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McLuhan for Beginners (Writers and Readers Documentary Comic Book, 82) Paperback – February, 1997
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Here, we are told that the way Marshall McLuhan saw the world was in terms of the priority (or ratio) of the senses, and the consequences on our consciousness of those priorities. The alphabets for instance, did not just give priority to the visual but did so in such a powerful way that it changed the way we perceived reality, in particular in the way we perceived space. The same held true for the radio, and even more so for the TV. Each changed the way we perceived things in our sensory field by changing our central nervous systems. We began with the telegraph in the 1840s, the telephone in the 1900s, the radio in the 1920s, the television in the 1950s, the computer in the 1970-90s, and the Internet since 2000.
However, these are technologies that have not only changed our culture, they have also changed the trajectory of the evolution of our central nervous systems. Equally, they have also changed our global community by making us more involved with each other. However, according to Dr. McLuhan, this involvement of the global community may not be a net positive as most people tend to think it will be: as the more people become involved, the more they become concerned with their identities, and the more they become concerned with their identities and more involved with others in the global community, the more violent they become.
The main point across McLuhan's ideas is that for better or worse, the media are not passive instruments of technological progress, but are unseen, intrusive, involved, and active agents of change: change of our psychological ecology, and our emotional and physical environment. They thus are instruments capable of doing us great harm if we fail to understand how they shape and control both our psychological and physical environments.
When he published "Understanding Media" in 1964, he was disturbed about mankind’s lurching blindly about toward the twenty-first century in the shackles of nineteenth century perceptions. The proper reaction to them, according to McLuhan, is to be aware of what they do and then try to counteract their most pernicious and often dramatic negative effects.
Today, we stand innocently by as the most powerful intelligence agencies of the world engage in cyber warfare against each other -- at the same time that they monitor in an unprecedented way our twitter feeds, telephone messages, and our email -- all the while in countries like the U.S, they have given police and FBI agents the right to also monitor us privately and individually with unmanned drones that can hover over our homes, and if and when directed to do so, can also eliminate us.
Maybe Dr. McLuhan had his eye on the ball and maybe now it's time to take fully into account his admonition that the medium is indeed the message. Three stars