Marshall McLuhan identified our time of postmodernity as the “ecological age” in which technological dominance has become planetary. This undeniable truth is a fact that may be symbolized by the visual image of satellites circling the entire globe. Accordingly, McLuhan liked to use Sputnik as a synecdoche for technology’s global embrace:“To free himself from servitude to his own artifacts has…
“The world exists to end in a book”
— Stéphane Mallarmé
“Happy is your Grace,
That can translate the stubbornness of fortune
Into so quiet and so sweet a style.”
—Shakespeare, As You Like It (II.i.19-21)
“Prayer is reversed thunder.”
In Chapter 6 of Understanding Media (1964), “Media as Translators,” Marshall McLuhan starts off by offering us an image of “the higher arboreal…
In this digital age of polarized politics, where can we look for guidance on how to turn down the heat? After all, we don’t want to blow ourselves up. Fortunately, although the imperative to use our most powerful weapons could be a catalyst for our own destruction, we also have alternative technological tools. These alternative tools are more than capable…
“There’s Nothing Like a Best Seller to Set Hollywood a-Tingle”
—The New York Times Book Review (Sep 16, 1962)
“I’d willingly start my next novel—about a small town—right now, but I need the diversion of a play.”
—John O’Hara, The New York Times Book Review (Nov 27, 1955)
“For most of our lifetime civil war has been raging in the world of art and…
He could not go.
He wanted neither to eat nor to sleep.
Only to lie there — eyes insatiably
Gazing into the eyes that were no eyes.
This is how his own eyes destroyed him.
— Ted Hughes, “Narcissus”
Unknowingly he desires himself, and
the one who praises is himself praised, and,
while he courts, is courted,
so that, equally, he inflames and burns.
How often he gave his lips…
The West shall shake the East awake
While ye have the night for morn.
— James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake
— Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching, Chapter 24
In Chapter 3 of Understanding Media (1964), “Reversal of the Overheated Medium,” Marshall McLuhan describes how technological enhancements tend to undergo reversals as they work themselves out within the wider environmental context. For example, the enhancement of…
In the first chapter of Understanding Media (1964), called “The Medium is the Message,” Marshall McLuhan begins the book by explaining his most famous aphorism. Over time, the proposition has acquired the status of a cliché, such that its original meaning and intent can become obscured. But as W. Terrence Gordon, the editor of the Critical Edition of Understanding Media (published…
Postmodern intellectual culture is perhaps best characterized as adhering to the thesis that all reality is socially constructed. Many have mistaken Marshall McLuhan for being a prophet of postmodernity, this new era of technological change marked by a new media domination of the global theatre. But McLuhan himself said:
“I am a Thomist for whom the sensory order resonates with the…
In order to explain surprising political phenomena like Donald Trump and Brexit, we have to look at the unprecedented impact of new technologies on our total environment. Douglas Rushkoff, the author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, has entertained the thesis that the television age, which brought people together, is over. He opines that the television age has been…
The documentary film Best of Enemies (2015) is not just a compelling chronicle and contextualization of the famous 1968 television debates between William F. Buckley, Jr., and Gore Vidal. As the sequence during its closing credits makes clear, the documentary also aims to provide us with nothing less than the origin story of our current digital age of polarized politics.…