2014

 

  • Christie Carson and Peter Kirwan, Shakespeare and the Digital World: Redefining Scholarship and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2014)

33-6: “This chapter is interested  in how the iPad or mobile tablet creates the perception of the ‘genuine,’ ‘real’ and the ‘human’ while it enables an immersive relationship for scholars with early modern texts and images throught the sense of touch. … I will … discuss the role sensory pleasure might play in traditional methodologies of historical research and how the iPad simultaneously permits and denies such pleasure through mediation. The sense of touch has been studied extensively for centuries, yet we continue to live in a society that privileges the visual sense. … Marshall McLuhan suggests that it was toward the end of the nineteenth century when aesthetic theory had begun to recognize the tangibility of vision. … The reason haptics becomes a crucial consideration in aesthetic theory by the end of the nineteenth century is because, as McLuhan suggests, ‘there was a wide awareness that photography and other technological change had abstracted the retinal impression … from the rest of the sensorium.'”

 

  • Dana Stevens, “What would the creator of the phrase ‘global village’ have to say about its current incarnation, the Internet?” in The New York Times Book Review (22 June 2014)

31: “If ‘Understanding Media’ has any lessons for users of, and thinkers about, the Internet, they may have less to do with the book’s content (as ‘the medium is the message’ slogan makes clear, content is hardly the point) than with McLuhan’s method–his idiosyncratic form, his fits and starts of visionary brilliance, his bursts of utopian rhetoric suddenly weighed down by intimations of cultural doom.”

 

  • “Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man @ 50, special issue of the Journal of Visual Culture (13.1) 2014, ed. Raiford Guins, with contributions by Charles R. Acland, John Armitage, Ryan Bishop, Jay David Bolter, Antonio A. Casilli, Suzanne de Castell, Richard Cavell, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Edward Comor, Wolfgang Ernst, Gary Genosko, W. Terrence Gordon, Paolo Granata, Richard Grusin, Erkki Huhtamo, Derrick de Kerckhove, Elena Lamberti, Paul Levinson, Henry Lowood, Peter Lunenfeld, Lev Manovich, Janine Marchessault, Shannon Mattern, W.J.T. Mitchell, Jussi Parikka, Jeffrey Schnapp, Marc Steinberg, Jonathan Sterne, William Uricchio

22: “And like Hamlet’s ghost, to borrow a conceit from Derrida, McLuhan begins by returning.” Ryan Bishop, “I Sing the Senses Electric” (20-22)

43: “I remember reading McLuhan in my student times for theory of history at Cologne University. At that time I could not know yet that a new discipline was soon to emerge at German universities called Medienwissenschaft, triggered by scholars like Friedrich Kittler, which retroactively made McLuhan’s Understanding Media the foundation of a discourse.” Wolfgang Ernst, “Understanding Media Tempor(e)ality” (42-44)

  • Lori Emerson, Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound  (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2014)

104: “Steve McCaffery wrote presciently in 1986: ‘McLuhan saw the fundamental strength of technology as neither instrumental nor destructive but rather as rhetorical. Technology persuades towards modification and change; it is ideological software whose implications are both pre and post political.  Technology does not serve so much as modify; it simultaneously promises and threatens change.'”

106: [T]ypewriter/dirty concrete poems are thoroughly activist media poems. They are even activist in the sense that McLuhan was imagining in 1966 when he wrote in Astronauts of Inner-Space: A Collection of Avant-Garde Activity, notably alongside contributions by first-generation concrete poet Decio Pignatari and second-generation typestract poets Dom Sylvester Houedard and Franz Mon: ‘If politics is the art of the possible, its scope must now, in the electric age, include the shaping and programming of the entire sensory environment as a luminous work of art.'”

 

  • Levi R. Bryant, Onto-Cartography: An Ontology of Machines and Media (Edinburgh UP 2014)

30 “Following McLuhan, we will … say that when one entity enters into a structural coupling with another entity, it functions as a medium for that entity.”

31 “McLuhan  expands the concept of media, giving it a much deeper ontological significance than it is often taken to have. … McLuhan thus recovers the Latinate sense of media as medius, denoting ‘intermediary.’ A medium is an intermediary that relates one thing to another. Thus, for McLuhan, a medium does not so much refer to a particular medium of communication such as speech, sign-language, radio, television, writing, or smoke-signals—though all of these things are included in his theory of media—but rather places emphasis on both the materiality of media and the specific nature of that materiality, as well as the manner in which these media extend and amplify our sense-organs.”

34-5 “We are now in a position to see why McLuhan’s theory of media is of general ontological significance. McLuhan’s notion [35] of media explodes its restriction to particular carriers of human communication and meaning, allowing us to think a medium as structural couplings between machines that modify the becoming, movement, activity, or sensing of other machines. In short, the concept of media provides us with the beginnings of a theory of relations and interactions between machines. To study media is not simply to investigate technologies, tools, artifacts, and forms of communication, but rather the way in which machines are structurally coupled to one another and modify one another regardless of whether or not humans are involved. In this regard, the investigation of media is closer to ecology than to the investigation of what we ordinarily refer to as ‘mass media.’ Moreover, insofar as machines can function as media regardless of whether or not humans are involved, this theory of media is post-human.”

 

Lothar Müller, White Magic: The Age of Paper, trans Jessica Spengler (Cambridge: Polity, 2014)

Chapter 3: “The Universal Substance: Marshall McLuhan and the Pantagruelion of Rabelais”

52ff: “Marshall McLuhan frequently held up Rabelais and the letter-writing Gargantua as star witnesses in his media theory. … Rooted in the oral world of manuscript culture but already a virtuoso of the typographic era, Rabelais is a key literary figure in McLuhan’s Gutenberg galaxy. [53] For McLuhan, technologies and media are agents affecting the plasticity of the human mind. … [54] His media theory is also a type of speculative historical anthropology, according to which—following the theories of Milman Parry, Albert B. Lord, and, above all, Walter J. Ong concerning the relationship between ‘orality’ and ‘literacy’—medieval manuscript culture related to the ear while typography privileges the sense of sight. … The metaphor at the heart of McLuhan’s interpretation of Rabelais is the superimposition of the printing press and the wine press. It illustrates the toxic effect of new media as well as the intoxication and exuberance they are capable of invoking. … [55] Rabelais is a master of transforming all humanist knowledge and knowledge technologies into hallucinogenic drugs and aphrodisiacs. His strangest invention, the fantastical herb known as pantagruelion, is situated somewhere between hemp and flax in the plant kingdom. … McLuhan resolutely interprets the miracle plant as a symbol of the revolutionary power of typography. … For McLuhan, pantagruelion is a magical representation of linearity, which is the magic word in his own media theory. … [56] But what role did paper play in all of this? In McLuhan’s media theory, paper was one of the ‘earlier technological achievements’ which were regrouped and revolutionized by printing. Once the printing press appeared on the scene, paper merged with it. … McLuhan’s theory of printing is an exaltation of the hand mold because it is, above all, a theory of the standardization and mechanization which allowed print shops to produce books in which any word—if not in actuality then at least according to the regulative idea—could look exactly the same on the first page as it did on the last. … The hand mold was an object of mechanical precision which was kept secret from all potential competitors. This was not true of paper. It was one of the non-innovative elements of the printing process. … [57] Paper’s most important function was as a means of conveying signs and symbols, but it was not strictly defined by this role, and its fusion with the printing press did not force it to forfeit its technological independence or its autonomy as a medium. … [59] Pantagruelion supplies the material for the printing press, but it is not the printing press itself. … [60] Marshall McLuhan elaborated his theory of typographic man in a demonstratively non-linear book and visualized it as a galaxy, though he conceptualized this galaxy as a system of planets revolving around the printing press. But the world of pantagruelion is non-linear. It resists being assimilated into McLuhan’s central-perspective space [sic], just as paper does.”

60ff: “Harold Innis, the Postal System, and Mephisto’s Scrap”

61 “The mythical power attributed to the alphabet in McLuhan’s media theory is an example of the basic principle of the Toronto School of communication taken to the extreme. The name of the Toronto School was bestowed in retrospect by Jack Goody. The Consequences of Literacy (1963), which Goody co-authored with Ian Watt, and Preface to Plato (1963), a genealogy of the phonetic alphabet by Eric A. Havelock, were immediate neighbors to the Gutenberg Galaxy. The discipline of classical studies, which began to focus on the relationship between orality and literacy in Greek culture in view of Homer’s epics and Plato’s critique of writing, anchored the Toronto School in the field of philology. Philology had a counterpart, however, in the media theory of the Canadian Harold Innis, who developed his theory in his later writings from around 1950 based on his work in economic history. … The interdependency of the paper industry and the modern popular press led Innis to formulate his thesis that communication media play the role of key industries in the modern industrial age. … [62] Havelock pointed out the ambiguity of Innis’s concept of space, which oscillates between the political space of the empire, or territory to be controlled, and the space of Western civilization, where messengers and letters, scholars and merchants, circulate without being subject exclusively to the logic of political power. It is within this space of Western civilization, incorporating the political sphere, the economic realm, and the living environment itself, that paper-based cultural technologies took off. … [63] We get a deceptive impression of the link between paper technology and spatial development if we simply subsume it under the rise of the printing press, as McLuhan does in Understanding Media. … [68] [P]aper in the modern era shared the legacy of the old transmission media oriented on time as duration—going all the way back to stone—while also associating itself with the accelerating circulation of people, goods, and money. It was a precursor to digital media in the analog world.”

 

Steven Loft, “Media Cosmology,” in Steven Loft and Kerry Swanson, eds., Coded Territories: Tracing Indigenous Pathways in New Media Art (Calgary: U Calgary P, 2014): 170-186.

170-183: “In his essay From Cliché to Archetype, Marshall McLuhan [and Wilfred Watson] writes, ‘For archaic, or tribal man, there was no past, no history. Always present. Today we experience a return to that outlook when technological breakthroughs have become so massive as to create one environment upon another, from telegraph to radio to TV to satellite. These forms give us instant access to all pasts. As for tribal man, there is for us no history. All is present, including the tribal man studied by Eliade.’ How then do we negotiate the views of McLuhan and Eliade from an Indigenous cosmological perspective? We can, of course, negate the use of certain language (racist as it may be) by locating it in the time it was written. But as we delve deeper, we can see an evolving understanding of fundamental ontological difference between Indigenous thought and McLuhan and Eliade’s attempt to place it (without fully understanding it) within the framework of new media ecologies. … For [McLuhan], this movement toward ‘retribalizing’ is an antecedent to participation in a truly communicative media environment. He doesn’t quite get it as he falls into the Western theoretical trap of inscribing a romantic ideal of a ‘noble savage’ onto some newfound Western experience, but it is instructive nevertheless. For us, this relationship to oral culture, technology, and communicative agency is nothing new. A cosmological model of communicative agency, then, transcends the simplistic notions of ‘romance’ offered by anthropologists, art historians, and media theorists. There is no ‘re’ for us. … I have referred to the work of Marshall McLuhan several times in this article, partly to show the difference between Western conceptual/rational thought and Indigenous cosmological thought, and partly because McLuhan was a brilliant thinker and has had, as we all know, an undeniable influence on contemporary thinking about media and culture. He is indeed one of the truly visionary thinkers of the twentieth century. But there is another reason I have continued to return to him. He seems to have had a truly innate sense of what we might call the ‘Indigenous imagination.’ So, as much as I object to McLuhan’s ‘Tribal man,’ I am still amazed by his insight into an area into which other Western theorists fear to tread. And sometimes he just nails it. When he writes, ‘The function of art in a tribal society is not to orient the population to novelty but to merge it with the cosmos. Value does not inhere in art as object but in its power to educate the senses. … The primitive role of art serving as consolidator and as a liaison with the hidden cosmic powers again comes to the fore’ [quoting From Cliché to Archetype].’ I think, wow, … now you’re seeing like we see.”

 

 

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