- Mark A. McCutcheon, The Medium is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology (Edmonton: Athabasca UP, 2018)
“Having developed a discourse of technology that dramatized its Frankensteinian pretext and globalized its scope, McLuhan and his media theory have been popularized globally in a multimedia range of adaptations that, in turn, further amplify that discourse to such an extent that, today, we cannot use the word technology without conjuring the spectres of both Frankenstein and McLuhan” (101)
- John Sanbonmatsu, “Video Games: Machine Dreams of Domination,” in Gail Dines et al, eds., Gender, Race, and Class in Media (5th Los Angeles: Sage, 2018) 413-427
415: “A generation ago, media theorist Marshall McLuhan observed of the technologically mediated communications of his day that the ‘medium is the message.’ What McLuhan meant is that radio, television, and so on, are not neutral carriers of meaning, but themselves intensify, magnify, or otherwise alter the ‘scale’ of our relations with one another. Today’s interactive media, however, take this ‘message’ to a whole other level. If as Ian Bogost observes ‘the logics that drive our games make claims about who we are, how our world functions, and what we want it to become,’ it must be emphasized how much those logics are amplified by the interactive nature of the medium, and in what ways that arguably correspond to a qualitative, not merely quantitative, transformation of the human personality. Anyone who has careened down the virtual streets of Chicago in Project Gotham Racing (Bizarre Creations, 2001), or joined a platoon of Marines patrolling the dusty streets of a Middle Eastern city in Call of Duty (Infinity Ward, 2007), can attest to the visceral power of the medium and to the degree to which intense player involvement heightens the psychological cathexis between human, machine, and onscreen narrative. While the video games industry disavows any connection between kids shooting virtual humans in the head and real-life mass shootings by children in our schools, the same industry in other market sectors routinely boasts that video games are without peer among media in shaping human behavior and psychology.”
- Jana Mangold, McLuhans Tricksterrede: Archäologie einer Medientheorie (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018)
- Éric Vuillard, The Order of the Day, trans. Mark Polizzotti (NY: Other Press, 2018)59: “On Friday, March 11, at five in the morning, Schuschnigg’s valet woke him for the longest day of his existence. He lowered his feet from the bed. The parquet floor was cold. He put on his slippers. They told him of massive movements of German troops. The border at Salzburg was closed and railway traffic between Germany and Austria had been suspended. There was a snake in the grass. The burden of living was unbearable. He suddenly felt terribly, horribly old. But he’d have plenty of time to think about that, as he would spend seven years in prison under the Third Reich. He’d have seven years to ponder whether it had been the right thing to do back then, organizing his little paramilitary Catholic group; seven years to decide what is truly Catholic and what isn’t, to separate the light from the ash. Even with privileges, incarceration is an ordeal. And so, once liberated by the Allies, he would finally lead a pacific life. And—as if it were possible for each of us to have two lives, as if the game of death could wipe our thoughts clean, as if in the darkness of those seven years he had called out to God, ‘Who am I?’ and God had answered, ‘Somebody else’—the former chancellor would settle in the United States and become a model American, a model Catholic, a model professor a the very Catholic Saint Louis University. We can almost imagine him sitting around in his dressing gown, chatting about the Gutenberg galaxy with Marshall McLuhan!”[Curator’s note: McLuhan taught at St. Louis University from 1937 to 1944. Kurt Schuschnigg was Chancellor of Austria from 1934 to 1938, when he was placed under house arrest, spending the remainder of the war in concentration camps, including Dachau. He was liberated in 1945, and spent 1948 to 1967 as a professor of political science at St. Louis University. The Gutenberg Galaxy was published in 1962.]
- Jason Sherman, The Message (Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, N0v.-Dec. 2018)
- Steven Connor, Dream Machines (London: Open Humanities P, 2018)174 “For centuries, it was thought that each creature was allotted a certain portion of vital heat that was identical with their life. But, in a world of rising and perhaps now uncontrollable temperatures, the abstract idea of coolness has indeed come to take on a positive value. Most importantly, it requires a machinery based on the principle, not of self-perpetuation, but of self-limitation, through active monitoring. For Marshall McLuhan, a cool medium is one of implication, in which we have ourselves to supply much of the information …as opposed to explicit and high-definition media such as film and TV. As our media have heated up, in tandem with global temperatures, our imaginary machines have perhaps begun to cool down, precisely because they require so much from us of projection and systematic self-monitoring.”184-5 “Where the perpetual motion machines of the past were set aside from the rest of the thermodynamic universe, occupying a space of counterfactual exception in which they required no intervention or input because they ran on their own, the surrogate perpetual motion machine that is embodied in the fantasy of the internet, as image and enactment of the imaginary state of total communication of all earthly machines whatsoever, requires constant input and monitoring, partly because it is increasingly the very mode of our own informational self-monitoring. Machines are supposed to work on their own, for us; the internet works on its own, but through us. It is perpetual not because it derives its energy from itself, but because all of its energy is derived from its users. A complete mediatic machinery of this kind is both hot and cold at once, in McLuhan’s terms. It is hot because it operates with such fine-grained high definition, able to constitute the world with such fidelity as to substitute for it. But it is cool in that it runs entirely on belief, projection and supposition supplied by our input, which is also its output.”
- Branden W. Joseph, “White Light / White Noise” in Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, ed. Donna De Salvo et al (NY Whitney Museum, 2018) 42-53.[46-7: a discussion of the influence of Massage on Warhol’s oeuvre and the competing claims of Timothy Leary in this context]
- Bernhard J. Dotzler, “Idiocy, Forgetting, and Outdatedness: Friedrich Kittler’s Avant-Gardism and the ‘Time for Other Stories,’” in The Technological Introject: Friedrich Kittler between Implementation and the Incalcuable [sic], ed. Jeffrey Champlin and Antje Pfannkuchen (N.Y.: Fordham UP, 2018) 35-4536: “The idiot is a human being in isolation, outside the community. Marshall McLuhan invoked the Greek meaning of he word early in his career: ‘Idiot: Greek for a private person’ [from Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations]. Likewise, Vilem Flusser took recourse to this meaning and, in some ways, based his entire media theory on it. For Flusser, the human being communicates not because he or she is a social creature, but rather because he or she is a solitary one, and both the foundations and heights of his [or her] solitude are to be found in the bare fact of mortality. The human being is essentially an idiot. He or she strives to fight against this, to be instead a political animal—this is precisely the purpose of his [or her] entire communicative activity, and thereby of the entire realm of that which constitutes ‘media.’”
Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, “Recursive Innovation” (193-208)
200-1: “Regardless of his objections to what he saw as the humanistically entrapped and technologically uninformed anthropocentrism of McLuhan, Kittler was happy to appropriate the latter’s generous deployment of the word media. He realized that McLuhan possessed in abundance three features indispensable for a new and fruitful engagement with media: a background in philology; a hearty disdain for what most others had accomplished with that background; and an uncanny cultural instinct for what that background should be applied to instead. … Much like McLuhan, [Kittler] applied his philological expertise to the study of distinctly nonphilological media objects, yet he also applied the nonphilological expertise he acquired studying these media technologies to the study of imaginary philological discourse constructs. The fabrication of the latter depended on routines of literacy that needed to be viewed from the outside—that is, from the vantage point of a medial other—to be laid bare. This is Kittler’s media-theoretical form of ostranenie or Verfremdung, and it harkens back to McLuhan’s fish that only realize their watery medium once they have been thrown ashore.”
- Kai Vogley, “Communication as Fundamental Paradigm for Psychopathology,” in The Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition, eds. Albert Newen, Leon De Bruin, and Shaun Gallagher (Oxford: OUP, 2018)
Cognitive sciences in general are either based on theories that emphasize “the role of internal representations—paradigmatically internal models—of the agent’s body and environment in explaining an agent’s behavior” or are based on accounts that focus on “the role of high-bandwidth agent–environment interactions in producing adaptive behavior without much or any representation on the part of the agent” (Grush 2005, p. 209). The latter viewpoint has been recently explicated and developed further in a number of ways under the umbrella term of 4E cognition summarizing the multiple facets of this integrative view of cognition covering extended, embodied, enactive, and embedded aspects of cognition.
Cognition is “extended” as it is in a continuous exchange with its environment: we need to understand the “intelligent system as a spatio-temporally extended process not limited by the tenuous envelope of skin and skull” (Clark 1997, p. 221). This aspect is closely related to the feature of embodiment: cognition cannot be understood without the integration of our cognitive systems and our brains within our body allowing locomotion and action (Wilson 2002). Based on the concept of affordances (Gibson 1979), “enactive cognition” is based on the understanding of “perceiving as a way of acting” (Noë 2004, p. 1). Cognition should not be perceived as abstract and amodal information processing in detached brains or observers, but as being “grounded in multiple ways, including simulations, situated action, and, on occasion, bodily states” (Barsalou 2008, p. 619). Brain and environment are closely interconnected: on the one hand, “the environment, situations, the body, and simulations in the brain’s modal systems ground” (p. 806) our cognitive capacities, whereas, on the other hand, “the cognitive system utilizes the environment and the body as external informational structures” (Barsalou 2010, p. 717).
The capacity to communicate with others belongs to the basic cognitive functions of humans that are necessary for our survival, our navigation in the social world, and the full participation in culture and society (Heinz 2014; Tomasello 2008). This is especially important from the perspective of psychopathology. “Man requires interpersonal relationships” (Sullivan 1953, p. 32), and this is because “the developmental history of personality . . . is actually the developmental history of possibilities of interpersonal relations” (Sullivan 1953, p. 30). Social interactions constitute our personality, the “relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations which characterize a human life” (Sullivan 1953, p. 111). Interpersonal relations are vital: an infant who starts life under disadvantageous circumstances of communication and cooperation will finally perish (Sullivan 1953, p. 61). Communicative capacities are acquired during ontogeny; the moving force of this developmental process is the “human being’s need for social action” (Ruesch and Bateson 1951, p. 38); it is learned over decades and plausibly evolves as a function of biological maturation (Ruesch 1957, p. 59).
In essence, communication can be considered a closed loop constituted by three different elements: (1) the signal sent out by the first interaction partner (“sender”), (2) the adequate processing in the addressee or second interaction partner “(recipient”), and (3) her/his reaction to the signal of the sender that demonstrates that the sent signal was perceived and understood by the recipient (Ruesch and Bateson 1951, p. 15; Ruesch (p. 808) 1957, p. 34, p. 189). By combining these three elements, a “system of communication” (Ruesch and Bateson 1951, p. 21) or a “social situation” (Ruesch and Bateson 1951, pp. 23, 28) is constituted. Obviously, the feedback signal in the third step of the communicative loop can itself stimulate a reaction of the original sender who was asked to respond to the feedback signal of the recipient. This can launch a series of communicative events in the sense of turn-taking that might end up in a conversation of two persons (Figure 43.1).
This is the general, socially embedded architecture for all different kinds of interactions: “interpersonal systems—stranger groups, marital couples, families, psychotherapeutic, or even international relationships, etc.—may be viewed as feedback loops, since the behavior of each person affects and is affected by the behavior of each other person” (Watzlawick et al. 1967, p. 31). Of course, it is important to note that this definition of a basic communicative event does not imply that communication is always simple and uniform—the variance of the individual configuration or design of communicative encounters is virtually infinite. Even unintended signals sent out to other persons can be perceived and are usually interpreted as communicative signals. In other words, “all actions and events have communicative aspects, as soon as they are perceived by a human being” (Ruesch and Bateson 1951, pp. 6, 31). Communication is the “matrix in which all human activities are embedded”; it “links object to person and person to person” (Ruesch and Bateson 1951, p. 13). It is simply impossible to stop from communicating: “one cannot not communicate” (Watzlawick et al. 1967, p. 51).