7/21/17

The MEDIUM IS...


How fortuitous that Google reminded me that today, July 21st, is Marshall McLuhan's 106th birthday. I had forgotten about him. And then seeing this week's prompt on Sepia Saturday I was convinced it was a sure sign I was supposed to remember studying The Medium is the Massage my senior year in high school. I imagine somewhere in this house is an essay I wrote about the book or the "massage." I'd like to think that I "got it" back then and that I wrote some youthful words of wisdom. 

The message of McLuhan was not simple to grasp back then, but it sure is now. We are being inundated, massaged, by various mediums. As I watched a stupid woman staring at her cell phone walk out in front of me in the Target parking lot today I thought that maybe in honor of McLuhan I should just tap her with the bumper. I don't think she ever did notice me in my 3000 lbs of metal and glass.

We are consumers who are consumed by and with technology. The technology is almost impossible to keep up with, especially financially. Out with the old, in with the new. I'm actually not one of those types of consumer. I'm not interested in the latest and the greatest and what it purports to do for me. My toaster is from 1945 and it works just fine thank you very much. My computer is from 2010. But ay, there's the rub. I'm writing this on a computer to people I don't know and will probably never meet. I am part of the global village McLuhan spoke about. Doesn't make any difference if my toaster is from the time of World War II, my current reality is clearly part of today's medium.

All of this is to bring me around to this week's prompt which is of a family watching tv...on a yacht. Okay, I don't have anything that matches that and I'm betting few people do. But I do have people with the ubiquitous television. It was the television that for me McLuhan was talking about in the late '60s. TV was important. I watched Lee Harvey Oswald get shot one Sunday morning on television. I watched an American officer shoot a Viet Cong in the head on television. I watched Mick Jagger smirk on Ed Sullivan when he knew he'd run afoul of the sensors. And what had been on tv was always the topic of discussion the next day at school. But who would have really imagined how totally consumed our lives would be all of this. Doesn't make any difference if you watch NBC or HBO. You could avoid tv completely and still you're going to be aware of what is going on. The net will make sure of that and now to a lesser extent newspapers/magazines. It's hard to get away from it. The massaging of the message is always there.

So this little girl is staring at us while her younger sister is drawn to what is going on behind her on the tv. One is interacting with another human while the other is more interested in the message from behind.


And here we have the information furniture. Turn it on and a world comes to you.


You have to remember to edit what you hear and see, but I'm afraid that these days people have become too lazy to do much more than simply turn on their 75", 4k, 3x HDMI, Smart TV and absorb. Analytical thought has become suspicious and we're all the less wise because of that.

All of this is brought to you by the whack on the head I took in the shower yesterday.
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20 comments:

  1. I read Marshall McLuhan's book too. A prescient work that today would be just a 15 minute TED Talk on YouTube. I think now he would be overwhelmed by too many mediums with too many messages. Mostly stupid too.

    Just this past month I got the television of my dreams, a "smart tv with 4K" (whatever that is). It's hooked up to an antenna for free broadcast channels and an internet cable for thousands of other shows I'll never have time to watch. How long would it take to watch all the various Star Trek series on Netflix?

    For many years we kept my grandparent's first TV set, circa 1948 like those in your photos, which no longer worked but had a nice mahogany plywood cabinet that I thought I could turn into an aquarium. Today I'd just put in a computer screen that streamed live video of a real underwater aquarium.

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    1. Ah, when tv was free over the air. That was good.

      Do you ever feel like you have to put on hip waders some days just to slog through what's spewing at us?

      I like the idea of that old tv as an aquarium. I remember my grandparents little 9" screen always on You Bet Your Life when ever we'd arrive at their house late on a Friday night.

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  2. I remember that shooting to. All those shootings and the news brought right into our living rooms. The one of the officer shooting the Vietcong was a Vietnamese officer.

    I agree about people just seeming to absorb from their various feeds without as many filters as in the olden days.

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    1. You are right, it was a Vietnamese soldier that did the shooting. It's still one of the most horrendous things I remember on tv. Of course most cable dramas now show much worse within the first five minutes of a show.

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  3. A thoughtful and reflective post - and I am in awe of your toaster!

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    1. I am also in awe of my Toastmaster, except when it's doing raisin bread. Burns it to a crisp. You have to stand over it sniffing to make sure it doesn't go beyond the no return point. My hand mixer is also that old. They were both wedding gifts to my folks.

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  4. We do get a little caught up in it all, but it's really rather amazing to be able to go to Google and find out anything you need to know - like today. For reasons too long to go into here, I needed to know when the U.S. first landed an unmanned spacecraft on the moon - what year, what month and date, what day of the week, and what time Pacific Daylight Time and within 30 seconds I had the answer - including the name of the spacecraft, Surveyor I, which I'd forgotten. Too cool! :) I don't think I'd want to give up that advantage. Then again I obtained it on my computer at home, not on my smart phone while walking blindly into the path of a car!

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    1. I agree. I do like the ability to research. Data for the taking is amazing.

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  5. TV is no longer the centre of our lives, and regardless of what size set we have, there never seems to much on that's worth watching, and we can get our news online and instantaneously. Then again, we don't have smart TV. I hope your head s ok.

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    1. I am afraid that tv will always play a big role in my life except when I'm camping. I do enjoy my premium cable channels very much. I like that characters are given a chance to develop and, on the whole, the audience isn't talked down to. Now regular network shows which seem to be more and more "reality" nonsense I can't stomach. Just think if we hadn't had reality tv we might not have Trump.

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    2. I'm surprised you don't take a portable set camping in that case! Perhaps your programming is better than ours in Australia, where I think it's going to pot.

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    3. There is an old analogue tv in the motorhome, but it only works if I'm at a commercial campground. Even then there's nothing to watch because the campgrounds only pay to receive the low end channels. Better no tv than FOX news, religious stations, and bad cable. That's why I prefer camping where there's no tv.

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    4. T+L that's a good one: just think, if not for reality TV we may have been spared the awfulness of Trump

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    5. I know. Heartbreaking, isn't it?

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    6. Very sad. My heart goes out to you guys. May it be over soon.

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    7. It seems each day gets more and more surrealistic. This is what happens when a mentally ill person gains power with nobody keeping check on him.

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  6. I remember the Medium is the Message, and see your point. But isn't it still a choice we as humans can make, whether to be servants to the medium, or to use it for our own ends? I think Erasmus had the right message, everything in moderation!

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    1. I agree completely, I just don't see people doing that. The consumerism is out of control around the world. I always loved Dewey's less is more. I've applied it to my design work and life. And it seems to be getting more difficult to have conversations like this. We end up only being able to talk to our own tribe.

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