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The McLuhan Galaxy by way of Tom Wolfe and thanks to Brain Pickings

February 10, 2012

Tom Wolfe, “What if he’s right?”, 1965:

“McLuhan has developed a theory that goes like this: The new technologies of the electronic age, notably television, radio, the telephone, and computers, make up a new environment. A new environment; they are not merely added to some basic human environment. The idea that these things, TV and the rest, are just tools that men can use for better or worse depending on their talents and moral strength-that idea is idiotic to McLuhan. The new technologies, such as television, have become a new environment. They radically alter the entire way people use their five senses, the way they react to things, and therefore, their entire lives and the entire society. It doesn’t matter what the content of a medium like TV is. It doesn’t matter if the networks show twenty hours a day of sadistic cowboys caving in people’s teeth or twenty hours of Pablo Casals droning away on his cello in a pure-culture white Spanish drawing room. It doesn’t matter about the content. The most profound effect of television – its real ‘message,’ in McLuhan’s terms – is the way it alters men’s sensory patterns. The medium is the message – that is the best-known McLuhanism. Television steps up the auditory sense and the sense of touch and depresses the visual sense. That seems like a paradox, but McLuhan is full of paradoxes. A whole generation in America has grown up in the TV environment, and already these millions of people, twenty-five and under, have the same kind of sensory reactions as African tribesmen. The same thing is happening all over the world. The world is growing into a huge tribe, a . . . global village, in a seamless web of electronics.”

Check it out: Brain Pickings

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