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The Book of Probes Hardcover – November, 2003
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About the Author
One of the most controversial and original thinkers of our time, McLuhan is universally regarded as the father of communications and media studies. But he is far more than that. A charismatic figure, whose remarkable perception propelled him onto the international stage, McLuhan became the prophet of the new information age. In his own time he drew both accolades and criticism for his intuitive vision, his steady stream of thought-provoking metaphors, and fast-forward glimpses into a world where software would eclipse hardware and the power of mass media would eclipse the power of government. The information superhighway fulfilled his perceptive observation that the world would ultimately become a global village. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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I'm a big fan of Marshall McLuhan and Carson, so I was pre-disposed to a welcome reception of this volume, and indeed I feel it delivers the goods. At times Carson's designs appear perhaps unnecessarily minimalist, until one considers what must be his reverence for the top billing - McLuhan's probes. McLuhan's 'probes' are ironizable (self-deconstructing) conceptual assertions intended to serve the phenomenological purpose of disclosing new percepts about the world. And in this way the book delivers effectively if used as such.
"All invention is a form of bodily fission, with the ensuing chain reaction in the body and the environment." (p. 456).
"Light is information without `content,' much as the missile is a vehicle without the additions of wheel or highway. As the missile is a self-contained transportation system that consumes not only fuel but its engine, so light is a self-contained communication system in which the medium is the message." (p. 487).
"Rapid changes of identity, happening suddenly and in very brief intervals of time, have proved more deadly and destructive of human values than wars fought with hardware weapons." (p. 503).
"The environment always manages somehow to be invisible. Only the content, the previous environment, is noticeable. The BOMB itself became content, having had a short reign as environment." (p. 517).
"The metropolis is obsolete. Ask the Army." (p. 524).
"Western literate man is easily inclined to make moral protests, but is seemingly incapable of recognizing the formal or `acoustic' structure of situations which are disturbing and destroying him." (p. 538).
I am getting off of the subject, as modern readers tend to do, but I have so many concerns that I am worried about why the following biological observation applies so well to mass politics:
"Smoothness and repetitive order, the attributes of teeth, enter into the very nature of the power structure." (p. 505).
The pages with a green strip on the bottom, 441-448, contain "McLuhan and Saussure" by W. Terence Gordon. Saussure's "Course in General Linguuistics" predicted that universal laws of semiotics could be discovered, and McLuhan used `LOM' as his note for Laws of Media "over and over and listing the passages where Saussure's groundwork buttressed the emerging synthesis of ideas that McLuhan would articulate first in 1977 and fully explore in the posthumously published Laws of Media (1988)." (p. 442). Politics is largely the result of accepted terminologies for approaching areas that are perceived as problems, particularly in democracies, where a person's politics provides some frame of reference for picking the future he or she would prefer. "To use a brand of car, drink, smoke or food that is nationally advertised gives a man the feeling that he belongs to something bigger than himself." (p. 535). Spending a trillion dollars for a strategic weapons system that could destroy parts of our world which do not conform to our wishes is like the icing on the cake of modern life.