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Cyber bullying: Technology and McLuhan


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Cyber bullying: Technology and McLuhan

 

The cruel mob pursued 13 year old Megan Meier through our high tech “social networking site MySpace and called Megan a liar, a fat ***** and worse”.

 

McLuhan has stated that all technology is an extension of a human faculty. The ‘bomb is an extension of the fist’ is a simple example.

 

“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 recently this was a mysterious phrase that left me speechless.

 

Megan, 13, fought back, but she was overwhelmed.

 

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.”

 

“She felt there was no way out,” Ms. Meier said.

 

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 the 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.

 

So we have changed very dramatically our habits that were part of us when we knew little and understood much. I am speaking relatively here. What happens to us as a result of this dramatic change? I do not know but I only point to the fact as worth consideration.

 

Examine how we sit and watch TV for several hours everyday. When we watch TV we are constantly being transported perceptively from one scene to another. Think for a minute if instead of sitting and watching TV we were physically escorted done a hallway with many doors. Then we open a door and are physically placed into this world we see on TV. Our reaction would be very different. In other words we are creatures prepared for a certain world that no longer exists. This is the definition of a forthcoming extinction if we think about the meaning of evolution.

 

“Mom, they’re being horrible!” Megan said, “sobbing into the phone when her mother called. After an hour, Megan ran into her bedroom and hanged herself with a belt.”

 

Has our technology become our master? I think so.

 

This story about Megan by Christopher Maag, “When the Bullies Turned Faceless” was published in the December 17 edition of the NYTimes.

 

 

 

What did the little bird say to the big bird?

 

Peck on someone your own size.

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Cyber bullying: Technology and McLuhan

 

The cruel mob pursued 13 year old Megan Meier through our high tech “social networking site MySpace and called Megan a liar, a fat ***** and worse”.

 

McLuhan has stated that all technology is an extension of a human faculty. The ‘bomb is an extension of the fist’ is a simple example.

 

“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 recently this was a mysterious phrase that left me speechless.

 

Megan, 13, fought back, but she was overwhelmed.

 

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.”

 

“She felt there was no way out,” Ms. Meier said.

 

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 the 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.

 

So we have changed very dramatically our habits that were part of us when we knew little and understood much. I am speaking relatively here. What happens to us as a result of this dramatic change? I do not know but I only point to the fact as worth consideration.

 

Examine how we sit and watch TV for several hours everyday. When we watch TV we are constantly being transported perceptively from one scene to another. Think for a minute if instead of sitting and watching TV we were physically escorted done a hallway with many doors. Then we open a door and are physically placed into this world we see on TV. Our reaction would be very different. In other words we are creatures prepared for a certain world that no longer exists. This is the definition of a forthcoming extinction if we think about the meaning of evolution.

 

“Mom, they’re being horrible!” Megan said, “sobbing into the phone when her mother called. After an hour, Megan ran into her bedroom and hanged herself with a belt.”

 

Has our technology become our master? I think so.

 

This story about Megan by Christopher Maag, “When the Bullies Turned Faceless” was published in the December 17 edition of the NYTimes.

 

 

 

What did the little bird say to the big bird?

 

Peck on someone your own size.

-----------------------------

My post below is not about bullying, but about another take on Marshall McLuhan.-Ron in Tasmania

------------------

BACK IN ‘62

 

Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man was published in March 1962. It is a pioneering study in the fields of oral and print culture, cultural studies and media ecology. I was just finishing grade 12 in the then small town of Burlington Ontario and about to play my last season of baseball for the Burlington juvenile all-stars. I was also about to begin my travelling-pioneering life for the Canadian Baha’i community.

 

Throughout the book, a book which I did not read until sometime during my university years, 1963 to 1967, McLuhan takes pains to analyse how the various forms of communication technology like: writing, the printing press and the electronic media---affect man’s cognitive organization. This process, in turn, has profound ramifications for social organization. As he wrote:

 

“if a new technology extends one or more of our senses outside us into the social world, then new ratios among all of our senses will occur in that particular culture. It is comparable to what happens when a new note is added to a melody. And when the sense ratios alter in any culture then what had appeared lucid before may suddenly become opaque, and what had been vague or opaque will become translucent.”(1)-Ron Price with thanks to (1)The Gutenberg Galaxy 1962, p. 41.

 

You’ve been coming back into vogue

after that hiatus of some thirty years.1

and you became a Roman Catholic in

’37 right at the start of that first Seven

Year Plan.2 This religious belief seems

to be the basis for your conservatism at

least that was argued on ABC Radio last

last weekend.3 We all make analyses &

observations based on many assumptions.

Mine are not based on Catholicism but on

the Baha’i Faith…to each their own in life

as we all travel the journey in this complex

world with its billions of galaxies & trillions

of stars: perhaps what is the question is the

question behind all the other questions……

 

1From his death in 1980 to, say, 2010, McLuhan and his work existed in an intellectual backwater but it has recently seen a recrudescence.

2 McLuhan became a Catholic in March 1937 and the Baha’i Seven Year Plan(1937-1944) began in April/May.

3 Grant Havers, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Trinity Western University in Canada and the author of an essay on the right-wing postmodernism of Marshall McLuhan. He was interviewed by Alan Saunders on The Philosopher's Zone on 16/7/’11.

 

Ron Price

22 July 2011

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