204. Writing & Critical Analysis 998. Digital Art

Lukewarm Media

This writing was in response to Marshall McLulan’s interview with Playboy magazine.

On an experiential level, I generally enjoy listening or watching more that reading. I am a product of my generation.

Despite this fact, I feel the order in which I listened to the two assigned works had a large influence on my opinion of the track vs. interview. As the interviewer writes: “Perhaps because the Q and A format serves to pin him down by counteracting his habit of mercurially changing the subject in mid-stream of consciousness” I personally liked the interview better.

I listened to the track during a commute to the allergist. I walked, rode on the 6 train, and waited in a waiting room during the tracks’ length non-stop. As Dan mentioned in class, the work is rather psychedelic. At first the “seemingly disparate elements are imaginatively poised, put in apposition in new and unique ways” messed with my head. However once I got used to this barrage on my sense of hearing, I found some parts boring and other parts entertaining and interesting. The track (supplemented by the Douglas Rushkoff video we watched in class) made his basic thesis clearish: the development of new technology since the phonetic alphabet have changed the way “media” (which he defines very broadly) affects and controls our thinking and, by extension, our lives.

The playboy interview solidified my confidence in what Mr. McLuhan is trying to express. The interviewer does a good job of trying to keep him focused on one train of thought, which made me realize how associative his arguments can be. He refuses to be categorized which he claims is an outdated method of thinking. After reading the interview I don’t really trust that he knows what he is talking about sometimes. He himself says “As an investigator, I have no fixed point of view, no commitment to any theory“. Including your own, Mr. McLuhan?

I’ve got more to say but don’t want to burden readers. For the purposes of this blog, I am a minimalist.

In class, ask me how Matilda (by Roald Dahl) is a counter-argument to some of McLuhan’s theories.

4 replies on “Lukewarm Media”

“after reading the interview I don’t really trust that he knows what he is talking about sometimes”. That’s how I feel at times reading his stuff. Maybe he’s too intellectual for me, but some of his metaphors and logic make no sense to me, and that’s probably why he attracts so much attention. I do think that he knows the major theme he’s conveying, but the convoluted and flashy metaphors, I feel like, is a way to attract attention. While he is coined as “Intellectual thug”, for me and in our generation’s context, he is more an “Intellectual Gaga”.

In the playboy interview, MM’s commentary on books vs. TV makes it seem like TV (as a cool media) is more effective in spurring one’s imagination. Specifically, the quote on page 7: “The division of sight and sound and meaning causes deep psychological effects, and he suffers a a corresponding separation and impoverishment of his imaginative, emotional, and sensory life.”

In Matilda, the girl’s family is a slave to the TV. They end up being a stagnant group of unimaginative individuals that rely on lying and cheating to get by. Matilda, meanwhile, reads books and her single sense gives her more imagination and insight to the world than her family could dream of.

I only thought of it because I was watching the film with my siblings, but the moral that Matilda is trying to convey (among many others) is that although the media may be the massage, the message itself still matters.

Also, I would say McLuhan’s willingness to accept his own fallibility is something we should admire. He’s adopting a kind of quasi-scientific way of thinking about these things, where the ideas that don’t bear out can simply be discarded.

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