Newmedia on Thu, 22 Dec 2011 12:58:35 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The medium is not the message (lecture to students)

Very interesting lecture -- thanks!
McLuhan, who I have probably spent far too much time studying, was
primarily interested in how people change as the world changes through
If you recall, this was also the topic of my 1996 MetaForum III  keynote, 
"Who Are We? What Are We Becoming?"
For McLuhan, as his son Eric recently clarified at the MM100 Conference in  
Toronto (where my task was to serve as "Conference Grammarian"), *medium* 
meant  something like the agar in a petri-dish for growing bacteria at the 
time he  "coined" the famous phrase -- not a simple "in-between."
So, you could substitute ENVIRONMENT for "medium" if you wish.
Furthermore, as a stark opponent of the "information theoretic"
school, the term "message" also meant something quite different for
him than what is now commonplace.
"Message" was, for McLuhan, the key to communication, which, in turn, is  
all about what changes occur to the people who are involved in the 
communication  process.
Here, you might be interested in the just-published 2011 /Theories of  
Communication/ by both McLuhans.
You could therefore rephrase "The Medium is the Message" to say "The  
Environment is What Changes You" and be much closer to McLuhan's own  meaning.
Yes, it was his interest in "environments" that led to his coining of the  
term "media ecology."  It is also why some wise-guy McLuhanite, when  
confronted on the street by someone collecting signatures to "Save the  
environment," replied "Do you mean NTSC?"
It turns out that the phrases we know McLuhan for are really the work of  
his "publicists" and not himself, as reflected in the title "The Medium is 
the  Massage" -- the most successful McLuhan book of the 1960s for which the 
McLuhan  Estate holds no copyright since it was actually a "promotion" cooked 
up by  Jerome Agel with little of McLuhan's own involvement.
You are correct that the "Global Village" no longer applies since the  
*environment* has changed.  That's another phrase he would not have singled  out 
-- but one that his "epigone" have found irresistible.
Btw, the primary change that he predicted would occur -- *formally* caused  
by "information speedup" -- would be a general increase in *pattern 
recognition*  . . . which is a phrase that he introduced in the 2nd Introduction to 
his 1964  /Understanding Media/ and endlessly repeated in the years that 
Pattern Recognition is, however, not something that is typically taught in  
"media theory" . . . so I have to wonder if the students you were  talking 
to really have gained the benefits from their education that you so  
graciously awarded to them.
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY 

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