12 Mcluhan

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was a theorist who developed the concept of the "global village" before the Internet came about. He argued that electronic technologies were extensions of the human body and nervous system. In this essay, he argues that electronic media will merge the senses of sight and hearing.

McLuhan argues that a culture centered around one of the five senses (in our case, sight) is an invention of Western culture that developed as a result of Greek literacy. Reading relies solely on sight and thus separates us from reality. An individual dependent on one sense is more prone to hallucination — lack of visual stimulation (i.e. putting a prisoner in a completely white room) can be used as a torture device.

Visual culture changes the way its members think — visual Westerners think of things as right-wrong, either-or, past-present-future in a way their non-visually-dependent counterparts do not. This results from the way our eyes are programmed to see things as "right side up, in a plane, and in perspective space." Members of other cultures do not think of past and future as if they were outside the time continuum, nor can they draw in two dimensions — for these things, in reality, do not exist.

McLuhan believes that our minds were originally structured around acoustic rather than visual space. He believes that new technologies will merge visual with acoustic and thus merge the two kinds of space in our Western minds. While I believe this is possible, I do not think it has yet happen, nor that it will happen in the new future. While audio-visual entertainment is on the rise, I still often find myself finding acoustic information as a distraction from text and other visual cues.

Links

Western vs. Eastern Culture

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