‚ÄúTechnology as Extension of the Human Body‚ÄĚ
Marshall McLuhan ‚ÄúThe High Priest of Pop-Culture‚ÄĚ in the mid twentieth century was the first to announce the existence of the ‚Äėglobal village‚Äô and to express that ‚Äúwe become what we behold‚ÄĚ. McLuhan sought to understand and express the effects of technology on modern culture.
McLuhan was particularly interested in ‚ÄúTechnology as Extension of the Human Body‚ÄĚ. An extension of our body and/or of our senses occurs when we extend the reach of our embodied mind beyond our natural limited means. As examples: the shovel is an extension of our hands and feet as we dig a trench, the spade is like our cupped hand as we remove dirt from a hole, a microscopy or telescope extends our vision to study smaller or larger dimensions.
Going further in this vein the auto is an extension of the foot. However there are negative results from all such extensions. ‚ÄúAmputations‚ÄĚ represent the unintended and un-reflected counterparts of such extensions.
‚ÄúEvery extension of mankind, especially technological extensions, has the effect of amputating or modifying some other extension‚Ä¶ The extension of a technology like the automobile "amputates" the need for a highly developed walking culture, which in turn causes cities and countries to develop in different ways. The telephone extends the voice, but also amputates the art of penmanship gained through regular correspondence. These are a few examples, and almost everything we can think of is subject to similar observations‚Ä¶We have become people who regularly praise all extensions, and minimize all amputations. McLuhan believed that we do so at our own peril.‚ÄĚ Quotations from ‚ÄúUnderstanding Media‚ÄĚ by Marshall McLuhan
McLuhan was concerned about man's willful blindness to the downside of technology. In his later years McLuhan developed a scientific basis for his thought around what he termed the tetrad. The tetrad is four laws, framed as questions, which give us a useful instrument for studying our culture.
What is does the technology extend?
What does it make obsolete?
What is gained?
"What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?"
McLuhan‚Äôs gravestone carries the inscription ‚ÄúThe Truth Shall Make You Free." We do not have to like or even agree with everything that McLuhan said. However, we would be wise to remember that his was a life of great insight and it was dedicated to showing wo/man the truth about the world we live in, and especially the hidden consequences of the technologies we develop.
In the book ‚ÄúThe Birth and Death of Meaning‚ÄĚ Earnest Becker provides us with a synthesis of the knowledge about the extensions of the human body that McLuhan spoke of and science certified through research.
Becker informs us that the ‚Äúself‚ÄĚ is in the body but is not part of the body; it is symbolic and is not physical. ‚ÄúThe body is an object in the field of the self: it is one of the things we inhabit‚Ä¶A person literally projects or throws himself out of the body, and anywhere at all‚Ä¶A man‚Äôs ‚ÄúMe‚ÄĚ is the sum total of all that he can call his, not only his body and his mind, but his clothes and house, his wife and children, [etc].‚ÄĚ The human can be symbolically located wherever s/he thinks part of her really exists or belongs.
It is said that the more insecure we are the more important these symbolic extensions of the self become. When we invest undue value onto such matters as desecrating a piece of cloth that symbolizes our nation is an indication that our self-valuation has declined and this overvaluation of a symbol can help compensate that loss. We get a good feeling about own value by obtaining value in the pseudopod as the flag.
In conceiving our self as a container that overflows with various and important extensions that our technology provides us we might appear like a giant amoeba spread out over the land with a center in the self. These pseudopods are not just patriotic symbols and important things but include silly things such as a car or a neck tie. We can experience nervous breakdowns when others do not respect our particular objects of reverence.
Do you think of yourself as being extended as a result of using technology? Do you think such extensions are a representation of reality? Do you think that consciousness of such claims to be useful?
¬ÄúTechnology as Extension of the Human Body‚ÄĚ
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