucktons of ethical committee approval".
Burnt toast
4.36 metric fucktons = a lot.
coberst
yfh

It seems to me that ideological propaganda permeates every corner of our life. And because it is ubiquitous we find it to be as pervasive as the sun rising in the morning. We become so habituated to it that we assume it is natural and thus universal and not to be questioned.

If we accept something that is man made to be god made then we are not inclined to examine it or certainly not question it. When such a thing happens some part of being free is lost. Until we develop the ability to understand the reality that is all about us we shall continue milling about like a herd of cows.

Self-enlightenment when we learn how to learn, how to think and how to understand will be the time when we begin to recapture the freedoms that are quickly disappearing.
newton
this is like an 'instant replay' of mcluhan's career.
coberst is exactly correct that the medium itself has a bigger influence on our social web than whatever content is in the media.

when we get new tech that OBSOLETES old tech, the new tech changes us.

think of it this way. as 'extensions of man'.

a pair of binoculars or camera extends eyesight(and memory, in the camera's case). a gun or pair of pliers extend touch. a microphone: hearing, and a speaker: speech.

when these new technologies are introduced, it is less important who is in pictures or what the pictures are of, it is less important who got shot by whom, it is less important what was said, than how the tools changed man's interaction with man.

the medium IS the message.

the alphabet was some of the earliest tech, and it changed man's lore through oral tradition into man's lore through writing.
the birth of writing was the birth of the 'collective unconscious'.
PhysOrg scientific forums are totally dedicated to science, physics, and technology. Besides topical forums such as nanotechnology, quantum physics, silicon and III-V technology, applied physics, materials, space and others, you can also join our news and publications discussions. We also provide an off-topic forum category. If you need specific help on a scientific problem or have a question related to physics or technology, visit the PhysOrg Forums. Here you’ll find experts from various fields online every day.
To quit out of "lo-fi" mode and return to the regular forums, please click here.