Individual Assignment 2: McLuhan and the Critical Perspective – IDS3309 – Andres Arias – Group 10

The intricate principles scholar Marshall McLuhan  espouses throughout his numerous writings and a 1969 interview with Playboy Magazine’s Phillip Rogaway are neatly encapsulated by his time-tested adage, “The medium is the message.” good thesis Notable for his willingness to confront and expose the consequences and influence of mankind’s breakneck exposure to media, McLuhan implemented the critical perspective to shape observations about political scale and the reach of leaders, the apparent ignorance of the cognitive faculties of earlier cultures in favor of individualism and the establishment of “Gutenberg man,” and a great deal more.  His willingness to sidestep insignificant minutiae and instead concentrate attention on the quirks of infrastructure and its pull, as referenced to great effect by Richard Kostelanetz several decades ago, warrants an examination into his sphere of thought.

McLuhan’s trademark advocacy makes the commentator uniquely qualified to question the time-tested assumptions of the general public.  The “ostrichlike disregard” on the behalf of society that he references during his Playboy interview provides a canvas upon which McLuhan can lay his ideas bare.  Several questions into said interview, the focus turns to the development of alphabetic expression centuries prior and perceived impact on the social fabric, with Rogaway acting as an ambassador to popular belief.  Facing an assertion that literacy offers mankind innumerable benefits, McLuhan chooses to dismiss “homogenized Western man” and his “applied knowledge” on the basis that the inherent nature of the alphabet breeds its own brand of isolation and fragmentation amongst these visual forms.  This, in turn, allows for neat and worry-free classification and organization in the name of, in the scholar’s words, “efficiency and practicality.” It goes without saying, then, that McLuhan propagates systems of understanding rooted in an interplay between hearing, touch, taste and smell, much like those enjoyed by tribal cultures, feeling that they fostered “unique emotional blends” in a powerful way.

The scholar’s infusion of the critical perspective into his signature ideas, particularly “the medium is the message,” is evidenced by his subtle expansion of the bounds of scholarly debate.  His postulation of the existence of two distinct forms of media in “hot and cool” varieties immediately stands out. Once again, within a society in which content is king, or, as described by Kostelanetz, “…where others see only data, or nothing;” McLuhan establishes a hot medium as one that engenders minimal participation or basic thought by an audience and thus delivers much straightforward information upon engagement.  A cool medium, on the other hand, asks for a great degree of participation from the audience and delivers “relatively little data.” Far beyond his offering up telephones, radio and photographs as examples, to name a few, the public confusion surrounding ideas such as these only indicates that McLuhan has successfully vanquished convention. Lastly, even dispensing commentary framed by negativity and despair, he is providing leeway towards the improvement of society.  His celebration of superior ways of life, a willingness to engage hypothetical questions about fatherhood, and the depth of his ideas make that incredibly clear. In McLuhan’s very own words, doing things properly mandates that “…we’ve got to recognize that we’ve been doing them the wrong way…”

beautifully written and a thorough analysis

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