Tall, Gray and Gangly

In his interview with Playboy magazine, Marshal McLuhan discussed, in depth, how he believes the changing media has changed people, from the beginnings of the Phonetic alphabet and how it impacted education, his views on race, and the use of hallucinogens, and how different races and ethnicities were affected by the changing media at the time. While today’s media is vastly different than from the 1960s, some of his ideas and theories still hold true today.

Reading the article more than once to try to get a better understanding, I still do not understand a lot of what he said, but some statements did stand out to me. In particular two statements, one I agree with, and one I disagree with.

Let’s start with the idea I agree with. McLuhan goes on to state that people are unaware of the technology they use until something new comes and they become aware of such technology. His idea of Narcissus narcosis is brilliant and can describe people with advancing technology greatly. People are unaware of the technology they use and how reliant they actually are to it. Today, people use phones as not only a source of communication, but as alarms, maps, entertainment and as their bank accounts. These uses only just scratch the surface of what technology is used for. I, personally, pride myself with not being too attached to my phone, but at the same time, I use it as a clock and alarm, to check my bank accounts and to keep myself organized. Until it is taken away from me or until something new comes along, I am typically unaware of how much I actually use my technology, from my tablet to my laptop to my phone. Going anywhere nowadays, people are constantly on their devices and unaware of the world around them. This is the norm and, according to McLuhan, has been for a while now.

Now for the disagreement. McLuhan believes the Phonetic alphabet is what started visual stimuli and really brought the sense of sight as the sense of importance. While it may be the first set uniform language involving a certain character to mean a certain sound, it was not the first visual to heighten the sense. Forms like Egyptian hieroglyphics and systems of cuneiform were, what I believe, the first set of successful language to bring the sense of sight to the forefront. While it may not have had a uniform alphabet that is still used today, both still were recognized widely by the people that used them and used the sense of sight to transmit ideas from one person to another. We may not use these forms of communication today, but we should not discredit them as not bringing awareness to the sense of sight and starting to heighten sight as a sense.

While some of what McLuhan says is brilliant and thought provoking, some can be argued against. One thing McLuhan says that I respect him for is his ability to say his work is “difficult to understand”. His ability to admit his thoughts are sometimes not easy and require further analysis and depth helps make reading this interview and possibly some of his other works easier, as it does not mean I, and others, do not understand the topic, but that his thoughts can be rather difficult to decipher.


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