Essential McLuhan

The perception of reality now depends upon the structure of information. Everything you wanted to know about McLuhan's breakthrough thinking in one place

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Essential McLuhan

Essential McLuhan Edited by Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone London

First published 1995 by House of Anansi Press Limited Ontario, Canada This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “ To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” First published in Great Britain 1997 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE Copyright © 1995 by Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone Electronic Mail Addresses Eric McLuhan: [email protected] Frank Zingrone: [email protected] The Herbert Marshall McLuhan Foundation, St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia: [email protected] The McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario: The authors acknowledge the gracious cooperation of Corinne McLuhan, brilliant publishing expertise of Donald G.Bastian, generous forebearance of William Kuhns, splendid agency of Matie Molinaro, and invaluable editorial assistance of J.P.Zingrone. Selections from The Gutenberg Galaxy used by permission of the University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 0-203-99296-2 Master e-book ISBN ISBN 0-415-16244-0 (hbk) ISBN 0-415-16245-9 (pbk)

Contents Introduction 1 Part I Culture as Business 1. American Advertising 11 2. The Mechanical Bride 18 3. Culture Is Our Business 31 4. Joyce, Mallarmé, and the Press 53 5. Letter to Harold Adams Innis 66 6. Postures and Impostures of Managers Past 70 Part II Print and the Electric Revolution 7. Media and Cultural Change 82 8. The Gutenberg Galaxy 90 9. Understanding Media 146 10. Is It Natural That One Medium Should Appropriate and Exploit Another? 178 11. Explorations 187 Part III Oral McLuhan 12. Address at Vision 65 208 13. Playboy Interview: “Marshall McLuhan—A Candid Conversation with the 222 High Priest of Popcult and Metaphysician of Media” 14. A McLuhan Sourcebook: Key Quotations from the Writings of Marshall 261 McLuhan 15. Explorations 287

Part IV Culture and Art: Figures and Grounds 16. From Cliché to Archetype 308 17. The Emperor’s New Clothes 330 18. Pro-log to Exploration 349 19. Laws of Media 358 Annotated Contents 383 Books by Marshall McLuhan 390 A Marshall McLuhan Reading List 392 Index 398

Introduction I am not a “culture critic” because I am not in any way interested in classifying cultural forms. I am a metaphysician, interested in the life of the forms and their surprising modalities. (Letters of Marshall McLuhan) I Herbert Marshall McLuhan was born in Edmonton, Alberta, on July 21, 1911. He became internationally famous during the 1960s and ’70s for his studies of the effects of mass media on thought and social behaviour. After an early flirtation with engineering as a possible vocation, McLuhan’s brilliance as a student of literature asserted itself and led him from the University of Manitoba abroad for graduate work (Ph.D., Cambridge, 1943). There he laid the basis of his later work in his erudite and prescient dissertation, “The Place of Thomas Nashe in the Learning of His Time,” which examined the modern biases in logic and science that culminated in the triumph of the Newtonian worldview, and its clockwork mechanical perfection, in 19th-century Europe. Beginning with his studies in literature, McLuhan became uniquely alert to the revolutionary threshold of contemporary cultural change. He returned to North America and teaching posts at the University of Wisconsin (1936) and St. Louis University (1937) before finishing his doctorate at Cambridge. There was a short tenure at Assumption College (now the University of Windsor) in 1944, but by 1946 McLuhan was eagerly conscripted by St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, where he stayed for the rest of his teaching life (except for 1967– 68, when he was granted a Schweitzer Chair at Fordham University in New York). At Cambridge, McLuhan had studied with a breathtakingly luminous faculty: F.R.Leavis, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, E.M.W.Tillyard, H.J.Chaytor, and especially the founder of the “New Criticism,” I.A.Richards, among other academic celebrities. He learned from them intellectual confidence. Through the years, McLuhan established relations with an array of remarkable people. He had very little to do with the communications pioneer Harold Innis (who had noticed McLuhan’s work and was using The Mechanical Bride in his classes), but he had strong intellectual acquaintances with Edmund “Ted” Carpenter and Edward T.Hall, cultural anthropologists; the celebrated rhetoric scholar Walter Ong, S.J.; the artist-critic Wyndham Lewis; Alvin Toffler; Peter Drucker; Jonathan Miller; Eric Havelock; Hugh Kenner; Buckminster Fuller; Pierre Trudeau; the illustrious Canadian pianist Glenn Gould; and the eminent philosopher Etienne Gilson. His correspondents included many of the most interesting people in the world: for example, the poet Ezra Pound, Woody Allen, John Cage, George Steiner, Clare Boothe Luce, Duke Ellington, Tom Wolfe, Barbara Ward, Jacques Maritain, Wyndham Lewis,

Essential McLuhan 2 Rollo May, Yousuf Karsh, Ann Landers, Jack Paar, Ashley Montagu, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, and King Karl Gustav of Sweden. Before anyone could perceive the electric form of the information revolution, McLuhan was publishing brilliant explanations of the perceptual changes being experienced by the users of mass media. He seemed futuristic to some and an enemy of print and literacy to others. He was, in reality, a deeply literate man of astonishing prescience. Tom Wolfe suggested aloud that McLuhan’s work was as important culturally as that of Darwin or Freud. Agreement and scoffing ensued. Increasingly Wolfe’s wonder seems justified. Yet, from the start, McLuhan was misunderstood, even purposely, by people with rival agendas or personal turfs to defend; for, truth be known, he was warning everyone how, under electric conditions, their specialist enterprises were obsolescing, just when specialism was being touted as our salvation. As well, the complexity of the ideas and his aphoristic prose style made access to the work seem difficult or elitist in places. Many, who, for many reasons, misunderstood his work, tried to dismiss him with irrelevant criticisms. His ideas, some complained, were not “logical” enough. Others felt that devaluing the significance of message “content” for media “context” was a threat to civilization. Perhaps most of his critics felt alienated by the tight, imploded aphoristic style that defeated the narrative bias required for argument. McLuhan disliked argument and the protection of intellectual turf. Rather, he saw himself as an explorer “probing” the “psycho-social complex” powerfully changed by the new electric conditions. Electricity continually transforms everything, especially the way people think, and confirms the power of uncertainty in the quest for absolute knowledge. That is revolutionary. Because of the decentralizing, integrating, and accelerating character of electric process, the emphasis in communication shifts from the specialist “one thing at a time” or linear, logical sequence, to the “all-at-once” simultaneous relations that occur when electronic information approaches the speed of light. Media, as contexts that translate psychological and social experience, eliminate the possibility of simple clear meaning. The environment, overloaded with detailed information, can be ordered meaningfully, McLuhan said, by developing enhanced pattern-recognition skills, the ability to deal with open systems, under-going continual change, at electric speed. Physical connectedness gives way to the resonant bonds and gigantic open-system patterns of electric information. The perception of reality now depends upon the structure of information. The form of each medium is associated with a different arrangement, or ratio, among the senses, which creates new forms of awareness. These perceptual transformations, the new ways of experiencing that each medium creates, occur in the user regardless of the program content. This is what the paradox, “the medium is the message,” means. McLuhan’s famous distinction between “hot” and “cool” media referred to the different sensory effects associated with media of higher or lower definition. “Hot” media (radio, photography, cinema) are more full of information and allow less involvement of the user; “cool” media (telephone, cartoons, television) are less full of information and allow much greater sensory participation by the user.

Introduction 3 II Since his death in 1980, Marshall McLuhan’s reputation has been in a sort of hiatus waiting for electronic reality to catch up. That is happening; a surge of interest in his work emphasizes its usefulness. Not only have his ideas endured, they have retained their primacy in communication theory. Still, no one knows better than he how electric process transforms reality. Now that we too can see so much of what he perceived, it is possible, for example, to discuss “discarnate existence” with a young person who has spent the morning surfing the Internet in search of his invisible friends around the “Global Village,” or who appreciates, almost instinctively, how all media translate reality. Several years after his original emphasis on the importance of the “medium” over the “message,” it is interesting to note that the most popular shows on television are shows about shows in which the hidden ground of the medium becomes the ironic content of a show without an obvious story line. Recalling a complaint by Humboldt, Northrop Frye, the other pole in the intellectual field that configured world attention about Toronto during the last 40 years, has marked out the sequence of inhibitions by which our recognition of great minds is averted: When you begin a book which is something relatively new, you get first of all a “what nonsense” reaction and then the “many brilliant insights, but of course all wrong” reaction, then finally the “we knew it all along” reaction. (Toronto, Globe and Mail, Feb. 26, 1983, p. 18) By this measure, McLuhan has evaded the continuing indignity of too much popularity. Strangely, though we have yet to fully comprehend the value of the paradigm of changed reality that he set in motion, his insights are still powerfully valid. This persistent relevance attests to the unavoidable centrality of his ideas for understanding the effects of electric media. Ironically, few of his critics have read much of his work. There is almost never, for example, any reference to his early groundbreaking articles, scholarly and popular, where many of the ideas first took form, nor even of several of the books. A major intellectual of the 20th century, he is only now on the point of being read comprehensively. This volume of key portions of the McLuhan canon is meant to remedy any continuing shortfall in attention to the work itself. III The main effect of electric process, McLuhan discovered, is to retribalize the structure of psychic and social awareness. Millions of people sitting around the TV tube, CNN-style, absorbing the modern equivalent of shamanistic lore from the authorized source is closely analogous to the old tribal relations of tyrannous instruction and control.

Essential McLuhan 4 The Global Village of corporate consumer values stimulates local peoples to retrieve who they used to be as a protection for their fading identities, for electric process makes us all nobodies desperate for identity. The quest for identity, he warned, always produces violence. The old sensibility, old values, old enmities prevail over larger-scale democratic awareness and commitment. The profound changes to the perceptual apparatus brought about by film, television, and the other mass media return us to conditions so similar to old tribal brutalities that we retrieve the joy in the mystique of violence that governed the lives of preliterate peoples. Electricity takes us back, converts the world into a circuit of neo-tribal resonance. We are replaying the archetypes of deep human experience, the exemplary models of psychic and social reality. The first accurate descriptions of the transformative effects of major media appeared in The Gutenberg Galaxy. Language, speech, grammar, print, books—all the assets of civilized communications are now under pressure from the more primitive forms of electric media, primitive in how they reorganize the sensorium, appealing as they do to feelings rather than thought. Regardless of those readers who thought he approved of the destruction of literate values, McLuhan only sounded the alarm warning of their obsolescence. He would have preferred to keep the agendas for rhetorical and grammatical awareness alive. That is one of the reasons why he wrote in a complex, punning style. Essentially, McLuhan’s unusual prose style involved the discontinuous juxta-position of witty aphoristic “probes”—his word for investigative statements. This critical approach to discovering meaning is itself an art form. The case can easily be made for McLuhan’s being a special sort of artist. His collaboration with Harley Parker suggests that he also saw himself as something of an artist. In art the importance of the same principle is illustrated by the value of suggestion. In leaving something unsaid, the beholder is given a chance to complete the idea… until you seem to become actually part of it. (Through the Vanishing Point, 266) Regarding the artistic merits of the aphorism, McLuhan appears to have taken his cue from Francis Bacon in The Advancement of Learning to appreciate its paradoxical spirit: “Knowledge, while in aphorisms and observations (percepts?)… is growth.” This implies that the wholeness of knowledge is diminished in being defined as concepts. It is this wholeness of percepts that accounts for the perpetual modification and repudiation of all concepts. Knowledge of percepts allows us to anticipate such changes. McLuhan, rather than engage in arguments based on ideas isolated from real intellectual environments, focuses on their contextual grounds. He forces us to see how our sensory lives change in response to the media we use. Our transformed perception can lead to powerful discoveries. In fact, McLuhan’s work explores the paradigm shift in our perceptual values in a way that can’t be found elsewhere. The aphoristic technique makes it possible to present several levels of awareness simultaneously. This return to poetic form is extremely appropriate to the all-at-onceness of electric process. From Cicero and Quintilian to Bacon and Nashe, McLuhan updates the grammarians and rhetoricians as the deep sources of communication theory.

Introduction 5 Newspaper ads and television commercials are rooted in the ancient oratorical tradition, as Joyce has shown in the “AEolus,” or newspaper, episode of Ulysses which features a mass of up-dated rhetorical figures. All communication in any medium carries out a rhetorical agenda. McLuhan’s great talent is in exposing these deep grounds to electric conditions. W.B.Yeats always declined to explain his poems on the grounds that that would tend to limit their suggestibility. He required his readers to get involved with the poetry. Similarly, in all electric media, “the user” must learn to enter into the communication process, to become a sort of co-producer. Under electric conditions, each object is not merely itself but represents a manifold process which evades simple, logical definition, as any astute admirer of Picasso, Klee, or Mondrian knows. The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own times. He is the man of integral awareness. (Understanding Media, 65) In some ways, McLuhan was closer to such artists in his perceptions: a Kandinsky who held that “the environment is the composition,” and that “objects have to be considered in the light of the whole.” His art, especially apparent in The Gutenberg Galaxy, of connecting Medieval and early Renaissance forms to present electric conditions made him seem a spectacular advance on the blindness of specialist scholarship. In the rage against McLuhan and his popularity we often heard howls, inside and out of academe, of ignorance and fear from infuriated minions of a previous century’s hold on public consciousness. The university always wants facts, evidence, and argument. Even the humanists had for too long managed to remain innocent of the implications of the theories of uncertainty, probability, complementarity, and incompleteness. This general inheritance from particle physics reinstated the usefulness of paradox for understanding the chaotic array of conflicting truths that interpretive media created. In the golden groves, the strident debate produced maniacs of Luddite interpretation, some with blood in their eyes. At one point, in the late 1960s, a rumour surfaced that a major U.S. magazine had put out a contract on McLuhan and was offering big money for a name who would “waste” him in print. Hugh Kenner, we know, refused this offer. The jealousies gelled in a comic aspic of misinterpretations, many critics suspended in postures of arrested awareness, in gestures of alarm and admonition. McLuhan’s desire to be perceived, at one level, as a satirist could not have been more deliciously realized. A Dunciad of detractors queued up to rail against what they saw as an assault on civilization. This was the “what nonsense” stage in all its violent petulance. Each adversary looked furiously for the hook of a factual mistake to hang his mad hat on. McLuhan’s sympathies were with the past, with the civilized literate life. He understood better than most that the future is always a new way of retrieving the past. The only rational indictment of his work would be that he relied too much on the past, that his work, in places, was extremely erudite. His was the first coherent interpretation of the electric world and it required a rethinking of everything. There was resistance. One should not have expected the dinosaurs blissfully to embrace their own ends. No wonder he was not taken immediately

Essential McLuhan 6 unto the culture’s bosom, the way he seemed to be trashing traditional views of cultural operation. Specialists who had invested everything in isolated figures, specimens in labs, and who neglected contextual grounds were confused and irate when told they were obsolescent. (What he meant by obsolescence was that the hidden archetypal ground was becoming visible and slowly losing its power over the psyche while becoming clichéd.) Educators were recommending specialist approaches just when think tanks were being formed to solve the complex problems emerging from transformative electric pressure. McLuhan stressed environments and the inter-connectedness of things, the ecology of thought, and the pervasive, inescapable power of electric process to change socio- political existence. Stripped of his playful hyperbole, his vision has been borne out by events. IV Literate persons ought to have seen him coming, for he was squarely in the tradition of literary invention that flowed from Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Lewis, and a few others, and he had prepared himself for the battle of the electric mindset by beginning his studies in that other battle between Ancients and Moderns that centred on Harvey and Nashe and that set the grounds for an industrial revolution based on the economics of the Protestant ethic and positivistic science. While he was telling people that books were being pushed aside by electric media, few noticed that this deeply literate man remained on the side of the Ancients. He had simply gravitated to the points of greatest irritation in cultural change. Embattled readers took him to be a traitor to the cause of literacy; others accused him of technological determinism—as if chance had no place in his (or Innis’s) idea of the evolution of communication. McLuhan seemed to many a paradoxical man. The varied interpretive grounds brought in by mass media suggested that things were true and not true at the same time. The world of print and the world of television are realities apart. He often referred to the cultural transformation in which paradox was degraded in the interests of the growing illusion of clarity demanded by the rational biases of Empiricism. In explaining how electric process reinstates paradox, he approved Rosalie Colie’s observation that degradation of paradox is one result of a revolution in thought which valued clarity and exactness above the tricky duplicities of comprehension induced by paradox. In “The Dialogue Concerning the Two World Systems,” Galileo’s Simplicio points to the dangers involved in favoring “words” over “things” as guides to truth: Once you have denied the principles of sciences and have cast doubt upon the most evident things, everybody knows that you may prove whatever you will, and maintain any paradox. (Colie, Paradoxica Epidemica 1966, 508–20) Our world is fraught with new paradoxes scientifically produced: the certitude of the last few centuries has been pressed past the limit of its capability and has reversed into its opposite. Uncertainty and probability and the latter’s statistical approach to truth are now

Introduction 7 met by the theories of complexity and chaos. Socially and politically we find it difficult to make sense of paradox: how can everything under the law, for example, be both true and not true at the same time? The law in practice is increasingly circumstantial and relative to media perceptions. In electric culture we live with the paradox of Simplicio: “only any arbitrary or haphazard odd notion, true or false, unverifiable by experience” (Colie). McLuhan showed that paradox, like metaphor, establishes the ratios of a truth, for truth cannot be just one thing, nor can reality, under electric conditions. In the information age we should remember Korzybski’s notion of a “world of words and a world of not words.” Paradox and ambiguity must exist if the interplay between these two worlds is to be balanced humanely. The map is not the territory; the story, not the event; the image, not the thing. The form of presentation may be everything. V School, with its lessons, too often ignores this fact. After they escape the Chinese boxes of our education theories, should Yuppie generations unwilling to tolerate rising thresholds of ambiguity surprise us? Paradox should serve as an integrating, ecologizing necessity rather than an annoyance to those who prefer clarity to wonder. Considering the radical changes brought about by new media, McLuhan set out to discover what the medium actually does to change the mindscape of the user: “the medium is the message.” That is, media affect us physically. Sitting for hours in front of a TV set, a cathode ray stimulator, produces a unique and characteristic mental state. It is a state that actually reverses the evolutionary alertness by which we have so far survived extinction. As for message content, if you say “I love you” in person, over the phone, or by billboard, it is likely the medium that most shapes the response you get back. He gave us a way of breaking into the control-room of life’s reality studio. Like a series of Yogic steps to self-awareness, McLuhan’s insights can free one from single-minded obsessions with the trivial manipulations of contents. Making humanity whole again seems the objective of all our global aspirations, but the backlash is real and vociferous. A pernicious tribalism is developing worldwide as peoples struggle to forge their identities against the global corporate sameness. McLuhan arranges his materials in broad patterns of interplaying parts, thus engaging us in larger thought patterns—almost the difference between prose and poetry—which enable us to encounter our own conceptual shortcomings in attempting to expand our perceptual awareness. To move beyond simple facts requires deep involvement in the process of communication; content takes care of itself. McLuhan has been the subject of a rare act of cultural cannibalism, ingested piecemeal by many who couldn’t take him whole. Everywhere glints of his insights shine from the works of others, often unattributed. Borges, in his “Approach to al-Mutasim, or the Game of Shifting Mirrors,” has a man trace a soul in the impression it has made on others. It is a serious game in which a greater reality is revealed through fragmented reflections. The physical process of seeing becomes a metaphor for vision. We see because objects reflect light, but it is the light we really seek to see.

Essential McLuhan 8 McLuhan, at base a grammarian, required absolutely the continual collegial dialogue that was the ground for his work. Even as far back as the group engaged in the Explorations project (McLuhan, Tom Easterbrook, Ted Carpenter, and others), the McLuhan style was one of discussion geared to discovery. He was a first-rate investigator who often found meaningful patterns in the work of others that they themselves had not perceived. Most importantly, he thrived on the inputs of the best of those few around him who could play the game close to his level of intensity. You are hereby invited to engage in this process of seeking illumination by learning to probe for underlying structure in information. Read, criticize, and remember that McLuhan was quite prepared to change any statement that didn’t hold up under continual probing. Go on to the new places where this material leads. VI Essential McLuhan is divided into four sections. Within each division the selections run chronologically. Part I, “Culture as Business,” investigates the merger of culture and business in the sense of taking advertising and entertainment seriously as phenomena of fundamental cultural importance. McLuhan was the first systematically to study the shift of business, extended by media, to making and marketing culture. He and his one-time partner, anthropologist Ted Carpenter, along with Edward Hall, used the techniques of modern anthropology to discover the “out-of-awareness” aspects of culture, the “hidden grounds,” as McLuhan came to call this domain of the deep underlying structure of information. “Print and the Electric Revolution,” Part II, presents key excerpts of the groundbreaking works on the revolution of literacy that Gutenberg’s technology gave the world. That great event is contrasted with formative pieces on the electric revolution and the turbulent shift provoked by this pervasive, globalizing technology. This transformation of all communication systems by electric process is the crux of McLuhan’s work and is what we want to represent in these key excerpts. The selections are carefully chosen to epitomize the fundamental contrast between print and its complementary electric mass media. The “Oral McLuhan” who dominates Part III is closest to the essence of the man himself. He was at his best “dialoguing” with friends and colleagues. The discoveries he made often occurred when in full flight of conversation. Whoever said “I never learn anything when I’m talking,” it surely wasn’t McLuhan; he always made “breakthroughs” during the high-powered chats some of us were privileged to share. Like Coleridge, McLuhan impressed everyone in person as a man of enormous learning and perception, and by the elegance of his spontaneous speech. The Playboy article especially has caught the rhythm of McLuhan’s mind in the elegant flow of investigative repartee. The selections in Part IV, “Culture and Art: Figures and Grounds,” exemplify McLuhan’s erudite playfulness. He works a trope or two on Carl Jung and sheds new light on the notion of archetypal power. (Who would have thought anyone could alter the idea of an archetype after the dominance of that area by Jung?) Art is very serious, high- powered play, and the intrusion of popular culture into the arena of art has been one of the most important new aspects of Western culture.

Introduction 9 Reading this material requires that the user be willing to unlearn some things that dominate our perceptual lives—for example that logical clarity and narrative sequence are always the index of solid meaning or that the opposite of a great truth is falsity (it may be another great truth). Different media, like styles in painting or literature, are special ways of seeing and induce specific states of mind. Also, the user should remain open to the proposition that much of what is most important, and that works the most powerful changes in our lives, lies outside our general awareness, as environmentally hidden. McLuhan’s work is useful and exciting precisely because it is still the best way to discover underlying structure and meaning in a world that most of the time seems impossibly overloaded with conflicting information. Frank Zingrone Eric McLuhan

I Culture as Business

1 American Advertising A few months ago an American army officer wrote for Printer’s Ink from Italy. He noted with misgiving that Italians could tell you the names of cabinet ministers but not the names of commodities preferred by Italian celebrities. Furthermore, the wall space of Italian cities was given over to political rather than commercial slogans. Finally, he predicted that there was small hope that Italians would ever achieve any sort of domestic prosperity or calm until they began to worry about the rival claims of cornflakes or cigarettes rather than the capacities of public men. In fact, he went so far as to say that democratic freedom very largely consists in ignoring politics and worrying about the means of defeating underarm odour, scaly scalp, hairy legs, dull complexion, unruly hair, borderline anaemia, athlete’s foot, and sluggish bowels, not to mention ferronutritional deficiency of the blood, wash-day blues, saggy breasts, receding gums, shiny pants, greying hair, and excess weight. Here we are perhaps in the presence of an excluded middle rather than a non sequitur, because American advertising has developed into a jungle of folklore beside which the tales from the Schwartzwald belong with Winnie-the- Pooh. It is, therefore, quite possible that there is a core of political reality and even health in the wildly proliferating forms of American advertising. The hyperaesthesia of the ad- men’s rhetoric has knocked the public into a kind of groggy, slap-happy condition in which perhaps are cushioned a good many of the brutal shocks felt more keenly by the realistic European. Viewed merely as an interim strategy for maintaining hope, tolerance, and good humour in an irrational world, this orgy of irrationalism may not be without its cathartic function. At any rate, the multi-billion dollar, nation-wide educational programmes of the ad-men (dwarfing the outlay on formal education) provide a world of symbols, witticism, and behavior patterns which may or may not be a fatal solvent for the basic political traditions of America, but which certainly do comprise a common experience and a common language for a country whose sectional differences and technological specialisms might easily develop into anarchy. The comedian at the microphone or the professor in the classroom can always be sure of an effective gibe or illustration based on the ads. And both community and communication, in so far as they are managed at all at the popular level, are in the same debt. Moreover, by various means, the whole technique and hallucination of Hollywood has been assimilated to the ads via pictorial glamour, so that the two are inseparable. They constitute one world. It is just as well to preface a glance at American ads with a consideration of the imponderables, because the ads themselves are deceptively easy to assess. A similar abeyance of judgement about the social effects of the sadism purveyed, for example, by thriller and detective literature is indicated. For the extent to which armchair sadism, so fostered, acts as a preservative of good humour in a lethal and chaotic world it is

Essential McLuhan 12 impossible to say. But anybody can check for himself the fact that persons with a penchant for strong-arm political methods are not given to this form of fantasy life. It is, of course, true that the thriller and sleuth fans, from Poe to Ellery Queen, are the willing victims of a psychological trick. By identifying their mental processes with those of the manhunter, the readers achieve a sort of megalomaniac thrill. At the same time they enjoy the illusion of sharing in the scientific techniques of the society which permits them almost no other kind of congenial adjustment or direct participation. “Happiness,” said Swift, “is the possession of being perpetually well-deceived.” And in a merely political regard we cannot any longer dispense with any source of happiness which will win us a bit of time while we consult the means of survival. The intellectual claims to perceive and enjoy an order and symmetry in the world and in his own life denied to other men. He arms himself today against the impact of the stereotypes of commercialized culture by keenness of recognition and analysis and engages in a perpetual guerrilla activity. He is a sort of noble savage free-lancing amidst a zombie horde. The dangers attending this mode of existence are obvious. Should he find his energies suddenly depleted or his patience exasperated, he may be tempted to revive them by adopting some lethal myth-mechanism. And at all times he finds it hard to remember the common human nature which persists intact beneath all the modes of mental hysteria rampant from Machiavelli and Calvin until our own day. Yet it is only in the degree to which he is motivated by the benevolence imposed by the perception of the rational form rather than the psychological condition of all men, that he is justified or that he is tolerable. Benda was right. When the intellectual sells out to any brand of social or political neurosis, when fear or loneliness beckon him into some party, he is worse than useless. Corruptio optimi pessima. American “market research,” which has developed very rapidly in the past ten years, has a strong totalitarian squint—that of the social engineer. Two recent items will illustrate this. Time magazine for 22 July 1946, described a new gadget: The finished—but still uncut—picture [movie] is given the works with an electrical contraption called the Hopkins Televoting System. Each member of A.R.I.’s [Audience Research Inc.] hand-picked, cross-section audience sits in a wired section of a preview theater. With his eyes on the screen, he clutches a gadget that resembles a flashlight. On the gadget’s round face is an indicator that can easily be turned with the fingers. A turn to the right means “Like,” further right “Like Very Much.” A left twist registers as “Dull” or “Very Dull.” The emotional reactions of A.R.I.’s watchers flow into a central machine which combines them all into one big wavy line. This chart, picturing the audience’s peaks of ecstasy and valleys of apathy, shows the manufacturer where to trim out dull spots in his picture. It is known as Preview Profile. Moviemakers used to throw good advertising money after bad to promote an expensive flop. A.R.I. advises just the opposite. If the Preview Profile looks bad, the ad budget might just as well be slashed. If the preview pans out better than expected, the picture is given special treatment and bigger ballyhoo.

American advertising 13 Criteria of cinema art aside, this kind of action for direct social control is politics. It aims not only at providing more and more sensation, but at the exploitation of all emotional sets and preferences as just so much raw material to be worked up by centralized control for purposes of super-profits. Clearly the manipulators of such controls are irresponsible and will probably so continue as long as the flow of merchandise and profits remains unchecked. Meantime, these appetites for private power are inventing the means of possible political power for the future. And even these private activities are obviously political, indirectly. Perhaps, however, the relevant observation here is simply that appetite is essentially insatiable, and where it operates as the criterion of both action and enjoyment (that is, everywhere in the western world since the sixteenth century) it will infallibly discover congenial agencies (mechanical and political) of expression. Almost any political steps taken to curb the A.R.I. type of mind would inevitably transfer this private anarchy into a public tyranny, because that “mind” is not an exceptional one—it is universal. Actually, the A.R.I. type of activity provides our world with a spectacular externalized paradigm of its own inner drives. Creative political activity today, therefore, consists in rational contemplation of these paradigms. Carried out as an educational programme directed toward self-knowledge and self-criticism, the study of these sprightly fantasies of unrestricted appetitive life would constitute precisely that step toward moral and intellectual regeneration which we have always known must precede any sort of genuine improvement. To contemplate the products of our own appetites rather than to anathematize the people who are keen enough to exploit them—that is surely no programme which must await the setting up of committees or social machinery. It is the only form of adult education which could be called realistic and it is instanteously practicable. That the highbrows have been content merely to cock a snoot at the fauna and flora of popular commercial culture is sufficient testimony to the superficiality with which they have envisaged the nature of politics. In this respect, the American is in a much happier position than the Englishman whose advertisements are such half-hearted and apologetic attempts to externalize his hopes and fears and appetites. American advertising is Cartesian. The English is Baconian. The American responds to showmanship, clarity of layout and distinctness of formulation. The Englishman, to judge by his ads (and I have some scores by me, collected in England over a period of three years), in his timid concern for demure good form falls into the empirical bog of self-defensive puns, archness, and snob-appeal. The American ad-men put on a decisively superior show and provide the analyst with a much greater variety of lively game. But to establish a national pre-eminence in this province is not to make more general claims. The second item illustrating the totalitarian techniques of American market research occurs in a paper called “New Facts about Radio Research,” by Arthur C.Nielsen, president of the A.C.Nielsen Company, “the world’s largest marketing research organization.” The paper appeared in 1946. It begins: A.C. Nielson Company, founded in 1923, provides an example of outstanding success based on long, unswerving and intelligent devotion to a difficult but worthy task. Educated in various branches of engineering and science, and accustomed to dealing with tangible facts, the early

Essential McLuhan 14 leaders of this company were convinced that some means could be found to substitute facts for much of the guesswork then used in guiding corporate marketing operations. Despite the commercial failure of all methods developed during the first ten years of operation, despite staggering operating losses which twice brought them to the brink of disaster, this group of pioneers persevered—because the great importance of the goal was very clear, and because some of the experiments seemed to show promise. The tone of austere scientific dedication to a noble task is not phoney in any simple sense. The language of “human service” is rooted in the respectable neurotic formula of Adam Smith—public good through private greed—a face-saving device which developed a complex face of its own in the nineteenth century. In other words, the kind of self- deception in the language of “public service” is no longer private, but is vertically and horizontally effective, in the English-speaking world at least. The Rousseauistic formula to get the good society by liquidating “civilization,” or the Marxian formula to get the classless society by liquidating the “middle class,” are psychologically analogous— massive mechanisms of evasion and irresponsibility. Well, the Nielsen Company have now lifted the problem of estimating audience character from the level of conjecture to that of certitude. The advertiser sponsoring any given programme wants to know precisely: (a) Average duration of listening; i.e., “holding power” of the programme. (b) Variations in audience size at each minute during the broadcast— to permit detection of programme elements which cause audience gains or losses, to locate commercials at moments when the audience is high, etc. (c) Whether the programme reaches homes that already use the product, or homes that offer opportunities for conversion of new users. For this purpose the Nielsen Audimeter has been devised, “the graphic recording instrument installed in a radio receiver in a scientifically selected radio home. By recording every twist of the dial, every minute of the day or night, the Audimeter obtains precious radio data not available through any other means.” The Audimeter’s data are then tabulated by “The Nielsen Decoder,” which is only “one of the many mechanized operations which are producing high values for NIELSEN RADIO INDEX clients.” And the installation of audimeters is determined “with utmost care to insure precise proportioning in accordance with a long list of marketing characteristics, including: 1, City size; 2, Family size; 3, Number of rooms; 4, Education; 5, Occupation; 6, Income; 7, Type of dwelling; 8, Number of radio receivers. The characteristics of each N.R.I. home are rechecked monthly, and replacement homes are chosen in a manner which keeps the sample accurately balanced at all times.” Moreover, “relations with N.R.I. homes are maintained on such a sound basis that home turnover is limited largely to unavoidable and normal occurrences (e.g., deaths, divorces, fires, removals).” The direction, as well as the appetitive drive, in this sort of research (the Gallup polls of public opinion are a more obvious but less impressive instance of the same thing) is to

American advertising 15 be noted in a recent book on Reaching Juvenile Markets. Like most American texts on advertising, it was written by a professional psychologist—in this case a child- psychologist. The book points to the enormous proportion of American income which is expended by and for children and analyses a variety of means for bringing child-pressure on the parents to increase and to control such expenditures. Children are more snobbish than adults, more concerned to conform to the tastes of the community in the use of well- known commercial brands, and so on. The schools offer a means for the subtle subsidization of various products. Special Lone Ranger and Superman radio features for children can do much, but the potentialities of this market are only beginning to be appreciated, etc. A more common type of advertising manual, however, is that represented by Psychology in Advertising by A.T.Poffenberger, Ph.D., Sc.D., Professor of Psychology at Columbia University. This sort of book makes available to the copywriter the results of psychiatric research: “The psychoanalysts have made popular the conception of a kind of behavior which is a sort of compromise between the behavior growing out of desire and thinking behavior” (p. 15). To exploit the irrational and, at all times, to avoid the pitfalls of rational “sales resistance” aroused by the inept ad is the first law of advertising dynamics. Forty-four kinds of “attention-getting power” are graded (p. 90) in accordance with their statistically tested potency in an average community. At the top of the list are: Appetite-hunger 9.2; Love of offspring 9.1; Health 9.0; Sex attraction 8.9. And at the end of the list: Amusement 5.8; Shyness 4.2; Teasing 2.6. “Announcing the birth of a Petunia,” said an ad in which a man and woman were bent over a flowerpot: “It takes emotion to move merchandise. Better Homes and Gardens [a magazine] is perpetual emotion.” Recently, with much public irritation being expressed at the blatancy, duration and frequency of radio commercials, careful tests have been made to determine the effect on the market. The result has been the discovery that irritation has great “attention-getting power” and that those irritated in this respect are reliable customers. Nausea has, therefore, become a new principle of commercial dynamics as of esthetics. It is not likely, however, to supplant but to reinforce the more familiar techniques, the most important of which is noted many times by Professor Poffenberger: “An appeal through the visual representation of motion will almost invariably find the nerve paths for that motion open, and is thus bound to get the attention of the reader and to induce in him some form of action” (p. 297). It is in their imaginative grasp of this dramatic principle that the American ad-men are first and the rest nowhere. “Have you the courage to look ready for Romance: Want to look like a dream walking?… Well, you can, so easily! Just by changing your powder shade!… A delightful ‘come hither’ look that’s so young and feminine—so very inviting!” (A bride in wedding-dress is joyfully whispering this to a thoughtful lady.) A rugged and determined man with a cigar glints at the reader of a full-page ad of a clothing shop: “I’m TOUGH. Panty-waist stuff burns me. Work ten hours a day. Been at it since I was a kid. Gang at the plant call me ‘Chief.’ Own the place, now. Sure I’ve made money. Not a million—but enough to buy steak… And good clothes. Been getting my duds at Bond’s ever since I shed knee pants… No big promises. No arty labels dangling high-hat prices. Just good clothes with plenty of guts.”

Essential McLuhan 16 Obviously the dramatic ad is a maker of “patterns of living” as much as the speech and gestures of movie idols. The peculiar idiom of a dead-end kid or a psychological freak may thus be sent up to the firing line of a nationwide advertising campaign to provide temporary emotional strategies for millions of adolescents: A wishful but futile gent beside a self-possessed girl on a love-seat: “I love you! said Pete. ‘I like you, too!’ said Ann. ‘Tell me more,’ said Pete. ‘You look so nice, especially around the neck.’ ‘Ah,’ said Pete. ‘That is my Arrow Collar.’… P.S.Tough, Pete. But remember—where there’s an Arrow, can a girl be far behind?” The ads help old and young to “get hep.” An extremely popular technique is the dramatic sequence presented in four or five separate scenes: Tommy comes home from school with a black eye and is questioned by his lovely young mother. He reluctantly tells her that the kids have been taunting him about how his father is going out with other women. He has had to defend his mother’s sex-appeal. Mortified, she hastens to get the appropriate toothpaste. Next morning, Mom, radiant in panties and bra’, brushing her teeth in the bathroom, tells Tommy “it works.” Later, Tommy and his friends peek round the corner into the living-room where Dad is waltzing Mom around to radio music. “Gee,” says one of the kids, “looks like he’s going to haul off and kiss her.” “Yep,” says Tommy, “you can’t say my Dad hangs around with other girls now.” This sort of Ad appears in the Sunday Comic Section. Reaching the Juvenile Market. “Success story of a man in a high position.” Picture of blithesome business man seated aloft in the petals of a huge daffodil: “Sitting pretty? You bet…this fellow knows how to win and influence customers! He keeps track of their important business events and honors each occasion by sending wonderful fresh flowers by Wire.” The wit of the pictorial feature includes an allusion to Jack’s bean-stalk. A nearly nude debutante with zestful abandon applying perfume and sparkling at the reader: “I’m using ‘Unconditional Surrender’ since he got 6NX Appeal!” “How can you get 6NX Appeal?…by using the only blades created by the scientific, secret 6NX process…. ‘Single’ men can reach for a star, too!” This is typical of the indirect approach to the American male. Psychological tests prove that he is shy of direct efforts to interest him in glamorizing himself. As social catalysts the ads help also to overcome boy-girl shyness. The girl spots 6NX or some other approved mark of compliance with nationally accredited goods. The boy smells “Unconditional Surrender,” and the first thing you know they’re able to converse. College courses in “charm” and “gallantry” may soon be unnecessary. A beautiful girl seated by the telephone while Mom, troubled, hovers in door-way: “Borderline Anaemia deprives a girl of glamor…and dates! Medical science says: Thousands who have pale faces—whose strength is at low ebb—may have a blood deficiency. So many girls are ‘too tired’ to keep up with the crowd—watch romance pass them by because they haven’t the energy to make them attractive!” These ads console and encourage the forlorn by picturing the solitude and neglect suffered by the most ravishing chicks. They analyse the causes of every type of human failure and indicate the scientifically certified formula for “instantaneous or money-back results.” The fault is not in our stars but our jars that we are underlings. They display the most ordinary persons surrounded by luxury and old-world charm, suggesting that “a prince and a castle are given away free with every package.” The most trashy types of food, crockery, or furniture are exhibited in palatial circumstances. And this “law of

American advertising 17 association” leads the larger business monopolies to sponsor “the arts” by presenting their product always in conjunction with some aroma of the old masters of paint, pen or music. But just how far these billionaire campaigns of systematic sophistry and hallucination contribute to worsening any given state of affairs would be hard to say. Because there is really nothing in these richly efflorescent ads which has not been deeply wished by the population for a long time. They aren’t so much phenomena of a Machiavellian tyranny as the poor man’s orchids—both a compensation and a promise for beauty denied. Now, moreover, that the luxuriant and prurient chaos of human passions is thrust forward and gyrated in this way for our daily contemplation, there is the increasing possibility of the recovery of rational detachment. The authors of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution were not obsessed with some compulsive psychological strategy for disguising their own irrational wishes or intentions like a Rousseau or a Nietzsche. And their wisdom is far from extinct in the U.S.A. So that, should the energy which activates the ad-men (and the industrial stalks on which they are the passion-flowers) be transferred to the world of political speculation and creation, America could still fulfill many of its broken Utopian promises, because its Jeffersonian tradition is still intact, and likewise its psychological vigour. The two things aren’t flowing in the same channels, however, and that is precisely the thing which could be brought about by a frank educational programme based on the curriculum provided by the ad-men.

2 The Mechanical Bride Preface Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now. And to generate heat not light is the intention. To keep everybody in the helpless state engendered by prolonged mental rutting is the effect of many ads and much entertainment alike. Since so many minds are engaged in bringing about this condition of public helplessness, and since these programs of commercial education are so much more expensive and influential than the relatively puny offerings sponsored by schools and colleges, it seemed fitting to devise a method for reversing the process. Why not use the new commercial education as a means to enlightening its intended prey? Why not assist the public to observe consciously the drama which is intended to operate upon it unconsciously? As this method was followed, “A Descent Into The Maelstrom” by Edgar Poe kept coming to mind. Poe’s sailor saved himself by studying the action of the whirlpool and by co-operating with it. The present book likewise makes few attempts to attack the very considerable currents and pressures set up around us today by the mechanical agencies of the press, radio, movies, and advertising. It does attempt to set the reader at the center of the revolving picture created by these affairs where he may observe the action that is in progress and in which everybody is involved. From the analysis of that action, it is hoped, many individual strategies may suggest themselves. But it is seldom the business of this book to take account of such strategies. Poe’s sailor says that when locked in by the whirling walls and the numerous objects which floated in that environment: I must have been delirious, for I even sought amusement in speculating upon the relative velocities of their several descents toward the foam below. It was this amusement born of his rational detachment as a spectator of his own situation that gave him the thread which led him out of the Labyrinth. And it is in the same spirit that this book is offered as an amusement. Many who are accustomed to the note of moral indignation will mistake this amusement for mere indifference. But the time for anger and protest is in the early stages of a new process. The present stage is extremely advanced. Moreover, it is full, not only of destructiveness but also of promises of rich new developments to which moral indignation is a very poor guide.

The mechanical bride 19 Most of the exhibits in this book have been selected because of their typical and familiar quality. They represent a world of social myths or forms and speak a language we both know and do not know. After making his study of the nursery rhyme, “Where are you going, my pretty maid?” the anthropologist C.B.Lewis pointed out that “the folk has neither part nor lot in the making of folklore.” That is also true of the folklore of industrial man, so much of which stems from the laboratory, the studio, and the advertising agencies. But amid the diversity of our inventions and abstract techniques of production and distribution there will be found a great degree of cohesion and unity. This consistency is not conscious in origin or effect and seems to arise from a sort of collective dream. For that reason, as well as because of the widespread popularity of these objects and processes, they are here referred to as “the folklore of industrial man.” They are unfolded by exhibit and commentary as a single landscape. A whirling phantasmagoria can be grasped only when arrested for contemplation. And this very arrest is also a release from the usual participation. The unity is not imposed upon this diversity, since any other selection of exhibits would reveal the same dynamic patterns. The fact that the present exhibits are not selected to prove a case but to reveal a complex situation, it is the effort of the book to illustrate by frequent cross-reference to other materials that are not included here. And it is the procedure of the book to use the commentaries on the exhibits merely as a means of releasing some of their intelligible meaning. No effort has been made to exhaust their meaning. The various ideas and concepts introduced in the commentaries are intended to provide positions from which to examine the exhibits. They are not conclusions in which anybody is expected to rest but are intended merely as points of departure. This is an approach which it is hard to make clear at a time when most books offer a single idea as a means of unifying a troupe of observations. Concepts are provisional affairs for apprehending reality; their value is in the grip they provide. This book, therefore, tries to present at once representative aspects of the reality and a wide range of ideas for taking hold of it. The ideas are very secondary devices for clambering up and over rock faces. Those readers who undertake merely to query the ideas will miss their use for getting at the material. A film expert, speaking of the value of the movie medium for selling North to South America, noted that: the propaganda value of this simultaneous audio-visual impression is very high, for it standardizes thought by supplying the spectator with a ready- made visual image before he has time to conjure up an interpretation of his own. This book reverses that process by providing typical visual imagery of our environment and dislocating it into meaning by inspection. Where visual symbols have been employed in an effort to paralyze the mind, they are here used as a means of energizing it. It is observable that the more illusion and falsehood needed to maintain any given state of affairs, the more tyranny is needed to maintain the illusion and falsehood. Today the tyrant rules not by club or fist, but, disguised as a market researcher, he shepherds his flocks in the ways of utility and comfort.

Essential McLuhan 20 Because of the circulating point of view in this book, there is no need for it to be read in any special order. Any part of the book provides one or more views of the same social landscape. Ever since Buckhardt saw that the meaning of Machiavelli’s method was to turn the state into a work of art by the rational manipulation of power, it has been an open possibility to apply the method of art analysis to the critical evaluation of society. That is attempted here. The Western world, dedicated since the sixteenth century to the increase and consolidation of the power of the state, has developed an artistic unity of effect which makes artistic criticism of that effect quite feasible. Art criticism is free to point to the various means employed to get the effect, as well as to decide whether the effect was worth attempting. As such, with regard to the modern state, it can be a citadel of inclusive awareness amid the dim dreams of collective consciousness. I wish to acknowledge the advantage I have enjoyed in reading unpublished views of Professor David Riesman on the consumer mentality. To Professor W.T.Easterbrook I owe many enlightening conversations on the problems of bureaucracy and enterprise. And to Professor Felix Giovanelli I am in debt not only for the stimulus of discussion but for his prolonged assistance with the many publishing problems which have attended the entire work. The Mechanical Bride Anybody who takes time to study the techniques of pictorial reportage in the popular press and magazines will easily find a dominant pattern composed of sex and technology. Hovering around this pair will usually be found images of hectic speed, mayhem, violence, and sudden death. Look and Life are only the most obvious places in which to study this cluster of interests. Amid what otherwise may appear as a mere hodgepodge of isolated events, this very consistent pattern stands out. I do not pretend to understand all of it, but it is there for everyone to study, and it is certainly linked to the patterns noted in “Love-Goddess Assembly Line.” Many a time have the legs in this exhibit stood on their pedestal by the tall column of Life’s staff, emblemizing the trick that keeps the big team clicking. They are the slick and visible sign of the dynamo purring contentedly in the Time and Life building, but not only there. And they need to be seen in association with those window displays of car engines on a revolving pedestal, with pistons sliding smoothly Noticed any very spare parts lately? Have you got what it takes to hook a date? See us for the highest bid on your old model. “The walk,” “the legs,” “the body,” “the hips,” “the look,” “the lips.” Did she fall off a wall? Call all the king’s horses and men. while a loudspeaker conveys Strauss waltzes to those on the sidewalk. To the mind of the modern girl, legs, like busts, are power points which she has been taught to tailor, but as parts of the success kit rather than erotically or sensuously. She swings her legs from the hip with masculine drive and confidence. She knows that “a long-legged gal can go places.” As such, her legs are not intimately associated with her

The mechanical bride 21 taste or with her unique self but are merely display objects like the grill work on a car. They are date-baited power levers for the management of the male audience. Thus, for example, the legs “on a Pedestal” presented by the Gotham Hosiery company are one facet of our “replaceable parts” cultural dynamics. In a specialist world it is natural that we should select some single part of the body for attention. Al Capp expressed this ironically when he had Li‘l Abner fall desperately in love with the pictorial scrap of a woman’s knee, saying (January 21, 1950), “Why not? Some boys fall in love with the expression on a gal’s face. Ah is a knee man!” Four months and many lethal and romantic adventures later, Li’ l Abner was closing in on the owner of the knee. The “Phantom Pencil Seam Nylons” ad presents another set of spare parts against a romantic landscape. Some people have heard of “Ideas with legs,” but everybody today has been brought up on pictures like these, which would rather appear to be “legs with ideas.” Legs today have been indoctrinated. They are self-conscious. They speak. They have huge audiences. They are taken on dates. And in varying degrees the ad agencies have extended this specialist treatment to every other segment of the feminine anatomy. A car plus a well-filled pair of nylons is a recognized formula for both feminine and male success and happiness. Ads like these not only express but also encourage that strange dissociation of sex not only from the human person but even from the unity of the body. This visual and not particularly voluptuous character of commercially sponsored glamour is perhaps what gives it so heavy a narcissistic quality. The brittle, self-conscious pose of the mannequin suggests the activities of competitive display rather than spontaneous sensuality. And the smartly turned-out girl walks and behaves like a being who sees herself as a slick object rather than is aware of herself as a person. “Ever see a dream walking?” asks a glamour ad. The Hiroshima bomb was named “Gilda” in honor of Rita Hayworth. Current sociological study of the precocious dating habits of middle-class children reveals that neither sex nor personal interest in other persons is responsible so much as an eagerness to be “in there pitching.” This may be reassuring to the parents of the young, but it may create insoluble problems for the same youngsters later on. When sex later becomes a personal actuality, the established feminine pattern of sex as an instrument of power, in an industrial and consumer contest, is a liability. The switch-over from competitive display to personal affection is not easy for the girl. Her mannequin past is in the way. On the male, this display of power to which he is expected to respond with cars and dates has various effects. The display of current feminine sex power seems to many males to demand an impossible virility of assertion. Fair tresses man’s imperial race ensnare, And beauty draws us with a single hair. Men are readily captured by such gentleness and guile, but, surrounded by legs on pedestals, they feel not won but slugged. To this current exaggeration of date-bait some people reply that the glamour business, like the entertainment world, is crammed with both women-haters and men-haters of dubious sex polarity. Hence the malicious insistence on a sort of abstract sex. But whatever truth there may be in this, there is more obvious truth in the way in which sex has been exaggerated by getting hooked to the mechanisms of the market and the impersonal techniques of industrial production.

Essential McLuhan 22 As early as 1872, Samuel Butler’s Erewhon explored the curious ways in which machines were coming to resemble organisms not only in the way they obtained power by digestion of fuel but in their capacity to evolve ever new types of themselves with the help of the machine tenders. This organic character of the machines, he saw, was more than matched by the speed with which people who minded them were taking on the rigidity and thoughtless behaviorism of the machine. In a pre-industrial world a great swordsman, horseman, or animal-breeder was expected to take on some of the character of his interests. But how much more is this the case with great crowds of people who spend their waking energies on using and improving machines with powers so very much greater than theirs. It would be a mistake, therefore, to equate the intensity of the current glamour campaigns and techniques with any corresponding new heights of a man-woman madness. Sex weariness and sex sluggishness are, in measure at least, both the cause and increasingly the outcome of these campaigns. No sensitivity of response could long survive such a barrage. What does survive is the view of the human body as a sort of love-machine capable merely of specific thrills. This extremely behavioristic view of sex, which reduces sex experience to a problem in mechanics and hygiene, is exactly what is implied and expressed on all sides. It makes inevitable both the divorce between physical pleasure and reproduction and also the case for homosexuality. In the era of thinking machines, it would be surprising, indeed, if the love-machine were not thought of as well. Woman appears as a disagreeable but challenging sex machine in Edmund Wilson’s Memoirs of Hecate County. But the hero, as an expert sex mechanic, does a skillful job on a variety of these coldly intricate and maxfactorized products of the assembly line. There may be some relation between the fact that England, the first country to develop know-how and industrial technique, was also the first to develop the ideal of the frigid woman. In Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run?, Kit, the heroine, is fascinated by the ferocious little robot that is Sammy. She hates him but is curious to know what it would be like to have this dynamo of pep and drive roaring inside her. With situations of this sort we move over into territory somehow allied to sex and technology but also very closely related to destruction and death. There are some signs that sex weariness may be a factor in the cult of violence, although Wilhelm Reich, the psychologist, argues that it is a mere substitute for sex in those who have acquired the rigidities of a mechanized environment. This view is ably sponsored in G.Legman’s Love and Death, a study of violence in comic books and literature. And his book certainly doesn’t contradict anything said here. But there is surely much to be said also for the view that sadistic violence, real or fictional, in some situations is an attempt to invade persons not only sexually but metaphysically. It is an effort to pass the frontiers of sex, to achieve a more intense thrill than sex affords. There was certainly a good deal of destruction intermixed with the pleasure ideals of the Marquis de Sade. A news item of March 2, 1950, reported the five-hour flight of a jet Vampire from coast to coast. When the pilot climbed out, he said only that “It

The mechanical bride 23 was rather boring.” For the satiated, both sex and speed are pretty boring until the element of danger and even death is introduced. Sensation and sadism are near twins.

Essential McLuhan 24 And for those for whom the sex act has come to seem mechanical and merely the meeting and manipulation of body parts, there often remains a hunger which can be called metaphysical but which is not recognized as such, and which seeks satisfaction in physical danger, or sometimes in torture, suicide, or murder. Many of the Frankenstein fantasies depend on the horror of a synthetic robot running amok in revenge for its lack of a “soul.” Is this not merely a symbolic way of expressing the actual fact that many people have become so mechanized that they feel a dim resentment at being deprived of full human status? This is a different way of phrasing what is for Wilhelm Reich only a behavioristic fact. Too simply, he thinks of our machine landscape as an environment which makes people incapable of genital satisfaction. Therefore, he says, they break out in fascist violence. Complete and frequent genital satisfaction from the cradle to the grave is the only way, he suggests, to avoid the recurrence of the age-old vicious circle of patriarchal authority and mechanical servitude. Reflection on Moby Dick in his Studies in Classic American Literature, D.H.Lawrence saw deeper: So you see, the sinking of the Pequod was only a metaphysical tragedy, after all. The world goes on just the same. The ship of the soul is sunk. But the machine-manipulating body works just the same: digests, chews gum, admires Botticelli, and aches with amorous love. Was it not the mistake of D.H.Lawrence to overlook the comedy in a situation of this type? The human person who thinks, works, or dreams himself into the role of a machine is as funny an object as the world provides. And, in fact, he can only be freed from this trap by the detaching power of wild laughter. The famous portrait of a “Nude Descending a Staircase,” with its resemblance to an artichoke doing a strip tease, is a cleansing bit of fun intended to free the human robot from his dreamlike fetters. And so with Wyndham Lewis’s The Apes of God, Picasso’s Doll Women, and Finnegans Wake by James Joyce— the latter especially being a great intellectual effort aimed at rinsing the Augean stables of speech and society with geysers of laughter. It is not a laughter or comedy to be compared with the whimsy-whamsy article of James Thurber or Ogden Nash. For the latter kind is merely a narcotic which confirms the victim in a condition he has neither the energy nor appetite to change. In a story called “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes,” by Fritz Leiber, an ad photographer gives a job to a not too promising model. Soon, however, she is “plastered all over the country” because she has the hungriest eyes in the world. “Nothing vulgar, but just the same they’re looking at you with a hunger that’s all sex and something more than sex.” Something similar may be said of the legs on a pedestal. Abstracted from the body that gives them their ordinary meaning, they become “something more than sex,” a metaphysical enticement, a cerebral itch, an abstract torment. Mr. Leiber’s girl hypnotizes the country with her hungry eyes and finally accepts the attentions of the photographer who barely escapes with his life. In this vampire, not of the blood but of spirit, he finds “the horror behind the bright billboard…. She’s the eyes that lead you on and on and then show you death.” She says to him: “I want you. I want your high spots. I want every-thing that’s made you happy and everything that’s hurt you bad. I want your

The mechanical bride 25 first girl I want that licking… I want Betty’s legs…. I want your mother’s death…. I want your wanting me. I want your life. Feed me, baby, feed me.” As an instance of how the curious fusion of sex, technology and death persists amid the most unlikely circumstances, the reader may be interested in a display of “Ten Years of Look” (October 29, 1946), in which the central picture was a wounded man coming home “to face it all another day down another death-swept road.” Flanking him was a sprawling pin-up: “Half a million servicemen wrote in for this one.” And underneath him in exactly the same posture of surrender as the pin-up girl was a nude female corpse with a rope around the neck: “Enraged Nazis hanged this Russian guerrilla.” If only “for increased reading pleasure” readers should study these editorial ghoul techniques—conscious or not as they may be—and their poetic associations of linked and contrasting imagery. Perhaps that is what the public wants when it reaches out for the inside story smoking hot from the entrails of vice or innocence. That may well be what draws people to the death shows of the speedways and fills the press and magazines with closeups of executions, suicides, and smashed bodies. A metaphysical hunger to experience everything sexually, to pluck out the heart of the mystery for a super-thrill. Life, on January 5, 1948, ran a big picture captioned “Ten Seconds Before Death.” A Chicago woman called the press and told them she was going to commit suicide. A photographer rushed to her apartment and snapped her. “Just as he took this anguished portrait, she brushed by him, leaped out the third-story window to her death.” This is merely an extreme instance of what is literally ghoulishness. The ghoul tears and devours human flesh in search of he knows not what. His hunger is not earthly. And a very large section of the “human interest” and “true story” activity of our time wears the face of the ghoul and the vampire. That is probably the meaning of the popular phrases “the inside dirt,” the “real inside dope.” There is very little stress on understanding as compared with the immediate bang of “history in the making.” Get the feel of it. Put that sidewalk microphone right up against the heart of that school kid who is looking at the Empire State Building for the first time. “Shirley Temple gets her first screen kiss in a picture you’ll never forget,” and so on. In all such situations the role of modern technology in providing ever intenser thrills is evident. Mr. Leiber has thus written a very witty parable which shows an intuitive grasp of the mysterious links between sex, technology, and death. Many people were disagreeably surprised by the similar parable of Charlie Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux. The wistful, self-pitying, chivalrous little figure had gone. Here instead was a lady killer in every sense. As Parker Tyler pointed out in his book Chaplin: Last of the Clowns, the early Charlie was a man-child seeking the security of the womb in a harsh world. In Monsieur Verdoux he in a sense exchanges womb for tomb. In order to have material comfort and security, he is ready to kill. But womb, tomb, and comfort have always been interchangeable symbols in his world. He was the giant killer in his first pictures, the lady killer in his last. The same mechanism of sentimentality dominates both. In other words, his is a popular dream art which works trance-like inside a situation that is never grasped or seen. And this trance seems to be what perpetuated the widely occurring cluster image of sex, technology, and death which constitutes the mystery of the mechanical bride.

Essential McLuhan 26 From DaVinci to Holmes Joyce’s famous remark that, “though he might have been more humble, there’s no police like Holmes,” contains a world of insight. It includes the modern world and elucidates it at the same instant. Joyce explored popular phraseology and heroes with a precision which this book cannot emulate. In the above phrase which refers to “no place like home,” Joyce diagnoses the collapse of family life and the rise of the police state amidst a welter of sentiment which is partly rosy and partly lethal. Homes are now a part of a police system. Holmes, the homehater and woman-hater, is the hero of the “home-loving” and feminized middle class. The arrogant, sterile Holmes and the happy prolific homes of the late Victorian world are fused in a single image which arrests the mind for contemplation and insight. The passion for Holmes and man-hunting literature (which gives the modern world a major point of correspondence with the symbolic figure of Nimrod and the tower of Babel) goes along Why are both scientist and artist crackpots and pariahs in the popular imagination? Holmes, Renaissance titan or Last of the Mohicans? Watson, wife or mother of the virtuoso of crime? The sleuth cult foreshadows the arrival of the police state? with the commercial passion for exploiting the values of childhood, femininity, and domesticity. On paper there has never been such a cult of the home. In entertainment there has never been such a cult of the sleuth. To provide in a few words a pedigree for the figure of the sleuth who dominates thriller fiction may not be very convincing. The quickest way to get a view of the matter is via Holmes, Kipling, and Darwin. However, Kipling’s Mowgli and Edgar Queeny’s “granitic believer in the law of the jungle,” when taken together, open up interrelations between familiar vistas. In the opening paragraph of Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes is described as follows: He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen; but, as a lover, he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions save with a gibe and a sneer… Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high- power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. Here is the split man of the head-versus-heart, thought-versus-feeling type who appeared in the early seventeenth century. But it was not until Darwin that the head (science) became definitely and consciously antisocial. Mr. Queeny derives his “law of the jungle” versus “crusading idealist” from this later nineteenth-century phase of the older split.

The mechanical bride 27 Could anything exceed the sentimentality or the lavish emotion with which Doyle (and all other writers of crime stories) embellish the figure of the detective? It is through the eyes of some doting Watson, dim of brain, or the dewy eyes of the female secretary, wistfully adoring, that the superman is seen and felt by the reader. This Nietzschean figure achieves his self-dramatization not directly, like the nihilistic malcontents of the Elizabethan stage, but on the inner stage of a mass dream. The sleuth is a recognizable descendant of the heroes who died in the odor of Seneca, but here he lives on, indestructibly, to report his own cause to the unsatisfied. Like the malcontent, the sleuth embodies an attitude, a personal strategy for meeting an opaque and bewildering situation. Both reject the attitude of submission and adjustment to obvious social pressures, affirming themselves as vividly as they can. But where have we met Doyle’s description before? Writing in 1868, Thomas Henry Huxley said: That man, I think, has had a liberal education who has been so trained in his youth that his body is the ready servant of his will, and does with ease and pleasure all the work, that as a mechanism, it is capable of; whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine, with all the parts of equal strength, and in smooth working order; ready like a steam engine to be turned to any kind of work…. To many people in 1868 this sentimental robotism didn’t seem especially laughable as a “human” ideal. Perhaps not everybody even today would be prepared to recognize it for the lethal formula that it is. The connections between “the law of the jungle,” “the spirit of enterprise,” and “ringside seat” for the diesel-engine show become evident. Between “The Sparrow versus the Hawk” spirit in education and society, and the Holmes-Huxley- Kipling circuit, the relationship appears in Doyle’s views of education in his inventory of Holmes’s intellectual tools: 1. Knowledge of Literature—Nil 2. Knowledge of Philosophy—Nil 3. Knowledge of Astronomy—Nil 4. Knowledge of Politics—Feeble 5. Knowledge of Botany—Variable, well up in belladonna, opium and poisons generally 6. Knowledge of Geology—Practical but limited 7. Knowledge of Chemistry—Profound 8. Knowledge of Anatomy—Accurate 9. Knowledge of Sensational Literature—Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century. In addition, Holmes is a violinist, an all-around athlete, and a lawyer. That is what Doyle considered the ideal mental kit for the man-hunter. Note the slavering chop-smacking stress on Holmes’s “immense” erudition in mayhem and murder. That is seemingly the price our world has paid for developing a mind that it sentimentally regards as a cold logic engine. And the curious reader will find it profitable to consult Wyndham Lewis’s Art of Being Ruled on the nature of the modern scientist’s obsession with the romance of destruction.

Essential McLuhan 28 Let us get the habit of looking very closely at the detached scientific mind, to see whether its boasted detachment amounts to very much besides not choosing to link the significance of one part of its actions to other parts. In short, is its “detachment” just irresponsibility? Sherlock Holmes had about as much detachment as Buck Rogers or those who worked on the first atomic project and later dramatized the business for The March of Time, ardently playing themselves in this great melodrama of destruction. Doyle, in common with his age and ours, was obsessed with the psychic stench that rose from his own splintered ego. This stench was not something that he understood or studied, like a Kirkegaard or a Baudelaire. But in it he lived and wallowed with strictly sensational satisfaction, like that passionate fondler of little girls, Lewis Carroll. A better test case for investigation than the sleuth himself would be hard to find, because by every test he is the superman of our dreams. Even a Hemingway or a Steinbeck has a firmer grasp of realities and is much less emotionally involved in a merely tiny aspect of human affairs than a Doyle or the typical scientist. And it is worth noting the obvious contrast between the Hemingway hero and the sleuth. The sleuth acts, while the Hemingway hero suffers. The one dishes it out, the other has things done to him. The humanitarian victim type would seem to stem from the period of Don Quixote. His ineffectual benevolence becomes the typical mode of Fielding’s Tom Jones as also of the romantic heroes of Scott, Thackeray, and Dickens. Nothing could be less like the aggressive and resourceful sleuth than these familiar figures from romantic fiction past and present. They suffer violence. The modern detective evokes it. So that there is a good deal of point in the claim that detective fiction is scientific. For the popular notion of the scientist as the center of a world of fantastic violence and malignity not only coincides with the world of violence portrayed in detective fiction but with the quality of much scientific vision and speculation. The superman of thriller fiction, then, is a representative of an attitude for which all classes and conditions in our society have either an open or secret admiration. His pedigree, therefore, must be viewed with some curiosity. Among the common features of all sleuths is, first, their individualism and lonely pride; next, their man-of-the- worldishness; third, their multifarious but specialized learning; and, fourth, their passion for action and excitement. All four of these notes are also features of the Renaissance virtuoso. Since then they have become the marks of “the aristocratic type,” especially as embodied in the English public-school boy; but there is no space here to trace the stages by which the intense individualism of this Renaissance scholar-courtier-soldier combination (mainly known to us by Hamlet) became in the Lovelace of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa and for the middle classes of the eighteenth century the representative of feudalism and the Devil. Yet the connection for the commercial or trading mind between the haughty aristocrat and the Devil is perfectly plain for the age of the Marquis de Sade, Lord Byron, Poe, and Baudelaire. It would be impossible to exaggerate the fascination which Byron held for the soul of the Watsonian shopkeeper and his family. Byron was the embodiment of the masochistic middle-class dream. The mixture of fear, awe, admiration, and revulsion which he inspired was such that henceforth all rebellion against the spirit of hawking and huckstering takes in large measure the Byronic form. That is how, for example, the image of the disdainful aesthete was achieved—a mold into which the shopkeeper’s son could easily pour himself, since it embodies not only disgust with trade but devotion to beauty.

The mechanical bride 29 Dupin, the first detective, is thus an aesthete and a dandy. He was created by Poe, himself the aesthete and the dandy. Holmes arrived some decades later. The Byronic markings are strong on Holmes. Also the quarterings of the aesthete in his capricious interest in music, in “murder as a fine art,” and his contempt for domesticity. That the preoccupation with crime is, equally in Poe and De Quincey, an expression of sadistic revolt against a sordid world devoted to money and the police protection of “ill-gotten gains,” needs very little investigation. That the lonely aesthete-detective is at once a rebel against the crude middle-class conformity and also a type of extreme initiative and the individualism helps however to explain the ambiguity of his appeal for the same middle class. He is at once a type of disinterested aristocratic superiority and of middle-class failure to create new social values. It is easy to note in this the same ambiguity that presides over commercial ads which feature simultaneously quality and cheapness, refinement and availability. However, a major feature of the modern sleuth notably absent from Poe’s Dupin is the quality of the manhunter. The superman features don’t change from Da Vinci to Byron and Heathcliff, but the man-hunting proclivities, the endless sniffing out along the road to the supreme metaphysical thrill of murder, are not evident until Holmes. Byron and Poe were content with the aura of incest as a mark and gesture of antisocial thrill and also of emotional avarice. Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Wilde explored other sexual variants of the antisocial. But murder, the cerebral itch to hunt down the inmost guilt and secret essence of man, that is the thrill sought by the man-hunter and shared by the thriller fans. Of course, it is vaguely present in all confessional literature of the romantic

Essential McLuhan 30 period, but usually in connection with other interests. Whereas in the literature of crime detection the concentration of specialized thrill is crudely focused on the hunt and the kill. During the fifty years between Poe’s Dupin and the appearance of Holmes, the European cult of Fenimore Cooper’s redskins provides the necessary explanation of the rise of that hybrid of aesthete and man-hunter which dominates the popular mind today. The noble savage, utterly above society and commerce, with his unspoiled faculties of a superhuman perfection and keenness, his nose for danger, his eye for clues, and his stomach for scalps—here is the complex image built up sentimentally by Rousseau, digested by Darwin, and expressed by Doyle as the type at once of the sleuth and of the scientific mind.

3 Cultural Is Our Business Invisible Environment Fish don’t know water exists till beached. A MESSAGE TO THE FISH I sent a message to the fish, I told them “this is what I wish” (Through the Looking-Glass) The hypnotic effect of yesterday’s successes nourishes the bureaucratic egos. A newspaper is a corporate symbolist poem, environmental and invisible, as poem. Since in any situation 10 percent of the events cause 90 percent, we ignore the 10 percent and are stunned by the 90 percent. Without an anti- environment, all environments are invisible. The role of the artist is to create anti-environments as a means of perception and adjustment. Hamlet’s sleuth technique for coping with the hidden environment around him was that of the artist: “As I perchance here-after shall think meet to put an antic disposition on”... (I, v, 171–72) Hugh Trevor-Roper explains the process of making environments invisible and invincible as follows: “Any society, as long as it is, or feels itself to be, a working society, tends to invest in itself: a military society tends to become more military, a bureaucratic society more bureaucratic…the dominant military or official or commercial classes cannot easily change their orientation…” (The Rise of Christian Europe, London, Thames and Hudson, 1965) “Numbed to death by booze and tranquillizers” is an average strategy for “keeping in touch” with a runaway world.

Essential McLuhan 32 WITHOUT CENTERS OR MARGINS The telegraph press mosaic is acoustic space as much as an electric circus. One touch of Nature makes the whole world tin.

Cultural is our business 33 Auditory and tactile space have always been interleaved. If tactility is the space of the interval, the interval is the cause of closure and rhythm, or upbeat and downbeat. Acoustic space is totally discontinuous, like touch. It is a sphere without centers or margins, as Professor Botts of the University of Toronto explained a generation ago. Why was a visually oriented, literate, world indifferent to all but Euclidean space—until Lewis Carroll and Albert Einstein? Audile-tactile space is the space of involvement. We “lose touch” without it. Visual space is the space of detachment and the public precautions we call “scientific method” and scholarly or citational erudition. Jazz As Easy As Conversation. (N.Y. Times, Aug. 18/68) Speech Scientist Wants to Use the Sound of the Human Voice to Help Protect Confidential Information.

Essential McLuhan 34 GIVE ME THE MOON FOR A BLANKET Soviets say moon soil can shelter men. (Toronto Globe and Mail, April 10/68) A bedbug can detect the presence of a man two whole city blocks away, and a woman—well… Our society is well known to the bedbug. (Erb, p. 51.) “Happiness is for the Pigs” is the title of an essay by Herman Tennesen. (The Journal of Existentialism, Winter, 1966)

Cultural is our business 35 Anthony Jay quotes “Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?” as insight into the tendency of people to reduce all reality to their own dimensions and interests. The cat didn’t see the Queen, but saw a little mouse under the royal chair. Such is the clue in the headline: “Did Not Believe Nazis Killing Jews: The German Chancellor heard it all as Allied propaganda.” (Kiesinger, Toronto Globe and Mail, July 5/68) E.R.Leach, the anthropologist, notes that mere classification as “immoral” rendered 80,000 elegant London courtesans quite invisible to Dickens and his readers. They were a tourist attraction famous throughout Europe…. In the same way, both Stalin and Hitler were looked upon as saints by millions of their fellow countrymen, even in the midst of the holocaust…the Russian and German peoples simply “refused to know” , Oxford what was going on right under their noses.” (Runaway World? Press, 1968) Since Sputnik, the earth has been wrapped in a dome-like blanket or bubble. Nature ended. Art took over the ambidextrous universe. We continue to talk of a machine world.


Cultural is our business 37 The Concept of Dread, by Soren Kierkegaard, appeared in 1844, first year of the commercial telegraph (Baltimore to Washington). II mentions the telegraph as a reason for dread and nowness or existenz. All the fuss and feathers about existentialism was the direct result of pulling out the connections between events as in a telegraph newspaper, pulling the story line of art as in symbolism. The exisfentialist trauma had a physical basis in the first electric extension of our nervous system. Professor Morse’s telegraph is not only an era in the transmission of intelligence, but it has originated in the mind of an entirely new class of ideas, a new species of consciousness. Never before was anyone conscious that he knew with certainty what events were at that moment passing in a distant city–40, 100 or 500 miles off. For example, it is now precisely 11 o’clock. The telegraph announces as follows: 11 o’clock— replying to Mr. Butler upon the adoption of the Senator Walker is now two-thirds rule. It requires no small intellectual effort to realize that this is a fact that now is. and not one that has been. Baltimore is 40 miles from Washington. It is a most wonderful achievement in the arts. (From David Tanner’s manuscript on Print Technology in America, to be published by McGraw-Hill)

Essential McLuhan 38 FREEDOM FROM THE PRESS Are you brushing your teeth with secondhand water? A good lie can travel half around the world before the truth can get out of bed. (Mark Twain) Thanks eversore much, Point Carried! I can’t say if it’s the weight you strike me to the quick or that red mass I was looking at…

Cultural is our business 39 Honours to you and may you be commended for our exhibitiveness! (FW) British sociologist D.G.MacRae says the reason why the huge potential of the ad world has not been tapped by his colleagues is that “we do not want our prejudices disturbed by knowledge.” If ads disappeared, so would most of our information service environment—the Muzak of the eye. Like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson had a bad press. In 1807 he observed: “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put in that polluted vehicle. I will add that the man who never looks at a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them….” Death and taxes: Remember when you could be sure of them? “Unless you’ve tried our embalming fluid, you haven’t lived.” (Ad in Casket and Sunnyside)

Essential McLuhan 40

Cultural is our business 41

Essential McLuhan 42 THE FURLOINED EMPIRE In his History of the Fur Trade, H.A.Innis explains how the North American colonies, British and American, were deeply indebted to the fur traders for their origins. Washington and Jefferson were land surveyors eager to advance settlement of the fur traders’ territories. Hence conflict. Settlers ruined trap lines. The igloo was also a fur-lined job. Until the trapper got the Eskimo on the trail, there were no igloos. The Eskimos still live in stone houses, ignored by cameramen as not photogenic. Multi-sensuous hunters, they proved the greatest mechanics at Gander, to the Surprise of the American Air Force. As the totem pole is tied to the lineality of the missionaries’ Bible, so the igloo was made possible by the primus stove. The Eskimo, like any pre-literate, leaps easily from the Paleolithic stone age to the electric age, by-passing the Neolithic specialism.

Cultural is our business 43 “WE’RE SURE GOING TO HAVE SOME WRECKS NOW!” Disneyland is itself a wondrous media mix. Cartoons drove the photo back to myth and dream screen. E.S.Carpenter, in his review of The Disney Version (Richard Schickel, Simon and Schuster), points to another media mix in Disney’s life: “The only splash of color in Disney’s private life was a model train that circled his home…. Much of his social life consisted of donning an engineer’s cap…. He enjoyed

Essential McLuhan 44 planning wrecks…. ‘Boy, we’re sure going to have some wrecks now!’” The N.Y. Times of July 16/68, under the head “Steaming Along,” shows “Rhodesia’s Hot Prospect for the Olympic Marathon” training for the event by puffing along beside a full-size steam locomotive. As media mix this has all the pathos of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. The present ad mixes a dozen media but leaves us in doubt as to whether the commuter has slaughtered the plane pilot or the ticket agent.

Cultural is our business 45 After TWA Blue Chip Service, you arrive ready to do business in Chicago. Aren’t you a little tired of feeling like a commuter?

Essential McLuhan 46 OXford 5–6000. Jets every hour on the half hour. TELEVISION KILLS TELEPHONY IN BROTHERS’ BROIL (FW) The present ad is more concerned with smothering than brothering and is as rich an example of media illiteracy as could be asked for. “It’s what’s happening so don’t fight it, baby!” TV is not only an X-ray “zerothruster” or fire god like Zoroaster, but it is entirely subliminal in its impact, as is the case with all other new media. The Reader’s Digest portrays Prince Hamlet holding aloft a TV set on the platform of Elsinore as if he had encountered a spirit: Tv or not Tv? That’s Not the Question. The reason it is not the question, of course, is that The Reader’s Digest offers the advertiser a bigger market. Medea Mystery: McLuhan’s phone call from Roy Thompson (owner of the London Times) for a private chat about media. Chat blossoms (unbeknownst to McLuhan) into BBC show, also televised across U.S.A.

Cultural is our business 47

Essential McLuhan 48 “IF IT WEREN’T FOR EDISON, WE’D BE WATCHING TV BY CANDLELIGHT” The invisibility of color TV, the supposition that it has some relation to black-and-white TV has proved a corker. Siegfried Giedion’s phrase: “anonymous history” (in introducing Space-Time & Architecture) was an attempt to cope with the difficulty of introducing a new design form to people imbued with many unconscious habits of perception. Color is not so much a visual as a tactile medium (as Harley Parker and I explain in To the Vanishing Point; Space in Poetry and Painting). The cones of the eye in interface create the experience of color: “The center or macula lutea of the eye is responsive to hue and texture. The periphery, on the other hand, is concerned with darkness and lightness and also with movement…. The macula and the periphery work in tandem. However, peripheral vision can exist by itself. While color vision is inclusive, black-and-white is partial. (The potential of any technology is always dissipated by its user’s involvement in its predecessor.) The iconic thrust of color W will be buried under mountains of old pictorial space.” On the back of this ad from TV Guide (June 8/68) Neil Hickey reports that “television is under attack for failing to communicate with the Negro;…” Color TV, far more than black-and-white, gives the Negro easy dominance over the white man’s image. Hickey is doing the usual. Ignoring the medium and watching the content.

Cultural is our business 49 SHEEP IN WOLFE’S CLOTHING Tramp covered with newspapers on park bench to buddy: “As a former media man, I use newspapers for coverage in depth and radio to find out what’s going on.” (Broadcasting, February 19/68)

Essential McLuhan 50 At the beginning of his very flattering essay on myself in The Pump House Gang (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Tom Wolfe has a drawing of me which at once suggests another title for his essay (“What if he’s right?”), namely, “I’d Rather Be Wrong.” At the end of his essay he confronts me with a waitress in a topless restaurant to whom I uttered the assurance: “The topless waitress is the thin edge of a trial balloonl” (I.e., the silicone bust.) Anthropologist Leach is quite right in pointing out that the TV generation is “growing more conformist, not less.” But it is not a visual or pictorial conformity that is developing. The hairless ape has begun to attach a great significance to his hair. “Fair tresses man’s imperial rod and snare, And beauty draws us with a single hair.” He points out that: “quite a lot of alarm is generated by sheep in wolves’ clothing.” The young are really the hairs to a generation of incompetence. The young are really the hairs to a generation of incompetence.

Cultural is our business 51 HURRY UP, PLEASE, IT’S TIME!

Essential McLuhan 52 “Assuary as there’s a bonum in your ossthealogy!” (FW) Time was perhaps the first magazine to apply the format of the telegraph press (i.e., the mosaic of items without connection) to the periodical. Just formula of mosaic in place of connected editorial a dateline. The Time features permits the juxtaposition of esoteric and trival—the formula for creating environments, not just a point of view. Mosaic transparency and simultaneity appears in the ad itself. The mosaic as such is an acoustic, tribal form, feathers in the hat of Time. “Only Time lets advertisers select three occupational cross-sections of its readers… (Note how the tribal caste system here bloometh.)

4 Joyce, Mallarmé, and the Press Declining to write for the Revue Européenne in 1831, Lamartine said to its editor: Do not perceive in these words a superb disdain for what is termed journalism. Far from it; I have too intimate a knowledge of my epoch to repeat this absurd nonsense, this impertinent inanity against the Periodical Press. I know too well the work Providence has committed to it. Before this century shall run out journalism will be the whole press—the whole human thought. Since that prodigious multiplication which art has given to speech— multiplication to be multiplied a thousand-fold yet— mankind will write their books day by day, hour by hour, page by page. Thought will be spread abroad in the world with the rapidity of light; instantly conceived, instantly written, instantly understood at the extremities of the earth—it will spread from pole to pole. Sudden, instant, burning with the fervor of soul which made it burst forth, it will be the reign of the human soul in all its plenitude. It will not have time to ripen—to accumulate in a book; the book will arrive too late. The only book possible from today is a newspaper. It is strange that the popular press as an art form has often attracted the enthusiastic attention of poets and aesthetes while rousing the gloomiest apprehensions in the academic mind. The same division of opinion can be traced in the sixteenth century concerning the printed book. Two thousand years of manuscript culture were abruptly dissolved by the printing press. Failure to understand this arises from various overriding assumptions about the universal benefits of print. But today when technology has conferred ascendancy on pictorial and radio communication it is easy to detect the peculiar limitations and bias of the four-century span of book culture which is coming to a close. In her recent study of George Herbert, Rosamund Tuve stressed the extent to which metaphysical conceits were direct translations into verbal terms of popular pictorial imagery of the late middle ages. She was able to show that the characteristic conceits of Herbert and others arose from the meeting of the old manuscript culture (with its marginal pictures) and the new printed medium. In the same way, many others have argued that the peculiar richness of effect of Elizabethan and Jacobean language was the result of a meeting of the oral tradition and the new printed culture. Mere

Essential McLuhan 54 literature didn’t begin until the oral tradition was entirely subordinated to the silent and private studies of the bookman. It was the lifelong claim of W.B.Yeats that in Ireland this conquest over the spoken word was less complete than elsewhere in Anglo-Saxony. So, if the metaphysicals owe much to their adaptation of medieval pictographs to the printed medium, it could be suggested that modern poetry with its elaborate mental landscapes owes much to the new pictorial technology which fascinated Poe and Baudelaire and on which Rimbaud and Mallarmé built much of their aesthetics. If the Jacobeans were receding from a pictographic culture toward the printed page, may we not meet them at the point where we are receding from the printed word under the impetus of pictorial technology? Manuscript technology fostered a constellation of mental attitudes and skills of which the modern world has no memory. Plato foresaw some of them with alarm in the Phaedrus: The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality. Plato is speaking for the oral tradition before it was modified by literacy. He saw writing as a mainly destructive revolution. Since then we have been through enough revolutions to know that every medium of communication is a unique art form which gives salience to one set of human possibilities at the expense of another set. Each medium of expression profoundly modifies human sensibility in mainly unconscious and unpredictable ways. Alphabetic communication brings about an inevitable psychic withdrawal, as H.J.Chaytor showed in From Script to Print, with a train of personal and social maladjustments. But it secures a host of advantages. Psychic withdrawal is automatic because the process of literacy is the process of setting up the interior monologue. It is the problem of translation of the auditory into the visual and back again, which is the process of writing and reading, that brings the interior monologue into existence, as can be observed in the study of pre-literate cultures today. This introversion with its consequent weakening of sense perception also creates inattention to the speech of others and sets up mechanisms which interfere with verbal recall. Exact verbal recall is scarcely a problem for pre-literate cultures. Throughout Finnegans Wake Joyce plays some of his major variations on his theme of “abcedmindedness” in “those pagan ironed times of the first city… when a frond was a friend.” His “verbivocovisual” presentation of an “all nights newsery reel” is the first dramatization of the

Joyce, Mallarme, and the press 55 very media of communication as both form and vehicle of the flux of human cultures. Most of the problems of reading the Wake dissolve when it is seen that he is using the media themselves as art forms as in a “phantom city phaked of philm pholk.” The lights go up in his “Feenichts Playhouse” as the sun dips at the end of the Anna Livia section, and he is ready to mime the war of light and dark, of Michael, the Devil, and the maggies in a zodiacal dance of the witches (“monthage”) “with nightly redistribution of parts and players by the puppetry producer.” Throughout the Wake this interior “tubloid” or tale of a tub is linked both to the cabbalistic significance of the letters of the alphabet and to the psychological effect of literacy in creating a general “abcedmindedness” in human society. But the arrest of the flux of thought and speech which is the written page permits that prolonged analysis of thought processes from which arise the structures of science. Pictographic Chinese culture, for example, would seem to stand midway between the extremes of our abstract written tradition and the plenary oral tradition with its stress on speech as gesture and gesture as “phatic communion.” And it is perhaps this medial position between the noncommunicating extremes of print and pictorial technology which attracts us today to the Chinese ideogram. A principal feature of manuscript culture was its relative unity. The rarity and inaccessibility of manuscript books fostered a habit of encyclopedism. And where scholars were not numerous there were additional reasons for each of them to be acquainted with the entire range of authors. Moreover, manuscripts were studied slowly and aloud. Silent reading was impossible until the presses created the macadamized highways of print. The handwritten book was a broken road which was traveled slowly and infrequently. It kept the reader close to the dimensions of oral discourse. The publication of a poem consisted in reading or reciting it to a small audience. The promulgation of ideas was by public disputation. Print multiplied scholars, but it also diminished their social and political importance. And it did the same for books. Unexpectedly, print fostered nationalism and broke down international communication because publishers found that the vernacular audience was larger and more profitable. As H.A.Innis has shown in The Bias of Communication, the printed word has been a major cause of international disturbance and misunderstanding since the sixteenth century. But pictorial communication is relatively international and hard to manipulate for purposes of national rivalry. H.A.Innis has been the great pioneer in opening up the study of the economic and social consequences of the various media of communication; so that today any student of letters is necessarily indebted to him for insight into changing attitudes to time and space which result from shifting media. In particular his studies of the newspaper as a major branch of the technology of print are relevant to the study of modern literature. Beginning as an economic historian, Innis was

Essential McLuhan 56 gradually impelled to consider not just the external trade routes of the world but also the great trade routes of the mind. He became aware that the modern world, having solved the problem of commodities, had turned its technology to the packaging of information and ideas. If the manuscript tradition encouraged encyclopedism, book culture naturally tended to specialism. There were enough books to make reading a full-time occupation and to ensure an entirely withdrawn and private existence for the whole class of bookmen. Eventually there were enough books to splinter the reading public into dozens of noncommunicating groups. This has meant a large degree of unawareness in our culture of the meaning and drift of its most obvious developments. The bookman as such is not easily interested even in the technology and art of the book form of communication. And as this form has been modified by the popular press, and later developments, the exponents of book culture have registered various emotions but little curiosity. It is not, therefore, incongruous that real understanding of the changes in modern communication should have come mainly from the resourceful technicians among modern poets and painters. Much of the novelty of the Portrait, Ulysses, and the Wake is an illusion resulting from inattention to technical developments in the arts since Newton. That manipulation of a continuous parallel between modern Dublin and ancient Ithaca which Mr. Eliot has noted as the major resource of Ulysses was a transfer to the time dimension of a “double-plot,” a technique which had been the staple of all picturesque art for two hundred years. De Gourmont observed that one achievement of Flaubert had been the transfer of Chateaubriand’s panoramic art from nature and history to the industrial metropolis. And Baudelaire had matched Flaubert in this witty reversal of the role of picturesque landscape. But English landscape art in painting, poetry, and the novel was decades in advance of France and Europe, a fact which was inseparable from English industrial experiment and scientific speculation. In her fascinating book Newton Demands the Muse, Marjorie Nicolson records the impact of Newtonian optics on the themes of the poets. But the techniques of rendering experience were equally modified in the direction of an inclusive image of society and consciousness. The new vision of space and light as outer phenomena which were precisely correlative to our inner faculties gave a new meaning and impetus to the juxtaposition of images and experiences. The taste for the discontinuities of Gothic art was one with the new interest in the juxtaposition of various social classes in the novels of the road (Fielding, Smollett, Mackenzie) and in the juxtaposition of historical epochs as well as primitive and sophisticated experience in Scott and Byron. More subtle was the juxtaposition of various states of the same mind in Tristram Shandy and the sleuthlike quest for the origins of such states on the part of Sterne and later of Wordsworth. But the parallel development of the arts of spatial manipulation of mental states which was occurring in the popular press has been given no

Joyce, Mallarme, and the press 57 attention. Innis has shown how the new global landscapes of the press were not only geared to industry but were themselves the means of paying for new roads, for railway and telegraph and cable. The physical landscape of the earth was changed very quickly by the landscapes of the newspaper, even though the political scene has not yet caught up. The networks of news, trade, and transport were one. And newspapermen like Dickens who had no stake in established literary decorum were quick to adapt the technology of print to art and entertainment. Well before the French impressionists and symbolists had discovered the bearings for art of modern technology, Dickens had switched the picturesque perspectives of the eighteenth-century novel to the representation of the new industrial slums. Neurotic eccentricity in the sub-world of the metropolis he proved to be a much richer source for the rendering of mania and manic states of mind than the crofters of Scott or the yokels of Wordsworth. And Dostoevsky mined from Dickens freely, as G.B.Shaw did later still. But just how valid were the impressionist techniques of the picturesque kind familiar to the news reporter appears in the notable essay of Eisenstein in Film Form where he shows the impact of Dickens on the art of D.W.Griffith. How deeply English artists had understood the principles of picturesque art by 1780 appears from the invention of cinema at that time. In 1781 De Loutherbourg, the theatrical scene-painter, contrived in London a panorama which he called the “Eidophusikon” so as “to realize pictures in all four dimensions.” His “various Imitations of Natural Phenomena, Represented by Moving Pictures” were advertised in these words and caused a sensation. Gainsborough, we are told by a contemporary, “was so delighted that for a time he thought of nothing else, talked of nothing else, and passed his evenings at the exhibition in long succession.” He even made one of these machines for himself capable of showing sunrise and moonrise as well as storms and ships at sea. Gainsborough through this cinema was experiencing the novelty of cubism with “lo spettatore nel centro del quadro.” Another familiar instance of the abrupt newspaper juxtaposition of events in “picturesque perspective” is The Ring and the Book, an explicitly newspaperish crime report given as a series of “inside stories,” each one contained within another like Chinese boxes. But it was Mallarmé who formulated the lessons of the press as a guide for the new impersonal poetry of suggestion and implication. He saw that the scale of modern reportage and of the mechanical multiplication of messages made personal rhetoric impossible. Now was the time for the artist to intervene in a new way and to manipulate the new media of communication by a precise and delicate adjustment of the relations of words, things, and events. His task had become not self-expression but the release of the life in things. Un Coup de Dés illustrates the road he took in the exploitation of all things as gestures of the mind, magically adjusted to the secret powers of being. As a vacuum tube is used to shape and control vast

Essential McLuhan 58 reservoirs of electric power, the artist can manipulate the low current of casual words, rhythms, and resonances to evoke the primal harmonies of existence or to recall the dead. But the price he must pay is total self- abnegation. The existentialist metaphysic latent in Mallarmé’s aesthetics was stated in 1924 in In Praise of Newspapers by Karel Čapek: The newspaper world like that of the wild beasts exists solely in the present; Press consciousness (if one can speak of consciousness) is circumscribed by simple present time extending from the morning on to the evening edition, or the other way round. If you read a paper a week old you feel as if you were turning the pages of Dalimil’s chronicle: no longer is it a newspaper but a memorial. The ontological system of newspapers is actualized realism: what is just now exists… literature is the expression of old things in eternally new forms, while newspapers are eternally expressing new realities in a stabilized and unchangeable form. By extending the technique of reporting the coexistence of events in China and Peru from global space to the dimension of time, Joyce achieved the actualized realism of a continuous present for events past, present, and future. In reverse, it is only necessary to remove the dateline from any newspaper to obtain a similar if less satisfactory model of the universe. That is what R.L.Stevenson meant when he said he could make an epic of a newspaper if he knew what to leave out. Joyce knew what to leave out. For that school of thought for which the external world is an opaque prison, art can never be regarded as a source of knowledge but only as a moral discipline and a study of endurance. The artist is not a reader of radiant signatures on materia signata but the signer of a forged check on our hopes and sympathies. This school has supported the idea of the function of art as catharsis which, as G.R. Levy shows in The Gate of Horn, was a preparation for the lesser Greek mysteries. But if the world is not opaque and if the mind is not of the earth earthy, then this moral view of art should yield to the cognitive view. However that may be, the cathartic, ethical view of art has led to a doctrinaire hostility to the use of discontinuity in art (the theme of Arnold’s preface to Poems, 1853) and indifference to all popular art. And in the past century with every technological device advancing the discontinuous character of communication the stand taken by the cathartic and ethical school has enveloped the entire world of popular culture in a haze of esoteric nescience, disguised, however, as a profound moral concern with the wider hope and the higher things. Joyce had a phrase for this anti- cognitive attitude, “the cultic twalette.”

Joyce, Mallarme, and the press 59 Moral and aesthetic horror at the ignobility of the popular scene gave way to an opposite attitude in the symbolists, and Mallarmé is, before Joyce, the best spokesman of the new approach. In his Shop-Windows (Étalages), while analyzing the aesthetics of commercial layout, he considers the relations between poetry and the press. A shop window full of new books prompts his reflection that the function of the ordinary run of books is merely to express the average degree of human boredom and incompetence, to reduce to a written form the horizon of the human scene in all its abounding banality. Instead of deploring this fact as literary men tend to do, the artist should exploit it: “The vague, the commonplace, the smudged and defaced, not banishment of these, occupation rather! Apply them as to a patrimony.” Only by a conquest and occupation of these vast territories of stupefaction can the artist fulfill his culturally heroic function of purifying the dialect of the tribe, the Herculean labor of cleaning the Augean stables of speech, of thought and feeling. Turning directly to the press, Mallarmé designates it as “a traffic, an epitomization of enormous and elementary interests…employing print for the propagation of opinions, the recital of divers facts, made plausible, in the Press, which is devoted to publicity, by the omission, it would seem, of any art.” He delights in the dramatic significance of the fact that in the French press, at least, the literary and critical features form a section at the base of the first page. And even more delightful: Fiction properly so called, or the imaginative tale, frolics across the average daily paper, enjoying the most prominent spots even to the top of the page, dislodging the financial feature and pushing actuality into second place. Here, too, is the suggestion and even the lesson of a certain beauty: that today is not only the supplanter of yesterday or the presager of tomorrow but issues from time, in general, with an integrity bathed and fresh. The vulgar placard, bawled…at the street corner thus sustains this reflection…on the political text. Such experience leaves some people cold because they imagine that while there may be a little more or less of the sublime in these pleasures tasted by the people, the situation as regards that which alone is precious and immeasurably lofty, and which is known by the name of Poetry, that this situation remains unchanged. Poetry (they suppose) will always be exclusive and the best of its pinions will never approach those pages of the newspaper where it is parodied, nor are they pleased by the spread of wings in our hands of those vast improvised sheets of the daily paper.

Essential McLuhan 60 Mallarmé is laughing at these finicky and unperceptive people for whom the press appears as a threat to “real culture”; and continues: To gauge by the extraordinary, actual superproduction, through which the Press intelligently yields its average, the notion prevails, nonetheless, of something very decisive which is elaborating itself: a prelude to an era, a competition for the foundation of the popular modern Poem, at the very least of innumerable Thousand and One Nights: by which the majority of readers will be astonished at the sudden invention. You are assisting at a celebration, all of you, right now, amidst the contingencies of this lightning achievement! The author of Ulysses was the only person to grasp the full artistic implications of this radically democratic aesthetic elaborated by the fabulous artificer, the modern Daedalus, Stéphane Mallarmé. But Joyce was certainly assisted by Flaubert’s Sentimental Education and Bouvard and Pécuchet in adapting Mallarmé’s insights to his own artistic purposes. A very little reflection on the scrupulously banal character of Flaubert’s epics about industrial man illuminates much of the procedure in Ulysses and the Wake. Crise de Vers, Étalages, and Le Livre, Instrument Spirituel all belong to the last few years of Mallarmé’s life, representing his ultimate insights (1892–1896). And in each of these essays he is probing the aesthetic consequences and possibilities of the popular arts of industrial man. In Le Livre he turns to scrutinize the press once more, opening with the proposition, self-evident to him, that the whole world exists in order to result in a book. This is a matter of metaphysical fact, that all existence cries out to be raised to the level of scientific or poetic intelligibility. In this sense “the book” confers on things and persons another mode of existence which helps to perfect them. And it is plain that Mallarmé regarded the press as this ultimate encyclopedic book in its most rudimentary form. The almost superhuman range of awareness of the press now awaits only the full analogical sense of exact orchestration to perfect its present juxtaposition of items and themes. And this implies the complete self-effacement of the writer, for “this book does not admit of any signature.” The job of the artist is not to sign but to read signatures. Existence must speak for itself. It is already richly and radiantly signed. The artist has merely to reveal, not to forge the signatures of existence. But he can only put these in order by discovering the orchestral analogies in things themselves. The result will be “the hymn, harmony and joy, as a pure ensemble ordered in the sharpest and most vivid circumstance of their interrelations. Man charged with divine vision has no other mode of expression save the parallelism of pages as a means of expressing the links, the whims, the limpidity on which he gazes.”

Joyce, Mallarme, and the press 61 All those pseudo-rationalisms, the forged links and fraudulent intelligibility which official literature has imposed on existence must be abandoned. And this initial step the press has already taken in its style of impersonal juxtaposition which conveys such riches to the writer. This work of “popular enchantment” which is the daily paper is not lacking in moral edification, for the hubbub of appetites and protests to be found among the advertisements and announcements proclaims each day the “original servitude” of man and the confusion of tongues of the tower of Babel. But the very format of the press resembles “a retracted wing which is ready to spread itself,” awaiting only the “intervention of folding or of rhythm” in order to rid us of all that passes for “literature.” Mallarmé sees this impersonal art of juxtaposition as revolutionary and democratic also in the sense that it enables each reader to be an artist: “Reading becomes a solitary, tacit concert given to itself by the mind which recaptures significance from the least sonorities.” It is the rhyming and orchestrating of things themselves which releases the maximum intelligibility and attunes the ears of men once more to the music of the spheres. We are finished, he says, with that custom of an official literary decorum by which poets sang in chorus, obliterating with their personal forgeries the actual signatures of things. In fact, the new poet will take as much care to avoid a style that is not in things themselves as literary men have in the past sought to achieve and impose one. In approaching the structure of Ulysses as a newspaper landscape it is well to call to mind a favorite book of Joyce’s, The Purple Island of Phineas Fletcher, the author’s name suggesting Finn the arrow-maker. Fletcher presents the anatomy and labyrinths of the human body in terms of an enchanted Spenserian landscape. Many have pointed out the importance of the human form of the sleeping giant, the collective consciousness, as the structure of the Wake. And Joyce was careful to instruct his readers in the relation between the episodes of Ulysses and our bodily organs. (In 1844 the American press greeted the telegraph as “the first definite pulsation of the real nervous system of the world.”) In Ulysses in episode seven we find ourselves in a newspaper office in “the heart of the Hibernian metropolis.” For Joyce the press was indeed a “microchasm” of the world of man, its columns unchanging monuments to the age-old passions and interests of all men, and its production and distribution a drama involving the hands and organs of the entire “body politic.” With its dateline June 16, 1904, Ulysses is, newspaperwise, an abridgement of all space in a brief segment of time, as the Wake is a condensation of all time in the brief space of “Howth castle and environs.” The dateline of Ulysses, the day of the end of the drought in the land of “The Dead,” the day of the meeting of Joyce and Nora Barnacle, was the day that Joyce was to preserve in exile as Aeneas carried to New Troy the ashes and huturn of his ancestors (Fustel de Coulanges’ The Ancient City is a useful introduction to this aspect of Joyce’s filial piety). But whereas the techniques of the Wake are “telekinetic” and are explicitly specified as

Essential McLuhan 62 those of radio, television, newsreel, and the stuttering verbal gestures of H. C. E., it is the newspaper as seen by Mallarmé that provides most of the symbolist landscapes of Ulysses. As a daily cross-section of the activities and impulses of the race the press is an inclusive image affording possibilities of varied orchestration. A passage in Stephen Hero suggests the direction in which Joyce has modified the superficial cross- section of the popular press: The modern spirit is vivisective. Vivisection itself is the most modern process one can conceive…. All modern political and religious criticism dispenses with presumptive states…. It examines the entire community in action and reconstructs the spectacle of redemption. If you were an esthetic philosopher you would take note of all my vagaries because here you have the spectacle of the esthetic instinct in action. The philosophic college should spare a detective for me. (p. 186) The key terms here, vivisection, community in action, reconstruction, detection, are related to every phase of Joyce’s aesthetic. In Modern Painters Ruskin discusses the discontinuous picturesque techniques in medieval and modern art under the term “grotesque,” noting it as the avenue by which popular and democratic expression enters the serious levels of art: A fine grotesque is the expression, in a moment, by a series of symbols thrown together in bold and fearless connection of truths which it would have taken a long time to express in any verbal way, and of which the connection is left for the beholder to work out for himself, the gaps, left or overleaped by the haste of the imagination, forming the grotesque character…. Hence it is an infinite good to mankind when there is a full acceptance of the grotesque…an enormous amount of intellectual power is turned to use, which in this present century of ours, evaporates in street gibing…. It is with a view to the reopening of this great field of human intelligence, long entirely closed, that I am striving to introduce Gothic architecture…and to revive the art of illumination…the distinctive difference between illumination and painting proper, being, that illumination admits no shadows, but only gradations of pure colour. Ruskin in describing the grotesque gives the very formula for “vivisection” or the community in action, though he hadn’t the faintest idea of how to adapt this ideal to contemporary art. It was not misleading

Joyce, Mallarme, and the press 63 on Joyce’s part, therefore, when he spoke of his work as a Gothic cathedral or to the Wake as an activated page of the Book of Kells. In presenting “history as her is harped,” Joyce concludes: “And so the triptych vision passes out of a hillside into a hillside. Fairshee fading. Again am I deliciated by the picaresqueness of your irmages.” (Wake, 486). It is the Mallarméan method of orchestration of the qualities of ordinary speech and experience that recurs, again, and again in the Wake: and inform to the old sniggering publicking press and its nation of sheepcopers about the whole plighty troth between them, malady of milady made melody of malodi, she, the lalage of lyonesses, and him, her knave errant…for all within crystal range. The last “crystal” image gives the typical translation of the auditory into the visual, music into color, the harp of Aeolus into the harp of Memnon, time into space, which is the kind of metamorphosis which is going on everywhere in the Wake. But the world of Ulysses, being primarily a modulation of space, is relatively static and newspaperish in its landscapes. It stands as inferno to the purgatorio of the Wake. However, in the Aeolus section of Ulysses, which is governed specifically by the organ “lungs” and the art of rhetoric, “everything,” as Bloom says, “speaks for itself.” The sheets of the newspaper become the tree harp for the wind of rhetoric. And the tree harp of the newspaper office is appropriately located beside the rock pillar of the hero: Before Nelson’s Pillar, trams glowed, shunted, changed trolley, started for Blackrock. The trams with their rows of cast steel provide a parallel network to the linotype machines and the rows of printed matter. But if the tree and pillar provide the true image of a hero cult, the rhetoric that blows through the leaves of this tree is that of an alien speech. Much is made of this contretemps throughout the episode, and the climax brings this dramatic conflict to an issue. J.J.O’Malloy recites John F.Taylor’s defense of the Gaelic revival, the theme of which is the Mosaic refusal to accept the gods and cult of the dominant Egyptians, a refusal which made possible his descent from Sinai “bearing in his arms the tables of the law graven in the language of the outlaw.” This passage, the only one Joyce seems to have recorded from Ulysses, has an obvious bearing on the relation of his own art to English culture. In his Dialogue de l’ Arbre Valéry expounds the Aeolian cosmology of trees, roots, trunks, branches, leaves:

Essential McLuhan 64 Chacun dit son nom…. O langage confus, langage qui t’agites, je veux foudre toutes tes voix. Cent mille feuilles mues font ce que le rêveur murmure aux puissances du songe. And he proceeds to contemplate the tree as a labyrinth merging with river and sea yet remaining a giant. In the same way the Aeolean tree music of the press “reamalgemerges” with the Mosaic eloquence of Sinai and the mountain, just as Anna Livia is also ALP (and Aeolus was a volcano spirit, that is, a cyclopean or mountain figure. He was the reputed father of Ulysses and hence of Bloom). The cyclopean aspect of Aeolus and the press provides an important motif, that of crime detection and the private eye. The press man as a “Shaun the cop” or cyclops type (“though he might have been more humble there’s no police like Holmes”) is presented in this episode as a parody or ape of the artist. Editor Myles Crawford, soliciting the services of Stephen, boasts of the sleuthing feats of “we’ll paralyze Europe” Ignatius Gallaher. Gallaher’s idea of scare journalism is paralysis as opposed to the artist’s idea of awakening. Gallaher reconstructed the pattern of the Phoenix Park murders to paralyze Europe; the artist reconstructs the crime of history as a means of awakening the dead. As “bullock-befriending bard,” Stephen is the threader of that Labyrinth described by Vergil in the fourth Georgic, the fable of the ox and of the bees of poetic inspiration. Nevertheless Joyce is not questioning the parallel between journalism and art in respect to the retracing process. The very conditions of journalism fostered insight into artistic production, because daily or periodic publication led to a great deal of serial composition. This in turn compelled authors to write their stories backwards. Edgar Poe, a journalist, in “The Philosophy of Composition,” begins: Charles Dickens, in a note now lying before me, alluding to an examination I once made of the mechanism of Barnaby Rudge, says—“By the way, are you aware that Godwin wrote his Caleb Williams backwards?” Poe then develops the familiar symbolist doctrine of poem as an art situation which is the formula for a particular effect. The same method of composition in reverse enabled Poe to pioneer the detective story. There is nothing accidental, therefore, about the Aeolus episode being crammed with instances of reversal and reconstruction. Applying the same principle to language yields, in the Wake, a reconstruction of all the layers of culture and existence embedded in the present forms of words and speech gesture. It was natural that eighteenth-century writers should have been attracted to the retracing and reconstruction principle of art, which made Horace Walpole say of Tristram Shandy that it was the first book which

Joyce, Mallarme, and the press 65 consists “in the whole narrative going backwards.” A little later Dr. Thomas Brown in Edinburgh argued that the poet’s imagination differed from the ordinary man’s by the power of reversing the direction of association. Once picturesque art, following the spectroscope, had broken up the continuum of linear art and narrative the possibility of cinematic montage emerged at once. And montage has to be arranged forwards or backwards. Forwards it yields narrative. Backwards it is reconstruction of events. Arrested it consists of the static landscape of the press, the co- existence of all aspects of community life. This is the image of the city presented in Ulysses.

5 Letter to Harold Adams Innis St. Michael’s College March 14/51 1 Dear Innis Thanks for the lecture re-print. This makes an opportunity for me to mention my interest in the work you are doing in communication study in general. I think there are lines appearing in Empire and Communications [1950], for example, which suggest the possibility of organizing an entire school of studies. Many of the ancient language theories of the Logos type which you cite in [Empire and Communications]2 for their bearings on government and society have recurred and amalgamated themselves today under the auspices of anthropology and social psychology. Working concepts of “collective consciousness” in advertizing agencies have in turn given salience and practical effectiveness to these “magical” notions of language. But it was most of all the esthetic discoveries of the symbolists since Rimbaud and Mallarmé (developed in English by Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Lewis and Yeats) which have served to recreate in contemporary consciousness an awareness of the potencies of language such as the Western world has not experienced in 1800 years. Mallarmé saw the modern press as a magical institution born of 3 The discontinuous juxtaposition of unrelated items made technology. necessary by the influx of news stories from every quarter of the world, created, he saw, a symbolic landscape of great power and importance. (He used the word “symbol” in the strict 1The manuscript of this letter is headed in the upper-left corner: “Rewrite of letter for mimeograph HMM”. The original letter was written some weeks previously because it was acknowledged by Innis on February 26 (with apologies for not doing so earlier). Innis said he had been “very much interested” in McLuhan’s letter and that he would like to have it typed and circulated to “one or two of our mutual friends”, adding that he wished to receive the “mimeographed sheet” referred to. Innis wrote over the body of the letter: “Memorandum on humanities”. 2Added by Innis. 3McLuhan read Stéphane Mallarmé—who saw an art form in the daily newspaper—in the Oeuvres Complètes (Gallimard, 1945), in which the press is discussed in “Etalages” (pp. 375–6), “Le Livre Greek sense sym-ballein, to pitch together, physically and musically). He saw at once that the modern press was not a rational form but a

Letter to Harold Adams Innis 67 magical one so far as communication was concerned. Its very technological form was bound to be efficacious far beyond any informative purpose. Politics were becoming musical, jazzy, magical. The same symbolist perception applied to cinema showed that the montage of images was basically a return via technology to age-old picture language. S. Eisenstein’s Film Form and Film Technique explore the relations between modern developments in the arts and Chinese ideogram, pointing to the common basis of ideogram in modern art[,] science and technology. One major discovery of the symbolists which had the greatest importance for subsequent investigation was their notion of the learning process as a labyrinth of the senses and faculties whose retracing provided the key to all arts and sciences (basis of myth of Daedalus, basic for the dreams and schemes of Francis Bacon, and, when transferred by 4 to philology and history of culture, it also forms [Giovanni Battista] Vico the basis of modern historiography, archaeology, psychology and artistic procedures alike.[)] Retracing becomes in modern historical scholarship the technique of reconstruction. The technique which Edgar Poe first put 5 to work in his detective stories. In the arts this discovery has had all those astonishing results which have seemed to separate the ordinary public from what it regards as esoteric magic. From the point of view of the artist however the business of art is no longer the communication of thoughts or feelings which are to be conceptually ordered, but a direct participation in an experience. The whole tendency of modern communication whether in the press, in advertizing or in the high arts is towards participation in a process, rather than apprehension of concepts. And this major revolution, intimately linked to technology, is one whose consequences have not begun to be studied although they have begun to be felt. One immediate consequence, it seems to me, has been the decline of literature. The hypertrophy of letter-press, at once the cause and effect of universal literacy, has produced a spectacular decline of attention to the printed or written word. As you have shown in Empire and Communications, ages of literature Instrument spirituel” (p. 378 ff.) and “Deuil” (pp. 523–4). See the first article in The Mechanical Bride: “Front Page”, opposite a reproduction of the April 20, 1950 front page of The New York Times. Here McLuhan says that “any paper today is a collective work of art, a daily ‘book’ of industrial man, an Arabian night’s entertainment…. Notoriously it is the visual technique of a Picasso, the literary technique of James Joyce.” See also McLuhan’s essay “Joyce, Mallarmé and the Press” (which first appeared in The Sewanee Review, vol. 62, no. 1, Winter 1954) in Eugene McNamara, ed., The Interior Landscape: The Literary Criticism of Marshall McLuhan (1969). 4 For Vico, see page 339, note 3. 5 See page 271, note 4.

Essential McLuhan 68 have been few and brief in human history. The present literary epoch has been of exceptional duration—400 years. There are many symptoms that it is at an end. The comic book for example has been seen as a degenerate literary form instead of as a nascent pictorial and dramatic form which has sprung from the new stress on visual-auditory communication in the magazines, the radio and television. The young today cannot follow narrative but they are alert to drama. They cannot bear description but they love landscape and action. If literature is to survive as a scholastic discipline except for a very few people, it must be by a transfer of its techniques of perception and judgement to these new media. The new media, which are already much more constitutive educationally than those of the class-room, must be inspected and discussed in the class-room if the class-room is to continue at all except as a place of detention. As a teacher of literature it has long seemed to me that the functions of literature cannot be maintained in present circumstances without radical alteration of the procedures of teaching. Failure in this respect relegated Latin and Greek to the specialist; and English literature has already become a category rather than an interest in school and college. As mechanical media have popularized and enforced the presence of the arts on all people it becomes more and more necessary to make studies of the function and effect of communication on society. Present ideas of such effects are almost entirely in terms of mounting or sagging sales curves resulting from special campaigns of commercial education. Neither the agencies nor the consumers know anything about the social or cultural effects of this education. Deutsch’s interesting pamphlet on communication is thoroughly divorced from any sense of the social functions performed by communication.6 He is typical of a school likewise in his failure to study the matter in the particular. He is the technician interested in power but uncritical and unconcerned with social effect. The diagnosis of his type is best found, so far as I know, in Wyndham Lewis’s The Art of Being Ruled. That pamphlet [sic] is probably the most radical political document since Machiavelli’s Prince. But whereas Machiavelli was concerned with the use of society as raw material for the arts of power, Lewis reverses the perspective and tries to discern the human shape once more in a vast technological landscape which has been ordered on Machiavellian lines. The fallacy in the Deutsch-Wiener7 approach is its failure to understand the techniques and functions of the traditional arts as the essential type of all human 6 Karl Deutsch’s paper (written for a 1951 conference), “Communication in Self- governing Organizations: Notes on Autonomy, Freedom and Authority in the Growth of Social Groups”, was published in Lyman Bryson, ed., Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life. 12 Session. Freedom and Authority in Our Time (1953).

Letter to Harold Adams Innis 69 7 Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (1950). communication. It is instead a dialectical approach born of technology and quite unable of itself to see beyond or around technology. The Medieval schoolmen ultimately ended up on the same dialectical reef. As Easterbrook may have told you I have been considering an experiment in communication which is to follow the lines of this letter in suggesting means of linking a variety of specialized fields by what might be called a method of esthetic analysis of their common features. This method has been used by my friend Siegfried Giedion in Space, Time and Architecture and in Mechanization Takes Command. What I have been considering is a single mimeographed sheet to be sent out weekly or fortnightly to a few dozen people in different fields, at first illustrating the underlying unities of form which exist where diversity is all that meets the eye. Then, it is hoped there will be a feedback of related perception from various readers which will establish a continuous flow. It seems obvious to me that Bloor St.8 is the one point in this University where one might establish a focus of the arts and sciences. And the organizing concept would naturally be “Communication Theory and practice”. A simultaneous focus of current and historical forms. Relevance to be given to selection of areas of study by dominant artistic and scientific modes of the particular period. Arts here used as providing criteria, techniques of observation, and bodies of recorded, achieved, experience. Points of departure but also return. For example the actual techniques of economic study today seem to me to be of genuine relevance to anybody who wishes to grasp the best in current poetry and music. And vice versa. There is a real, living unity in our time, as in any other, but it lies submerged under a superficial hubbub of sensation. Using Frequency Modulation techniques one can slice accurately through such interference, whereas Amplitude Modulation leaves you bouncing on all the currents. University of Toronto Archives Marshall McLuhan 8 The Economics Building at 273 Bloor Street West, Toronto. It originally housed McMaster University and is now occupied by the Royal Conservatory of Music.

6 Postures and Impostures of Managers Past Maneggiare (Italian)—to handle, especially to manage or train horses. Ménager (French)—to use carefully, to husband, to spare. Diehard—His not to reason why; breakdown by keeping uptight. Dropout—His but to reason why; breakthrough by keeping in touch. Politics and morals are divorced. Each of the two has its own ends, each its own means. They are not reconcilable. There is no middle position of compromise. (Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince) I put no ceiling on progress. (Alfred P.Sloan, Jr.) History is bunk. (Henry Ford) History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions, Guides us by vanities. (T.S.Eliot, “Gerontion”) History is not a compilation of facts, but an insight into a moving process of life. (S.Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture) History as Observatory of Change Today the cultural historian can reveal the hidden factors in the cultures of the past, just as the programmes of innovational processes have the means of seeing the effects of any action before it begins. The approach is that of the instantaneous testing of processes under controlled conditions. When

Postures and impostures of managers past 71 we push our paradigms back, we get “history”; when we push them forward, we get “science.” The historian, such as Eric Havelock in his Preface to Plato, has now the same power to recall ancient events. History offers the controlled conditions of a laboratory for observing patterns of change, much as primitive societies living in prehistory (preliteracy) give postliterate man the means of observing the action of the latest technologies. Such instant retrieval joins prehistory and posthistory in an inclusive now of all traditions. The providence that’s in a watchful state Knows almost every grain of Plutus’ gold, Finds bottom in the uncomprehensive deeps, Keeps place with thought, and almost, like the gods, Does thoughts unveil in their dumb cradles. (Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida) The American executive now experiences the European “existential” anguish in the clash between job and role. The more responsible he is, the less power he has—the more involved, the less freedom. With the acceleration of change, management now takes on entirely new functions. While navigation amidst the unknown is becoming the normal role of the executive, the new need is not merely to navigate but to anticipate effects with their causes. At instant speeds in our resonant Echoland, it is fatal to “wait and see.” “Feedback” relying on experience is now too slow. We must know in advance of action. The “feedforward” of knowledge based on pattern recognition of process is essential for reprogramming beyond ideologies. What had always appeared inevitable can thus be bypassed. THERE IS NO LONGER ANY NEED TO BACK INTO A PROPHYLACTIC FUTURE WITH MILDEWED HINDSIGHT. 1. Role Becomes Job THE PRESIDENT The academic historians of Ford’s time strove to make history into a science by a matching process. Henry Ford turned to making history by scrapping the agrarian world around him. He was one of the greatest creators of new social clothing and service environments. While altering

Essential McLuhan 72 every pattern of the contemporary world and of history, he resolutely averted his gaze from the past and present alike. It was in a spirit of somnambulistic compensation that he built Greenfield Village in the eye of the industrial maelstrom. Henry Ford, one of the most antiquated and tribalistic of all industrial managers, was “The President.” There were no other members of the hierarchy. In dispensing with the conventional organizational hierarchy, Ford naturally resorted to the tribal form of government by Mafia methods. He was ahead of his time. He could afford to junk history, since he was history. At the other extreme in the motor industry was Alfred P.Sloan, Jr., of General Motors, whose very conventional hierarchical organization is portrayed in detail by Peter Drucker in Concept of the Corporation. With his archaic dream of decentralization for General Motors, Sloan involuntarily restored the baronial pattern of managerial bosses and autonomous groupings in his empire. This pattern readily enabled his representatives to see themselves as “knights in shining armor.” This “Court of King Arthur” sort of world was seen by Henry Ford, through the spectacles of Mark Twain, as pure bunkum. The Rear-View Mirror Henry Ford teamed up with Thomas Edison to build Greenfield Village, a nostalgic RVM evocation of the agrarian world that they had junked by their innovations. Daniel J.Boorstin, in The Image: Or, What Happened to the American Dream, need have gone no further than Greenfield Village to reconstruct the stages of slaughter, interment, and monumentality, by which Bonanzaland became a universal parking lot. The extreme forms of urban decentralism created by the car led swiftly to extreme forms of managerial centralism. Ford and Sloan split apart over this. Ford saw it as a means of strengthening centralist control, while Sloan chose the strategy of decentralism as in accord with the mobility of the car. Having already stated the contrast between oral and written patterns of social and legal procedures of the past, it is possible to see these traditionally opposed forms of order once more in the center of the management dramas of our present world. Mini-Mafia Oozing charm from every pore He oiled his way across the floor (My Fair Lady)

Postures and impostures of managers past 73 The effect of satellites is the conversion of the planet into a global theater that demands spectacular programming beyond anything conceived by the old Hollywood. The global theater demands the world population not only as audience but as a cast of participants. In Fortune Magazine, July, 1969, Tom Alexander wrote on “The Unexpected Payoff of Project Apollo.” He describes, on the one hand, the extreme fragmented hierarchical and specialized organization that went into the project, and, on the other hand, the emergency of an integral “musical” organization of all these components into an unexpected kind of “NASA Mafia.” Horse Collar and Stirrup as Extensions of Man Machiavelli is now as obsolete as Gutenberg from whom he stems. “Old Nick” was among the first to observe the psychic and social fracturing that resulted from the alphabet (“alforabit”) when speeded by the new press. Let us ask what sort of a pamphlet might have been written by an equally sharp observer when the stirrup and the horse collar were new. Lynn White has detailed the political and urban revolutions that proceeded from those medieval innovations, in Medieval Technology and Social Change. The stirrup created the feudal system, revolutionizing landholding and all the structures of social power. The knight became the invincible tank. With the horse collar came “horsepower” and the agricultural and transportation revolutions. New cities, new markets, Gutenberg, and gunpowder shot these structures to pieces by sheer speed-up and specialism. From the most ancient times the perfections of natural beauty had been the supreme focus of intellectual contemplation by those in power. The break from regarding nature as beauty to exploiting nature as a source of power and wealth came suddenly. It gathered momentum in the sixteenth century with the press and was dominant until the turn of the nineteenth century. Humpty Dumpty: China Egg on the Magazine Wall …a break-through after a long accumulation of tension, as a swollen river breaks through its dikes, or in the manner of a cloudburst… Applied to human conditions, it refers to the time when inferior people gradually begin to disappear. Their influence is on the wane; as a result of resolute action, a change in conditions occurs, a break-through… (I Ching)

Essential McLuhan 74 The story of the fall of Humpty Dumpty, as it were, is recorded in all the classics of the sixteenth century, from More’s Utopia, and Don Quixote to Shakespeare. The entire works of Shakespeare are concerned with the unhappy dissolution of personal faith and loyalty and the rise of the Machiavellian Iagos, Edmunds, and Macbeths. Calculating adventurers, usurpers, and opportunists seemed to Shakespeare to have succeeded an age of harmony and music: O! when degree is shak’d, Which is the ladder to all high designs, The enterprise is sick. How could communities, Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities, Peaceful commerce from dividable shores, The primogenitive and due of birth, Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels, But by degree, stand in authentic place? Take but degree away, untune that string, And hark! what discord follows; each thing meets In mere oppugnancy. (Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida) The pre-Gutenberg world assumed resonance and music as the physical basis of social order. The shift to individual self-interest and private goals instead of corporate role playing was a sixteenth-century drama that is being played backward today. The return to resonance as the physical basis of being itself is now asserted by science and implemented by instant electric circuitry. The timeless appeal of Prince Hamlet as a chief of state lies in his being torn between his corporate princely role and the new private-power politics of the strong-arm Fortinbras types. “Moreness” went with the divide-and-rule tactics of the new print age of mass production. Machiavelli saw that the uniform repetitive products of the press created the universal market of uniform pricing. He saw that the principle would also extend to ambitious people engaged in specialist activities created by the Gutenberg technology: “Every man has his price.” This was not a cynical observation under the circumstances. Lear’s Dilemma

Postures and impostures of managers past 75 King Lear is like Hamlet, trying to play it both ways, the pathetic case of a man seeking to be “with it” but lacking awareness of the Machiavellian consequences of the new forms of delegated authority. “L’esprit de Quantité” The villain Edmund is the Machiavelli of the play. He is imbued with the new idea of moreness as power goal (l’esprit de quantité), which became the basis of the new idea of “sovereign states.” Whereas the medieval monarch had “put on” his subjects as his “corporate mask,” the Renaissance prince saw his people contained within visual and geographic boundaries. KING LEAR IS A WORKING MODEL OF THE PROCESS OF DENUDATION BY WHICH MEN TRANSLATED THEMSELVES FROM A WORLD OF ROLES TO A WORLD OF JOBS. King Lear is a kind of elaborate case history of people translating themselves out of a world of roles into the new world of jobs. This is a process of denudation which does not occur instantly except in artistic vision. But Shakespeare saw that it had happened in his time. He was not talking about the future. However, the older world of roles had lingered on as a ghost just as after a century of electricity the West still feels the presence of the older values of literacy and privacy and separateness. (Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy) The State as a Work of Art As the old medieval world of organic coherence fell open, many, like Machiavelli, saw the possibility of dealing with the state as a work of art. Jacob Burckhardt spent a volume on this theme without knowing that any old structure automatically becomes a work of art. In a word, the Machiavellis were looking back to the medieval times through Renaissance glasses. All utopias are images of the immediately preceding society projected into the future. Such is More’s Utopia as much as Orwell’s anti-utopia 1984. Samuel Butler saw the dilemma in his title Erewhon by spelling his utopia backward. All power became a masquerade of fakes and fictions. Loss of the traditional forms of identity and loyalty freed everybody to become an isolated person in somebody’s game. The popular name for these new adventurers was “honest men.” Shakespeare has typified them in “honest Iago,” the “honest engine” of power and intrigue, the fabricator of “ocular proof.”

Essential McLuhan 76 2. New Resumes Old The A-Stone-Aged Manager Having scrapped the medieval world, the Gutenberg technology extended man’s powers of retrieval by speed-up. The medieval scriptorium had no means of coping with the whole of antiquity, but the Gutenberg press dumped all the ancient classics into the Renaissance lap. There was an orgy of paganism and miming of ancient styles of prose and dress and art. Pope, in The Dunciad, records the ultimate development of Gutenberg as a kind of supermarket abundance of books, which swamped the human intelligence and befogged the wits of men in clouds of ink. The seventeenth-century “balance” between “hardware” and “software” yielded quickly to the eighteenth-century triumph of “hardware,” familiar to every schoolboy who reads Goldsmith’s Deserted Village. William Blake, however, took an even grimmer view of the change than that expressed in the pastoral lament of the genial Irishman. U.S.A. as Laboratory for Social Experiments, Past and Present is the theme of Peter Farb’s Man’s Rise to Civilization as Shown by the Indians of North America from Primeval Times to the Coming of the Industrial State: North America is the place in the world most nearly ideal to observe the evolution of human societies and customs, institutions and beliefs, for these are revealed there with all the clarity of a scientific experiment. The story of the Indians in North America provides modern man with a living test tube, in which the major ingredients that went into the experiment, the intermediate reactions that took place, and the final results are largely known. The electrotechnic age, having rendered obsolete the age of industrial “hardware” and its organization chart, has unexpectedly retrieved the most primitive and archaic cultures of many times and places. We now are swamped by a new environment of preliterate forms. This brings us full circle on our tour with OFF-Again—ON-Again—FINN-Again There are only two basic extreme forms of human organization. They have innumerable variants or “parti-colored” forms. The extreme forms are the civilized and the tribal (eye and ear): the Cromwellian specialist and the Celtic involved. Only the civilized form is fragmented in action,

Postures and impostures of managers past 77 whether in business or in politics or in entertainment. Hence the anarchy of the contemporary world where all these forms coexist. Dependent upon the materials and hence the technologies available to mankind, the pattern of social organization and management swings violently from stress on the entrepreneur and the virtues of the lonely individualist to the close-knit and emotionally involved group. In the diversified scope of modern business structures, these extremes can express themselves at different levels of the same organization. Tribal cliques can grow in the shade of the old organization tree. The telephone can foster such groups, especially when the “bugging” of the phones is on a large scale. The oral substructure ground quickly undermines the organization “tree.” By the law of change, whatever has reached its extreme must turn back. (I Ching) It is explained in the same context of this 4,000-year-old management manual that innovation “does indeed guide all happenings, but it never behaves outwardly as the leader. Thus true strength is that strength which, mobile as it is hidden, concentrates on the work without being outwardly visible.” What is actually visible in new situations is the ghost of old ones. It is the movie that appears on TV. It is the old written word that appears on Telex. The hidden force of change is the new speed that alters all configurations of power. The new speed creates a new hidden ground against which the old ground becomes the figure of the dropout. The function of the dropout is to reveal the new hidden ground or environment. This development can occur either as individual or corporate. The role of the typical “drop-in” or consultant is to prop up the collapsing foundations. Freud arrived too late to save the nuclear family. He was dumped by the nuclear age. THE HIDDEN PERSUADERS AND THE FRUSTRATED RADICALS All management theories and political ideologies follow an involuntary procedure. The idealists share with the experienced and practical men of their time the infirmity of substituting concepts for percepts. Both concentrate on a clash between past experience and future goals that black out the usual but hidden processes of the present. Both ignore the fact that dialogue as a process of creating the new came before, and goes beyond, the change of “equivalents” that merely reflect or repeat the old. Pastimes Are Past Times

Essential McLuhan 78 The new expert, along with the old executive, has been swept away in a flood of comedies. New environments of information and enterprise have revealed the contours of these obsolescent types, even as the satellite has created a sudden and universal awareness of “pollution.” MEN OF EXTINCTION UNITE; WITH HARDENINGOF THE CATEGORIES YOU’VE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT THE CHANGE. Lost Interface The French revolutionaries were determined to abolish the ancient regime that had become a rococo masquerade long before 1789. The old feudal hierarchy of costumes and roles had to be scrapped at any cost. Le grand monarque, with his surround of china shepherdesses, was swept aside to make way for l’empereur, whose enormous centralist power was derived, not from the feudal pennies of the peasantry, but from the cannon and “hardware” of the new middle-class manufacturers. The puny and slow- moving bureaucracy of the Bourbons was replaced by the speed of production and road movement of Napoleon’s legions. Napoleon introduced a semaphore telegraph system that gave him four-hour intervals of intercom with Rome. He ran the army and the country as a centralized industrial corporation. He invented the rule of using the right- hand side of the road to create traffic speed and conformity. He introduced the fragmented uniformity of the “metric” system and the speedy Code Napoleon. The old common law disappeared under a monumental catafalque of classical solemnity and senatorial dignity. The egalitarian dreams of the Jacobins were gaily sacrificed, to la gloire et l’honneur de la patrie. The idealists had fought for liberty and equality, and they got a military state with careers open to talents. Napoleon anticipated the later organization chart with “staff and line,” proclaiming the right of every private to envisage a marshal’s baton in his old kit bag. These were the visible developments that reversed the dreams of the avantgarde. A far more insidious force was inherent in the entire speed-up of the new industrial “hardware” complex. 3. “Ground” Remakes “Figure” Hidden Environments Reshape Their Makers In Europe and in England alike the extreme specialism of the industrial revolution created a massive retrieval of medieval sensibility in the arts and crafts, and in religion. This was the new hidden ground that entered into abrasive interface with the pronounced figure of the dominant new industrialisms. This hidden action in the later nineteenth century has its

Postures and impostures of managers past 79 parallel at present in the retribalizing process of electrotechniques. While detribalizing is assigned top priority for civilized advance in all backward areas, regardless of geography or ideology, there is also occurring a complementary and hidden process of retribalization that is independent of either plotters or planners, ideology or geography. The most archaic societies now begin with our latest electric technology. They by-pass the civilized phase that occupied Western energies for thousands of years and plunge even deeper into their own tribal traditions. The Renaissance or the rebirth of pagan antiquity was the unexpected consequence of demolishing the feudal system. The return of the pagan gods and pagan humanism had not been the objective of any of the reformers. The Luthers and Calvins had sought to purge the church of its accretion of political impurities. Driving toward primal simplicity, they encountered innumerable schisms and doctrinal specialisms as the dominant figure of their actions. The hidden ground was the overwhelming new retrieval of pagan antiquity via print technology. The very technological instrument of individual “inner light” and liberation immersed them in a new environment of merely utilitarian objectives. The hateful siege of contraries. (Milton, Paradise Lost) In our own century the same siege of hateful contraries and dramatic reversals was played out in the Eastern medieval theater of the Romanoffs. The Russians sloughed off the feudal hegemony of the Romanoffs and grasped the latest means of Western organization of industrial production. The slogan was: CATCH UP AND SURPASS! Just when the West was plunging Eastward, and when the enlightened spirits had either booked a passage to India or, like Yeats, were already on the iconic route to Byzantium, cultural anthropologists like Sir James Frazer set out to retrieve the Great Mother and the mythic figures of archaic consciousness. But the anthropologists failed to note that these forms of awareness had become totally pervasive even before the jazz age of the 1920’s. The instant telegraph had established modes of social order that radio broadcasting pushed all the way to Hitler’s ovens. The same cruel paradox involves the American Negro, whose jazz rhythms integrated the cultures of the entire world for the first time in history or before. The same Negro is now expected to “integrate” with the subculture of literacy after having created a universal culture of tribal jazz. James Joyce put it all in a phrase about the heroine of Finnegans Wake. She is Anna Livia Plurabelle, musical mother of all forms, the hidden ground of being:

Essential McLuhan 80 Sheshell ebb music wayriver she flows. The hidden ground and force of the anthropological enterprise, as much as the business world of the consumer-producer, lay in the power of instant electric communication to restore all things to an inclusive present. By involving all men in all men, by the electric extension of their own nervous systems, the new technology turns the figure of the primitive society into a universal ground that buries all previous figures. The naïveté of the anthropologists, “secure” in a civilized literate stockade, is matched again and again by would-be innovators who head for specific goals: ERLE STANLEY GARDNER WORLD’S BIGGEST SELLING WRITER DEAD (Toronto Star, March 12, 1970) The author of Perry Mason often felt the irony of his situation. Having set out to write, that he might have leisure for hunting and fishing, he spent his life dictating to a team of secretaries. The hidden ground of his plight was precisely hunting and fishing. His hero, Perry Mason, is a full-time hunter and fisher of men and clues. The sleuth, the undercover man, is a major posture of the hunter against the new electric ground of the telephone and TV. Man Hunter and Sleuth: Posture and Imposture In one of Sherlock Holmes’s adventures his quarry demurs when Holmes declares that he had seen him at a particular spot. The quarry retorts that “I saw nobody following me there.” And Holmes comments, “That is what you may expect to see when I follow you.” Half the world today is engaged in keeping the other half “under surveillance.” This, in fact, is the hang-up of the age of “software” and information. In the preceding “hardware” age the “haves” of the world had kept the “have-nots” under “surveillance.” This old beat for flatfoots has now been relegated to the world of popular entertainment. The police state is no work of art, a bureaucratic ballet of undulating sirens. That is a way of seeing that the espionage activities of our multitudinous man hunters “crediting” agencies are not only archaic, but redundant and irrelevant. GALLUPING ESPIONAGE CREATES THE UNPERSON! THE MAN THAT NEVER WAS POSTURE AND IMPOSTURE AS WAYS OF LIFE NOW MERGE IN THE GLOBAL THEATER

II Print and the Electric Revolution

7 Media and Cultural Change For anyone acquainted with poetry since Baudelaire and with painting since Cézanne, the later world of Harold A.Innis is quite readily intelligible. He brought their kinds of contemporary awareness of the electric age to organize the data of the historian and the social scientists. Without having studied modern art and poetry, he yet discovered how to arrange his insights in patterns that nearly resemble the art forms of our time. Innis presents his insights in a mosaic structure of seemingly unrelated and disproportioned sentences and aphorisms. Such is page 108, for example, with its scholarly footnote that will certainly bear looking into. Anybody who has looked up the reference material that Innis cites so frequently, will be struck by the skill with which he has extracted exciting facts from dull expositions. He explored his source material with a “geiger counter,” as it were. In turn, he presents his finds in a pattern of insights that are not packaged for the consumer palate. He expects the reader to make discovery after discovery that he himself had missed. His view of the departmentalized specialisms of our Universities as ignoble monopolies of knowledge is expressed on page 194: “Finally we must keep in mind the limited role of Universities and recall the comment that ‘the whole external history of science is a history of the resistance of academies and Universities to the progress of knowledge.’” One can say of Innis what Bertrand Russell said of Einstein on the first page of his A B C of Relativity (1925): “Many of the new ideas can be expressed in non-mathematical language, but they are none the less difficult on that account. What is demanded is a change in our imaginative picture of the world.” The “later Innis” who dominates The Bias of Communication had set out on a quest for the causes of change. The “early Innis” of The Fur Trade in Canada had conformed a good deal to the conventional patterns of merely reporting and narrating change. Only at the conclusion of the fur trade study did he venture to interlace or link complex events in a way that reveals the causal processes of change. His insight that the American Revolution was in large part due to a clash between the interests of the settlers on one hand and the interests of the fur traders on the other is the sort of vision that becomes typical of the later Innis. He changed his procedure from working with a “point of view” to that of the generating of insights by the method of “interface,” as it is named in chemistry. “Interface” refers to the interaction of substances in a kind of mutual irritation. In art and poetry this is precisely the technique

Media and cultural change 83 of “symbolism” (Greek “symballein”—to throw together) with its paratactic procedure of juxtaposing without connectives. It is the natural form of conversation or dialogue rather than of written discourse. In writing, the tendency is to isolate an aspect of some matter and to direct steady attention upon that aspect. In dialogue there is an equally natural interplay of multiple aspects of any matter. This interplay of aspects can generate insights or discovery. By contrast, a point of view is merely a way of looking at something. But an insight is the sudden awareness of a complex process of interaction. An insight is a contact with the life of forms. Students of computer programming have had to learn how to approach all knowledge structurally. In order to transfer any kind of knowledge to tapes it is necessary to understand the form of that knowledge. This has led to the discovery of the basic difference between classified knowledge and pattern recognition. It is a helpful distinction to keep in mind when reading Innis since he is above all a recognizer of patterns. Dr. Kenneth Sayre explains the matter as follows in his The Modelling of Mind (University of Notre Dame Press, 1963), p. 17: “Classification is a process, something which takes up one’s time, which one might do reluctantly, unwillingly, or enthusiastically, which can be done with more or less success, done very well or very poorly. Recognition, in sharp contrast, is not time-consuming. A person may spend a long while looking before recognition occurs, but when it occurs it is “instantaneous.” When recognition occurs, it is not an act which would be said to be performed either reluctantly or enthusiastically, compliantly or under protest. Moreover, the notion of recognition being unsuccessful, or having been done very poorly, seems to make no sense at all.” In this book Innis has much to say about the oral as opposed to the written methods of approaching the learning process. In the paper titled “A Critical Review” he explains: “My bias is with the oral tradition, particularly as reflected in Greek civilization, and with the necessity of recapturing something of its spirit.” (p. 190) E.A.Havelock, a former colleague of Innis, has recently devoted an entire study to the clash of the old oral and the new written culture of Greece. His Preface to Plato (Harvard, 1963) would have delighted Innis, and there are very many sentences in Innis which should become the subject of such full investigations. I am pleased to think of my own book The Gutenberg Galaxy (University of Toronto Press, 1962) as a footnote to the observations of Innis on the subject of the psychic and social consequences, first of writing and then of printing. Flattered by the attention that Innis had directed to some work of mine, I turned for the first time to his work. It was my good fortune to begin with the first essay in this book: “Minerva’s Owl.” How exciting it was to encounter a writer whose every phrase invited prolonged meditation and exploration: “Alexandria broke the link

Essential McLuhan 84 between science and philosophy. The library was an imperial instrument to offset the influence of Egyptian priesthood.” (p. 10) Innis takes much time to read if he is read on his own terms. That he deserves to be read on his own terms becomes obvious as soon as that experiment is tried even once. So read, he takes time but he also saves time. Each sentence is a compressed monograph. He includes a small library on each page, and often incorporates a small library of references on the same page in addition. If the business of the teacher is to save the student’s time, Innis is one of the greatest teachers on record. The two sentences just quoted imply and invite an awareness of the specific structural forms of science and philosophy as well as of the structural nature and functions of empires, libraries, and priesthoods. Most writers are occupied in providing accounts of the contents of philosophy, science, libraries, empires, and religions. Innis invites us instead to consider the formalities of power exerted by these structures in their mutual interaction. He approaches each of these forms of organized power as exercising a particular kind of force upon each of the other components in the complex. All of the components exist by virtue of processes going on within each and among them all. Just what “science” or “philosophy” was at this time will be manifested by what each does to the other in their encounter in the social and historic process. And so with the other components. They explain themselves by their behaviour in a historic action. Innis had hit upon the means of using history as the physicist uses the cloud chamber. By bouncing the unknown form against known forms, he discovered the nature of the new or little known form. This use of history as a scientific laboratory, as a set of controlled conditions within which to study the life and nature of forms, is very far removed from the conventional narrative of a Toynbee. Toynbee is like the announcer of a sporting event. He tells a good deal about what is happening. His tone of earnest concern indicates to the reader or listener that the events have some significance. In the same situation Innis would have observed that the form of the sporting event was an interesting model of perception, giving us an immediate image of the motives and patterns of the society that had invented this corporate extension of itself. He would then explain that his role of announcer, like that of the audience at the sporting event, was part of the structure of the game, having a distorting bias of perception and amplification that gave the game in question a great deal of political and commercial force. As soon as the reader grasps that Innis is concerned with the unique power of each form to alter the action of other forms it encounters, he will be able to proceed as Innis did. He can begin to observe and estimate the action and counteraction of forms past and present. He will discover that Innis never repeats himself, but that he never ceases to test the action of oral forms of knowledge and social organization in different social contexts. Innis tests the oral form as it reacts in many different written

Media and cultural change 85 cultures, just as he tests the effects of time-structured institutions in their varieties of contact with space-oriented societies. It would be a mistake to suppose that Innis has garnered most of the available insights from any given historical test that he happens to run. In the same way, he is quite capable of inaccurate observation during the running of his tests of the interactions of social forms, though this in no way impairs the validity of his way of testing the structural properties of social forms. For example, he notes that: “The Greeks took over the alphabet and made it a flexible instrument suited to the demands of a flexible oral tradition by the creation of words.” (p. 7) The alphabet is a technology of visual fragmentation and specialism, and it led the Greeks quickly to the discovery of classifiable data. Havelock clarifies this at length in his Preface to Plato. As long as the oral culture was not overpowered by the technological extension of the visual power in the alphabet, there was a very rich cultural result from the interplay of the oral and written forms. The revival of oral culture in our own electric age now exists in a similar fecund relation with the still powerful written and visual culture. We are in our century “winding the tape backwards.” The Greeks went from oral to written even as we are moving from written to oral. They “ended” in a desert of classified data even as we could “end” in a new tribal encyclopedia of auditory incantation. Innis sometimes mistook the interplay of written and oral forms, ascribing to the written form itself what was a hybrid product of its interaction with oral culture: “The alphabet borrowed from the Phoenicians was given vowels and adapted to the demands of speech. The ear replaced the eye. With the spread of writing the oral tradition developed fresh powers of resistance evident in the flowering of Greek culture in the sixth and fifth centuries.” (p. 136) Had Innis made a more intense analysis of the visual modalities inherent in the phonetic alphabet, or a more thorough study of the dynamics of oral forms, he would have avoided some of these slips. But the method he discovered remains. He had discovered a means of using historical situations as a lab in which to test the character of technology in the shaping of cultures. Innis taught us how to use the bias of culture and communication as an instrument of research. By directing attention to the bias or distorting power of the dominant imagery and technology of any culture, he showed us how to understand cultures. Many scholars had made us aware of the “difficulty of assessing the quality of a culture of which we are a part or of assessing the quality of a culture of which we are not a part.” (p. 132) Innis was perhaps the first to make of this vulnerable fact of all scholarly outlook the prime opportunity for research and discovery. Peter F.Drucker in Managing for Results (Harper and Row, 1964) has shown how in any human organization or situation 90 per cent of the events are caused by 10 per cent. Most human attention is allocated to the 90 per cent area which is the area of problems. The 10 per cent area is the area of irritation and also of opportunity. It was the genius of Harold Innis that refused to be

Essential McLuhan 86 distracted by the 90 per cent area of problems. He went straight to the 10 per cent core of opportunity and sought insight into the causes that underlay the whole situation. For example, he writes: “We are perhaps too much a part of the civilization which followed the printing industry to be able to detect its characteristics. Education in the words of Laski became the art of teaching men to be deceived by the printed word.” (p. 139) Once Innis had ascertained the dominant technology of a culture he could be sure that this was the cause and shaping force of the entire structure. He could also be sure that this dominant form and all its causal powers were necessarily masked from the attention of that culture by a psychic mechanism of “protective inhibition” as it were. At a stroke he had solved two major problems that are forever beyond the power of the “nose-counters” and of statistical researchers. First, he knew what the pattern of any culture had to be, both physically and socially, as soon as he had identified its major technological achievements. Second, he knew exactly what the members of that culture would be ignorant of in their daily lives. What has been called “the nemesis of creativity” is precisely a blindness to the effects of one’s most significant form of invention. A good example of this technological blindness in Innis himself was his mistake in regarding radio and electric technology as a further extension of the patterns of mechanical technology: “The radio appealed to vast areas, overcame the division between classes in its escape from literacy, and favoured centralization and bureaucracy.” (p. 82) Again: “Competition from the new medium, the radio involved an appeal to the ear rather than to the eye and consequently an emphasis on centralization.” (p. 188) This is an example of Innis failing to be true to his own method. After many historical demonstrations of the space- binding power of the eye and the time-binding power of the ear, Innis refrains from applying these structural principles of the action of radio. Suddenly, he shifts the ear world of radio into the visual orbit, attributing to radio all the centralizing powers of the eye and of visual culture. Here Innis was misled by the ordinary consensus of his time. Electric light and power, like all electric media, are profoundly decentralizing and separatist in their psychic and social consequences. Had he not been hypnotized by his respect for the pervasive conventional view on this question, Innis could have worked out the new electric pattern of culture quite easily. What is rare in Innis occurs in his mention of the views of Wyndham Lewis: “Wyndham Lewis has argued that the fashionable mind is the time-denying mind.” He is referring to Time and Western Man which is devoted to a denunciation of the obsession with time as a religious mystique in the work of Bergson, Alexander, Whitehead, and others. Because of his own deep concern with the values of tradition and temporal continuity, Innis has managed to misread Wyndham Lewis radically. Earlier, in the same essay, “A Plea for Time,” he raises an issue that may bear on the occasional miscarriage of his own structural method of analysis. Speaking of the unfortunate effects of the extreme impact of

Media and cultural change 87 print development on our twentieth century culture, he observes: “Communication based on the eye in terms of printing and photography had developed a monopoly which threatened to destroy Western civilization first in war and then in peace.” (p. 80) Innis did not like monopolies in any form. He saw that they bred violent reactions: “The disastrous effect of the monopoly of communication based on the eye hastened the development of a competitive type of communication based on the ear, in the radio and in the linking of sound to the cinema and to television. Printed material gave way in effectiveness to the broadcast and to the loud speaker.” (p. 81) What Innis has failed to do in this part of his essay is to make a structural analysis of the modalities of the visual and the audible. He is merely assuming that an extension of information in space has a centralizing power regardless of the human faculty that is amplified and extended. But whereas the visual power extended by print does indeed extend the means to organize a spatial continuum, the auditory power extended electrically does in effect abolish space and time alike. Visual technology creates a centre-margin pattern of organization whether by literacy or by industry and a price system. But electric technology is instant and omnipresent and creates multiple centres-with- out-margins. Visual technology whether by literacy or by industry creates nations as spatially uniform and homogeneous and connected. But electric technology creates not the nation but the tribe—not the superficial association of equals but the cohesive depth pattern of the totally involved kinship groups. Visual technologies, whether based on papyrus or paper, foster fragmentation and specialism, armies, and empires. Electric technology favours not the fragmentary but the integral, not the mechanical but the organic. It had not occurred to Innis that electricity is in effect an extension of the nervous system as a kind of global membrane. As an economic historian he had such a rich experience of the technological extensions of the bodily powers that it is not surprising that he failed to note the character of this most recent and surprising of human extensions. There is one department in which Innis never fails, and in which the flavour of Inniscence is never lost—his humour. Humour is of the essence of his aphoristic association of incongruities. His technique of discovery by the juxtaposition of forms lends itself everywhere to a series of dramatic surprises. On page 77 in the midst of considering the revolt of the American colonies and nineteenth century wars he suddenly observes a parallel with the press wars of Hearst and Pulitzer as related to the emergence of the comic strip. He is unrivalled in his power to discover choice items in contemporary history to illuminate grave matters of archaeology. Referring to the neglect of the horse as a factor in military history, he recalls that “E.J.Dillon remarked concerning a mounted policeman that he was always surprised by the look of intelligence on the horse’s face.” (p. 95) The mosaic structure of insights employed in the work of the later Innis is never far removed from the comic irony of an

Essential McLuhan 88 Abraham Lincoln. Innis found that his technique of insight engendered a perpetual entertainment of surprises and intellectual comedy. To record the intellectual influences that shaped the work of Innis would be a large, if rewarding, task. His studies at the University of Chicago after the First World War occurred at a most favourable time. The work of Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and John Dewey had fecundated a new group of economic and social studies that flowered in the writings of Thorstein Veblen, George Herbert Mead, and Robert Ezra Park. These men created an atmosphere at Chicago in the 1920’s that attracted and inspired many able students. Most of these men had, like Innis, spent their youth in small towns. The speedy growth of the metropolis after the first war presented an inexhaustible subject for these sociologists, and much of their work was directed to urban study and analysis, using the small town as a basis for comparison and contrast. Innis tended to follow another pattern, though, as we shall see, he was deeply in debt to Robert Ezra Park. Durkheim, the late nineteenth century founder of analytic sociology, dealt with whole populations. The Chicago school dealt with local communities. Innis is European rather than American in his choice of the larger themes. From Park, however, he learned how to identify the control mechanisms by which a heterogeneous community yet manages to arrange its affairs with some degree of uniformity. Perhaps Innis was aided in this choice by his familiarity with the staple economy of Canada. A semi-industrialized country, rich in major resources like wheat, lumber, minerals, fur, fish, and wood pulp has a peculiar economic and social life compared to a more diversified and developed economy. Innis seized the opportunity to deal with this unique pattern of a staple economy and was not led to follow the popular pattern of urban studies that was being pursued by the exciting and productive Chicago group. I suggest that Innis made the further transition from the history of staples to the history of the media of communication quite naturally. Media are major resources like economic staples. In fact, without railways, the staples of wheat and lumber can scarcely be said to exist. Without the press and the magazine, wood pulp could not exist as a staple either. In May, 1940, the Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science published an article by Robert Park entitled “Physics and Society” (reprinted in Society by Robert Ezra Park [Free Press of Glencoe, 1955], pp. 301–21). Park began by citing Walter Bagehot to the effect that society is a social organism maintained by a social process. The theme of his essay is recapitulated this way: “I have gone into some detail in my description of the role and function of communication because it is so obviously fundamental to the social process, and because extensions and improvements which the physical sciences have made to the means of communications are so vital to the existence of society and particularly to that more rationally organized form of society we call civilization.” (Society, p. 314)

Media and cultural change 89 The ideas of Park seem to have appealed more to the mind of Harold Innis than to any other student of Robert Park. Anybody can hear the Innis note in such observations by Park as the following: “Technological devices have naturally changed men’s habits and in doing so, they have necessarily modified the structure and functions of society.” (p. 308) Again: “From this point of view it seems that every technical device, from the wheelbarrow to the aeroplane, in so far as it provided a new and more effective means of locomotion, has, or should have, marked an epoch in society. This is so far true as most other important changes in the means of transportation and communication. It is said likewise that every civilization carries in itself the seeds of its own destruction. Such seeds are likely to be the technical devices that introduce a new social order and usher out an old.” (Society, pp. 309–10) In the same year as his “Physics and Society” article, Park published “News as a Form of Knowledge”: “I have indicated the role which news plays in the world of politics in so far as it provides the basis for the discussions in which public opinion is formed. The news plays quite as important a role in the world of economic relations, since the price of commodities, including money and securities, as registered in the world market and in every local market dependent upon it, is based on the news.” (p. 86) These ideas were not lost on Harold Innis. Indeed, Innis developed them much further than Park did, and should be considered as the most eminent of the Chicago group headed by Robert Park.

8 The Gutenberg Galaxy Prologue The present volume is in many respects complementary to The Singer of Tales by Albert B.Lord. Professor Lord has continued the work of Milman Parry, whose Homeric studies had led him to consider how oral and written poetry naturally followed diverse patterns and functions. Convinced that the poems of Homer were oral compositions, Parry “set himself the task of proving incontrovertibly if it were possible, the oral character of the poems, and to that end he turned to the study of the Yugoslav epics.” His study of these modern epics was, he explained, “to fix with exactness the form of oral story poetry…. Its method was to observe singers working in a thriving tradition of unlettered song and see how the form of their songs hangs upon their having to learn and practice their art without reading and writing.”1 Professor Lord’s book, like the studies of Milman Parry, is quite natural and appropriate to our electric age, as The Gutenberg Galaxy may help to explain. We are today as far into the electric age as the Elizabethans had advanced into the typographical and mechanical age. And we are experiencing the same confusions and indecisions which they had felt when living simultaneously in two contrasted forms of society and experience. Whereas the Elizabethans were poised between medieval corporate experience and modern individualism, we reverse their pattern by confronting an electric technology which would seem to render individualism obsolete and the corporate interdependence mandatory. Patrick Cruttwell had devoted an entire study (The Shakespearean Moment) to the artistic strategies born of the Elizabethan experience of living in a divided world that was dissolving and resolving at the same time. We, too, live at such a moment of interplay of contrasted cultures, and The Gutenberg Galaxy is intended to trace the ways in which the forms of experience and of mental outlook and expression have been modified, first by the phonetic alphabet and then by printing. The enterprise which Milman Parry undertook with reference to the contrasted forms of oral and written poetry is here extended to the forms of thought and the organization of experience in society and politics. That such a study of the divergent nature of oral and written social organization has not been 1 Quoted in The Singer of Tales, p. 3.

The gutenberg galaxy 91 carried out by historians long ago is rather hard to explain. Perhaps the reason for the omission is simply that the job could only be done when the two conflicting forms of written and oral experience were once again co- existent as they are today. Professor Harry Levin indicates as much in his preface to Professor Lord’s The Singer of Tales (p. xiii): The term “literature” presupposing the use of letters, assumes that verbal works of imagination are transmitted by means of writing and reading. The expression “oral literature” is obviously a contradiction in terms. Yet we live at a time when literacy itself has become so diluted that it can scarcely be invoked as an esthetic criterion. The Word as spoken or sung, together with a visual image of the speaker or singer, has meanwhile been regaining its hold through electrical engineering. A culture based upon the printed book, which has prevailed from the Renaissance until lately, has bequeathed to us—along with its immeasurable riches—snobberies which ought to be cast aside. We ought to take a fresh look at tradition, considered not as the inert acceptance of a fossilized corpus of themes and conventions, but as an organic habit of re-creating what has been received and is handed on. The omission of historians to study the revolution in the forms of thought and social organization resulting from the phonetic alphabet has a parallel in socio-economic history. As early as 1864–67 Karl Rodbertus elaborated his theory of “Economic Life in Classical Antiquity.” In Trade and Market in the Early Empires (p. 5), Harry Pearson describes his innovation as follows: This remarkably modern view of the social function of money has not been sufficiently appreciated. Rodbertus realized that the transition from a “natural economy” to a “money economy” was not simply a technical matter, which resulted from a substitution of money purchase for barter. He insisted instead that a monetarized economy involved a social structure entirely different from that which went with an economy in kind. It was this change in the social structure accompanying the use of money rather than the technical fact of its use which ought to be emphasized, he thought. Had this point been expanded to include the varying social structures accompanying trading activity in the ancient world the controversy might have been resolved before it began.

Essential McLuhan 92 In other words, had Rodbertus further explained that different forms of money and exchange structured societies in varying ways, generations of confused controversy might have been avoided. The matter was finally explained when Karl Bucher approached the classical world not from our conventional mode of historical retrospect but from the primitive side. By starting with non-literate societies and moving toward the classical world, “he suggested that ancient economic life might better be understood if viewed from the perspective of primitive rather than modern society.”2 Such a reverse perspective of the literate Western world is the one afforded to the reader of Albert Lord’s Singer of Tales. But we also live in an electric or postliterate time when the jazz musician uses all the techniques of oral poetry. Empathic identification with all the oral modes is not difficult in our century. In the electronic age which succeeds the typographic and mechanical era of the past five hundred years, we encounter new shapes and structures of human interdependence and of expression which are “oral” in form even when the components of the situation may be non-verbal. This question is raised more fully in the concluding section of The Gutenberg Galaxy. It is not a difficult matter in itself, but it does call for some reorganization of imaginative life. Such a change of modes of awareness is always delayed by the persistence of older patterns of perception. The Elizabethans appear to our gaze as very medieval. Medieval man thought of himself as classical, just as we consider ourselves to be modern men. To our successors, however, we shall appear as utterly Renaissance in character, and quite unconscious of the major new factors which we have set in motion during the past one hundred and fifty years. Far from being deterministic, however, the present study will, it is hoped, elucidate a principal factor in social change which may lead to a genuine increase in human autonomy. Peter Drucker writing on “The Technological Revolution” of our time in Technology and Culture (vol. II, no. 4, 1961, p. 348) states: “There is only one thing we do not know about the Technological Revolution—but it is essential: What happened to bring about the basic change in attitudes, beliefs, and values which released it? ‘Scientific progress’, I have tried to show, had little to do with it. But how responsible was the great change in world outlook which, a century earlier, had brought about the great Scientific Revolution?” The Gutenberg Galaxy at least attempts to supply the “one thing we do not know.” But even so, there may well prove to be some other things! The method employed throughout this study is directly related to what Claude Bernard presented in his classic introduction to The Study of Experimental Medicine. Observation, Bernard explains (pp. 8–9) consists in noting phenomena without disturbing them, but: “Experiment, according to the same physiologists, implies, on the contrary, the idea of a variation or disturbance that an investigator brings into the conditions of natural phenomena…. To do this, we suppress an organ in the living subject, by a section or ablation; and from the disturbance produced in the

The gutenberg galaxy 93 whole organism or in a special function, we deduce the function of the missing organ.” The work of Milman Parry and Professor Albert Lord was directed to 2 Trade and Market in the Early Empires, p. 5. observing the entire poetic process under oral conditions, and in contrasting that result with the poetic process which we under written conditions, assume as “normal.” Parry and Lord, that is, studied the poetic organism when the auditory function was suppressed by literacy. They might also have considered the effect on the organism when the visual function of language was given extraordinary extension and power by literacy. And this is a factor in the experimental method which may have been overlooked just because it was inconvenient to manage. But given intense and exaggerated action, “the disturbance produced in the whole organism or in a special function” is equally observable. Man the tool-making animal, whether in speech or in writing or in radio, has long been engaged in extending one or another of his sense organs in such a manner as to disturb all of his other senses and faculties. But having made these experiments, men have consistently omitted to follow them with observations. J.Z.Young, writing on Doubt and Certainty in Science, notes (pp. 67– 8): The effect of stimulations, external or internal, is to break up the unison of action of some part or the whole of the brain. A speculative suggestion is that the disturbance in some way breaks the unity of the actual pattern that has been previously built up in the brain. The brain then selects those features from the input that tend to repair the model and to return the cells to their regular synchronous beating. I cannot pretend to be able to develop this idea of models in our brain in detail, but it has great possibilities in showing how we tend to fit ourselves to the world and the world to ourselves. In some way the brain initiates sequences of actions that tend to return it to its rhythmic pattern, this return being the act of consummation, or completion. If the first action performed fails to do this, fails that is to stop the original disturbance, then other sequences may be tried. The brain runs through its rules one after another, matching the input with its various models until somehow unison is achieved. This may perhaps only be after strenuous, varied, and prolonged searching. During this random activity further connexions and action patterns are formed and they in turn will determine future sequences.

Essential McLuhan 94 The inevitable drive for “closure,” “completion,” or equilibrium occurs both with the suppression and the extension of human sense or function. Since The Gutenberg Galaxy is a series of historical observations of the new cultural completions ensuing upon the “disturbances,” first of literacy, and then of printing, the statement of an anthropologist may assist the reader at this point: Today man has developed extensions for practically everything he used to do with his body. The evolution of weapons begins with the teeth and the fist and ends with the atom bomb. Clothes and houses are extensions of man’s biological temperature-control mechanisms. Furniture takes the place of squatting and sitting on the ground. Power tools, glasses, TV, telephones, and books which carry the voice across both time and space are examples of material extensions. Money is a way of extending and storing labor. Our transportation networks now do what we used to do with our feet and backs. In fact, all man-made material things can be treated as extensions of what man once did with his body or some specialized part of his body.3 That outering or uttering of sense which is language and speech is a tool which “made it possible for man to accumulate experience and knowledge in a form that made easy transmission and maximum use possible.”4 Language is metaphor in the sense that it not only stores but translates experience from one mode into another. Money is metaphor in the sense that it stores skill and labour and also translates one skill into another. But the principle of exchange and translation, or metaphor, is in our rational power to translate all of our senses into one another. This we do every instant of our lives. But the price we pay for special technological tools, whether the wheel or the alphabet or radio, is that these massive extensions of sense constitute closed systems. Our private senses are not closed systems but are endlessly translated into each other in that experience which we call con-sciousness. Our extended senses, tools, technologies, through the ages, have been closed systems incapable of interplay or collective awareness. Now, in the electric age, the very instantaneous nature of co-existence among our technological instruments has created a crisis quite new in human history. Our extended faculties and senses now constitute a single field of experience which demands that they become collectively conscious. Our technologies, like our private senses, now demand an interplay and ratio that makes rational co- existence possible. As long as our technologies were as slow as the wheel or the alphabet or money, the fact that they were separate, closed systems was socially and psychically supportable. This is not true now when sight and sound and movement are simultaneous and global in extent. A ratio of

The gutenberg galaxy 95 interplay among these extensions of our human functions is now as necessary collectively as it has always been for our private and personal rationality in terms of our private senses or “wits,” as they were once called. Hitherto historians of culture have tended to isolate technological events much in the way that classical physics dealt with physical events. Louis de Broglie, describing The Revolution in Physics, makes much of this limitation of the Cartesian and Newtonian procedures which are so near those of the historians using an individual “point of view” (p. 14): Faithful to the Cartesian ideal, classical physics showed us the universe as being analogous to an immense mechanism which was capable of being described with 3 Edward T.Hall, The Silent Language, p. 79. 4 Leslie A.White, The Science of Culture, p. 240. complete precision by the localization of its parts in space and by their change in the course of time…. But such a conception rested on several implicit hypotheses which were admitted almost without our being aware of them. One of these hypotheses was that the framework of space and time in which we seek almost instinctively to localize all of our sensations is a perfectly rigid and fixed framework where each physical event can, in principle, be rigorously localized independently of all the dynamic processes which are going on around it. We shall see how not only Cartesian but Euclidean perceptions are constituted by the phonetic alphabet. And the revolution that de Broglie describes is a derivative not of the alphabet but of the telegraph and of radio. J.Z.Young, a biologist, makes the same point as de Broglie. Having explained that electricity is not a thing that “flows” but is “the condition we observe when there are certain spatial relations between things,” he explains (p. 111): Something similar has happened as physicists have devised ways of measuring very small distances. It has been found no longer possible to use the old model of supposing that what was being done was to divide up something called matter into a series of bits, each with definite properties called size, weight, or position. Physicists do not now say that matter ‘is made’ of bodies called atoms, protons, electrons, and so on. What they have done is to give up the materialist method of describing their observations in terms of something made as by a human process of

Essential McLuhan 96 manufacture, like a cake. The word atom or electron is not used as the name of a piece. It is used as part of the description of the observations of physicists. It has no meaning except as used by people who know the experiments by which it is revealed. And, he adds, “it is important to realize that great changes in ways of ordinary human speaking and acting are bound up with the adoption of new instruments.” Had we meditated on such a basic fact as that long ago, we might easily have mastered the nature and effects of all our technologies, instead of being pushed around by them. At any rate, The Gutenberg Galaxy is a prolonged meditation on that theme of J.Z.Young. Nobody has been more conscious of the futility of our closed systems of historical writing than Abbot Payson Usher. His classic, A History of Mechanical Inventions, is an explanation of why such closed systems cannot make contact with the facts of historical change: “The cultures of antiquity do not fit the patterns of the linear sequences of social and economic evolution developed by the German Historical Schools…. If linear concepts of development are abandoned and the development of civilization is viewed frankly as a multilinear process much can be done toward the understanding of the history of Western culture as a progressive integration of many separate elements” (pp. 30–1). A historical “point of view” is a kind of closed system that is closely related to typography, and flourishes where the unconscious effects of literacy flourish without countervailing cultural forces. Alexis de Tocqueville, whose literacy was much modified by his oral culture, seems to us now to have had a kind of clairvoyance concerning the patterns of change in the France and America of his time. He did not have a point of view, a fixed position from which he filled in a visual perspective of events. Rather he sought the operative dynamic in his data: But if I go further and seek among these characteristics the principal one, which includes almost all the rest, I discover that in most of the operations of the mind each American appeals only to the individual effort of his own understanding. America is therefore one of the countries where the precepts of Descartes are least studied and are best applied…. Everyone shuts himself tightly up within himself and insists upon judging the world from there.5 His skill in creating interplay between the written and oral modes of perceptual structure enabled de Tocqueville to achieve “scientific” insights into psychology and politics. By this interplay of two modes of perception he achieved prophetic understanding while other observers

The gutenberg galaxy 97 were merely expressing their private view-points. De Tocqueville knew well that typographic literacy had not only produced the Cartesian outlook but also the special traits of American psychology and politics. By his method of interplay among divergent perceptual modes, de Tocqueville was able to react to his world, not in sections but as a whole, and as to an open field. And such is the method which A.P.Usher notes has been absent from the study of cultural history and change. De Tocqueville had employed a procedure such as J.Z.Young describes (p. 77): “It may be that a great part of the secret of the brain’s powers is the enormous opportunity provided for interaction between the effects of stimulating each part of the receiving fields. It is this provision of interacting-places or mixing-places that allows us to react to the world as a whole to much greater degree than other animals can do.” But our technologies are by no means uniformly favourable to this organic function of interplay and of interdependence. To investigate this question with respect to alphabetic and typographic culture is the task of the present book. And it is today a quest which cannot but be undertaken in the light of new technologies which deeply affect the traditional operation and achieved values of alphabetic literacy and typographic culture. There is a recent work that seems to me to release me from the onus of mere eccentricity and novelty in the present study. It is The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl R.Popper, a work devoted to the study of aspects of 5 Democracy in America, part II, book I, chap. I. detribalization in the ancient world and of retribalization in the modern world. For the “open society” was effected by phonetic literacy, as will shortly appear, and is now threatened with eradication by electric media, as will be discussed in the conclusion of this study. Needless to say, the “is,” rather than the “ought,” of all these developments, is alone being discussed. Diagnosis and description must precede valuation and therapy. To substitute moral valuation for diagnosis is a natural and common enough procedure, but not necessarily a fruitful one. Karl Popper devotes the first part of his large study to the detribalization of ancient Greece and the reaction to it. But neither in Greece nor in the modern world does he give any consideration to the dynamics of our technologically extended senses as factors either in the opening or closing of societies. His descriptions and analyses follow an economic and political point of view. The passage below is especially relevant to The Gutenberg Galaxy because it begins with the interplay of cultures via commerce and ends with the dissolution of the tribal state, even as it is dramatized by Shakespeare in King Lear. It is Popper’s view that tribal or closed societies have a biological unity and that “our modern open societies function largely by way of abstract relations, such as exchange of co-operation.” That the abstracting or

Essential McLuhan 98 opening of closed societies is the work of the phonetic alphabet, and not of any other form of writing or technology, is one theme of The Gutenberg Galaxy. On the other hand, that closed societies are the product of speech, drum, and ear technologies, brings us at the opening of the electronic age to the sealing of the entire human family into a single global tribe. And this electronic revolution is only less confusing for men of the open societies than the revolution of phonetic literacy which stripped and streamlined the old tribal or closed societies. Popper offers no analysis of the causes of such change, but he does give (p. 172) a description of the situation that is very relevant to The Gutenberg Galaxy: By the sixth century B.C., this development had led to the partial dissolution of the old ways of life, and even to a series of political revolutions and reactions. And it had led not only to attempts to retain and to arrest tribalism by force, as in Sparta, but also to that great spiritual revolution, the invention of critical discussion, and in consequence of thought that was free from magical obsessions. At the same time we find the first symptoms of a new uneasiness. The strain of civilization was beginning to be felt. This strain, this uneasiness, is a consequence of the breakdown of the closed society. It is still felt even in our day, especially in times of social change. It is the strain created by the effort which life in an open and partially abstract society continually demands from us—by the endeavor to be rational, to forego at least some of our emotional social needs, to look after ourselves, and to accept responsibilities. We must, I believe, bear this strain as the price to be paid for every increase in knowledge, in reasonableness in co-operation and in mutual help, and consequently in our chances of survival, and in the size of the population. It is the price we have to pay for being human. The strain is most closely related to the problem of the tension between the classes which is raised for the first time by the breakdown of the closed society. The closed society itself does not know this problem. At least to its ruling members, slavery, caste, and class rule are ‘natural’ in the sense of being unquestionable. But with the breakdown of the closed society, this certainty disappears, and with it all feeling of security. The tribal community (and later the ‘city’) is the place of security for the member of the tribe. Surrounded by enemies and by dangerous or even hostile magical forces, he experiences the tribal community as a child experiences his family and his home,

The gutenberg galaxy 99 in which he plays his definite part; a part he knows well, and plays well. The breakdown of the closed society, raising as it does the problem of class and other problems of social status, must have had the same effect upon the citizens as a serious family quarrel and the breaking up of the family home is liable to have on children. Of course, this kind of strain was felt by the privileged classes, now that they were threatened, more strongly than by those who had formerly been suppressed; but even the latter felt uneasy. They also were frightened by the breakdown of their ‘natural’ world. And though they continued to fight their struggle, they were often reluctant to exploit their victories over their class enemies who were supported by tradition, the status quo, a higher level of education, and a feeling of natural authority. These observations lead us straight on to a consideration of King Lear and the great family quarrel in which the sixteenth century found itself involved early in the Gutenberg Era. The Gutenberg Galaxy When King Lear proposes “our darker purpose” as the subdivision of his kingdom, he is expressing a politically daring and avant-garde intent for the early seventeenth century: Only we still retain The name, and all th’ additions to a king. The sway, Revenue, execution of the rest, Beloved sons, be yours; which to confirm, This coronet part betwixt you.1 Lear is proposing an extremely modern idea of delegation of authority from centre to margins. His “darker purpose” would have been recognized at once as left-wing Machiavellianism by an Elizabethan audience. The new patterns of power and organization which have been discussed during the preceding century were now, in the early seventeenth century, being felt at all levels of social and private life. King Lear is a presentation of the new strategy of culture and power as it affects the state, the family, and the individual psyche:

Essential McLuhan 100 Meantime we shall express our darker purpose. Give me the map there. Know we have divided In three our kingdom… The map was also a novelty in the sixteenth century, age of Mercator’s projection, and was key to the new vision of peripheries of power and wealth. Columbus had been a cartographer before he was a navigator; and the discovery that it was possible to continue in a straight-line course, as if space were uniform and continuous, was a major shift in human awareness in the Renaissance. More important, the map brings forward at once a principal theme of King Lear, namely the isolation of the visual sense as a kind of blindness. It is in the first scene of the play that Lear expresses his “darker purpose,” using the Machiavellian cant term. Earlier in the first scene the darkness of Nature, as it were, is shown in the boasting of Gloucester about the illegitimacy 1 The Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. G.L.Kittredge. All quotations from King Lear, unless otherwise noted, are from Act I, scene i. Kittredge’s edition is cited throughout. of his handsome love-child Edmunch “But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year older than this, who is yet no dearer in my account.” The gaiety with which Gloucester alludes to the begetting of Edmund is later alluded to by Edgar: The dark and vicious place where thee he got Cost him his eyes. (V, iii) Edmund, the love-child, opens the second scene of the play with: Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law My services are bound. Wherefore should I Stand in the plague of custom, and permit The curiosity of nations to deprive me, For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines Lag of a brother? Edmund has l’esprit de quantité so essential to tactile measurement and to the impersonality of the empirical mind. Edmund is presented as a force of nature, eccentric to mere human experience and “the curiosity of nations.” He is a prime agent in the fragmentation of human institutions. But the great fragmenter is Lear himself, with his inspired idea of setting

The gutenberg galaxy 101 up a constitutional monarchy by means of delegating by authority. His plan for himself is that he become a specialist: Only we still retain “The name, and all th’ additions to a King.” Following his specialist cue, Goneril and Regan leap into the act of filial devotion with specialist and competitive intensity. It is Lear who fragments them by insisting on a divisive eulogistic competition: Tell me, my daughters (Since now we will divest us, both of rule, Interest of territory, cares of state), Which of you shall we say doth love us most? That we our largest bounty may extend Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril Our eldest-born, speak first. Competitive individualism had become the scandal of a society long invested with corporate and collective values. The role played by print in instituting new patterns of culture is not unfamiliar. But one natural consequence of the specializing action of the new forms of knowledge was that all kinds of power took on a strongly centralist character. Whereas the role of the feudal monarch had been inclusive, the king actually including in himself all his subjects, the Renaissance prince tended to become an exclusive power centre surrounded by his individual subjects. And the result of such centralism, itself dependent on many new developments in roads and commerce, was the habit of delegation of powers and the specializing of many functions in separate areas and individuals. In King Lear, as in other plays, Shakespeare shows an utter clairvoyance concerning the social and personal consequences of denudation and stripping of attributes and functions for the sake of speed, precision, and increased power. His insights appear so richly in his lines that it is very difficult to select among them. But with the very opening words of Goneril’s aria we are deep in them: I love you more than words can wield the matter; Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty: The stripping of the very human senses themselves will be one of the themes of this play. The separation of sight from the other senses has already been stressed in Lear’s expression of his “darker purpose” and his resort to the mere visual map. But whereas Goneril is ready to strip off sight as an expression of devotion, Regan rallies to her challenge with:

Essential McLuhan 102 …I profess Myself an enemy to all other joys Which the most precious square of sense professes,… Regan will strip off all the human senses so long as she possesses Lear’s love. The allusion to “the most precious square of sense” shows Shakespeare doing an almost scholastic demonstration of the need for a ratio and interplay among the senses as the very constitution of rationality. His theme in Lear is that of John Donne in An Anatomy of the World: ’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone; All just supply, and all Relation: Prince, subject, Father, Son, are things forgot, For every man alone thinks he hath got To be a Phoenix… The breaking of “the most precious square of sense” means the isolation of one sense from another by separate intensities with the ensuing irrationality and clash among wits and persons and functions. This breaking of the ratios among wits (or senses) and persons and functions is the theme of the later Shakespeare. As Cordelia observes the flash agility of those specialists in filial piety, Goneril and Regan, she says: …I am sure my love’s More richer than my tongue. Her rational fulness is as nothing to the specialism of her sisters. She has no fixed point of view from which she can launch bolts of eloquence. Her sisters are cued for particular occasions, streamlined by fragmentation of sense and motive for exact calculation. They are like Lear, avant-garde Machiavels, able to deal explicitly and scientifically with occasions. They are resolute and consciously liberated not only from the square of sense but from its moral analogate, “conscience.” For that ratio among motives “does make cowards of us all.” And Cordelia is a coward hindered from specialist action by the complexities of her conscience, her reason, and her role.

The gutenberg galaxy 103 King Lear is a working model of the process of denudation by which men translated themselves from a world of roles to a world of jobs. King Lear is a kind of elaborate case history of people translating themselves out of a world of roles into the new world of jobs. This is a process of stripping and denudation which does not occur instantly except in artistic vision. But Shakespeare saw that it had happened in his time. He was not talking about the future. However, the older world of roles had lingered on as a ghost just as after a century of electricity the West still feels the presence of the older values of literacy and privacy and separateness. Kent, Edgar, and Cordelia are “out of phase” in the language of W.B.Yeats. They are “feudal” in their total loyalty which they consider merely natural to their roles. In role they exercise no delegated authority or powers. They are autonomous centres. As Georges Poulet in his Studies in Human Time points out (p. 7): “For the man of the Middle Ages, then, there was not one duration only. There were durations, ranked one above another, and not only in the universality of the exterior world but within himself, in his own nature, in his own human existence.” The easy habit of configuration which had lasted through several centuries yields with the Renaissance to continuous, lineal, and uniform sequences for time and space and personal relationships alike. And the analogous world of roles and ratios is suddenly succeeded by a new lineal world, as in Troilus and Cressida (III, iii): Take the instant way; For honour travels in a strait so narrow Where one but goes abreast. Keep then the path, For emulation hath a thousand sons That one by one pursue. If you give way, Or hedge aside from the direct forthright, Like to an ent’red tide, they all rush by, And leave you hindmost… The idea of homogeneous segmentation of persons and relations and functions could only appear to the sixteenth century as the dissolution of all bonds of sense and reason. King Lear offers a complete demonstration of how it felt to live through the change from medieval to Renaissance time and space, from an inclusive to an exclusive sense of the world. His changed attitude to Cordelia exactly reflects the idea of the Reformers concerning fallen nature. Poulet says (p. 10):

Essential McLuhan 104 For them, too, both man and nature were divinely animated. For them also there had been a time when nature and man had participated in the creative power…. But that time existed for them no longer. The time when nature was divine was now succeeded by the time of fallen nature; fallen by its own fault, by the free act in consequence of which it had separated itself from its origin, cut itself off from its source, denied God. And from that moment on, God had withdrawn from nature and from man. Lear is quite explicit in designating Cordelia as a Puritan: Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her. The Reformers in their stress on individual function and independence naturally saw no point in all the formalities that belong to quite impersonal roles in society. It is clear to the audience, however, that it is rather Cordelia’s dedication to her traditional role that makes her so helpless in the presence of the new individualism both of Lear and her sisters: I love your Majesty According to my bond; no more nor less. She well knows that her devoted role adds up to “nothing” in terms of the new shrill and expansive individualism. Poulet describes (p. 9) this new world as “no longer anything more than an immense organism, a gigantic network of interchanges and reciprocal influences which was animated, which was guided interiorly in its cyclical development by a force everywhere the same and perpetually diversified, that could be called indiscriminately God, or Nature, or the Soul of the World, or Love.” The anguish of the third dimension is given its first verbal manifestation in poetic history in King Lear. Shakespeare seems to have missed due recognition for having in King Lear made the first, and so far as I know, the only piece of verbal three- dimensional perspective in any literature. It is not again until Milton’s Paradise Lost (II, 11. 1–5) that a fixed visual point of view is deliberately provided for the reader: High on a Throne of Royal State, which far

The gutenberg galaxy 105 Outshon the wealth of Ormus and Ind, Or where the gorgeous Èast with richest hand Showrs on her Kings Barbaric Pearl and Gold, Satan exalted sat,… The arbitrary selection of a single static position creates a pictorial space with vanishing point. This space can be filled in bit by bit, and is quite different from non-pictorial space in which each thing simply resonates or modulates its own space in visually two-dimensional form. Now the unique piece of three-dimensional verbal art which appears in King Lear is in Act IV, scene vi. Edgar is at pains to persuade the blinded Gloucester to believe the illusion that they are at the edge of a steep cliff: Edgar: …Hark, do you hear the sea? Gloucester: No, truly. Edgar: Why then, your other senses grow imperfect By your eyes’ anguish… Come on, sir; here’s the place. Stand still How fearful And dizzy ’tis to cast one’s eyes so low! The illusion of the third dimension is discussed at length in E.H Gombrich’s Art and Illusion. Far from being a normal mode of human vision, three-dimensional perspective is a conventionally acquired model of seeing, as much acquired as is the means of recognizing the letters of the alphabet, or of following chronological narrative. That it was an acquired illusion Shakespeare helps us to see by his comments on the other senses in relation to sight. Gloucester is ripe for illusion because he has suddenly lost his sight. His power of visualization is not quite separate from his other senses. And it is the sense of sight in deliberate isolation from the other senses that confers on man the illusion of the third dimension, as Shakespeare makes explicit here. There is also the need to fix the gaze: Come on, sir; here’s the place. Stand still. How fearful And dizzy ’tis to cast one’s eyes so low! The crows and choughs that wing the midway air Show scarce so gross as beetles. Halfway down Hangs one that gathers sampire—dreadful trade! Methinks he seems no bigger than his head. The fishermen that walk upon the beach, Appear like mice; and yond tall anchoring bark, Diminish’d to her cock; her cock, a buoy

Essential McLuhan 106 Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge, That on th’ unnumb ’red idle pebbles chafes, Cannot be heard so high. I’ll look no more, Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight Topple down headlong. What Shakespeare does here is to place five flat panels of two- dimensions, one behind the other. By giving these flat panels a diagonal twist they succeed each other, as it were, in a perspective from the “stand still” point. He is utterly aware that the disposition to this kind of illusionism results from the separation of the senses. Milton learned to make the same kind of visual illusion after his blindness. And by 1709 Bishop Berkeley in his New Theory of Vision was denouncing the absurdity of Newtonian visual space as a mere abstract illusion severed from the sense of touch. The stripping of the senses and the interruption of their interplay in tactile synesthesia may well have been one of the effects of the Gutenberg technology. This process of separation and reduction of functions had certainly reached a critical point by the early seventeenth century when King Lear appeared. But to determine how far such a revolution in the human sense life could have proceeded from Gutenberg technology calls for a somewhat different approach from merely sampling the sensibility of a great play of the critical period. King Lear is a kind of medieval sermon-exemplum or inductive reasoning to display the madness and misery of the new Renaissance life of action. Shakespeare explains minutely that the very principle of action is the splitting up of social operations and of the private sense life into specialized segments. The resulting frenzy to discover a new over-all interplay of forces ensures a furious activation of all components and persons affected by the new stress. Cervantes had a similar awareness, and his Don Quixote is galvanized by the new form of the book as much as Machiavelli had been hypnotized by the special segment of experience that he had chosen to step up to the highest intensity of awareness. Machiavelli’s abstraction of the entity of personal power from the social matrix was comparable to the much earlier abstraction of wheel from animal form. Such abstraction ensures a great deal more movement. But the Shakespeare-Cervantes vision is of the futility of such movement and of action deliberately framed on a fragmentary or specialist bias. W.B.Yeats has an epigram which puts the themes of King Lear and Don Quixote in cryptic form: Locke sank into a swoon The garden died

The gutenberg galaxy 107 God took the spinning jenny Out of his side. The Lockean swoon was the hypnotic trance induced by stepping up the visual component in experience until it filled the field of attention. Psychologists define hypnosis as the filling of the field of attention by one sense only. At such a moment “the garden” dies. That is, the garden indicates the interplay of all the senses in haptic harmony. With the instressed concern with one sense only, the mechanical principle of abstraction and repetition emerges into explicit form. Technology is explicitness, as Lyman Bryson said. And explicitness means the spelling out of one thing at a time, one sense at a time, one mental or physical operation at a time. Since the object of the present book is to discern the origins and modes of the Gutenberg configuration of events, it will be well to consider the effects of the alphabet on native populations today. For as they are in relation to the phonetic alphabet, so we once were. The interiorization of the technology of the phonetic alphabet translates man from the magical world of the ear to the neutral visual world. J.C.Carothers, writing in Psychiatry (November, 1959) on “Culture, Psychiatry and the Written Word,” set forth a number of observations contrasting non-literate natives with literate natives, and the non-literate man with the Western man generally. He starts (p. 308) with the familiar fact that by reason of the type of educational influences that impinge upon Africans in infancy and early childhood, and indeed throughout their lives, a man comes to regard himself as a rather insignificant part of a much larger organism—the family and the clan—and not as an independent, self-reliant unit; personal initiative and ambition are permitted little outlet; and a meaningful integration of a man’s experience on individual, personal lines is not achieved. By contrast to the constriction at the intellectual level, great freedom is allowed for at the temperamental level, and a man is expected to live very much in the “here and now,” to be highly extraverted, and to give very free expression to his feelings. In a word, our notions of the “uninhibited” native ignore the utter inhibition and suppression of his mental and personal life which is unavoidable in a non-literate world:

Essential McLuhan 108 Whereas the Western child is early introduced to building blocks, keys in locks, water taps, and a multiplicity of items and events which constrain him to think in terms of spatiotemporal relations and mechanical causation, the African child receives instead an education which depends much more exclusively on the spoken word and which is relatively highly charged with drama and emotion. (p. 308) That is, a child in any Western milieu is surrounded by an abstract explicit visual technology of uniform time and uniform continuous space in which “cause” is efficient and sequential, and things move and happen on single planes and in successive order. But the African child lives in the implicit, magical world of the resonant oral word. He encounters not efficient causes but formal causes of configurational field such as any non-literate society cultivates. Carothers repeats again and again that “rural Africans live largely in a world of sound—a world loaded with direct personal significance for the hearer—whereas the Western European lives much more in a visual world which is on the whole indifferent to him.” Since the ear world is a hot hyperesthetic world and the eye world is relatively a cool, neutral world, the Westerner appears to people of ear culture to be a 2 very cold fish indeed. Carothers reviews the familiar non-literate idea of the “power” of words where thought and behaviour depend upon the magical resonance in words and their power to impose their assumptions relentlessly. He cites Kenyatta concerning love magic among the Kikuyu: It is very important to acquire the correct use of magical words and their proper intonations, for the progress in applying magic effectively depends on uttering these words in their ritual order…. In performing these acts of love magic the performer has to recite a magical formula…. After this recitation he calls the name of the girl loudly and starts to address her as though she were listening. (p. 309) It is a matter of “rite words in rote order,” as Joyce put it. But once more any Western child today grows up in this kind of magical repetitive world as he hears advertisements on radio and TV. Carothers next asks (p. 310) how literacy in a society might operate to effect the change from the notion of words as resonant, live, active, natural forces to the 2 See chapter on “Acoustic Space” by E.Carpenter and H.M.McLuhan in Explorations in Communication, pp. 65–70. notion of words as “meaning” or “significance” for minds:

The gutenberg galaxy 109 I suggest that it was only when the written, and still more the printed, word appeared on the scene that the stage was set for words to lose their magic powers and vulnerabilities. Why so? I developed the theme in an earlier article with reference to Africa, that the nonliterate rural population lives largely in a world of sound, in contrast to western Europeans who live largely in a world of vision. Sounds are in a sense dynamic things, or at least are always indicators of dynamic things—of movements, events, activities, for which man, when largely unprotected from the hazards of life in the bush or the veldt, must be ever on the alert…. Sounds lose much of this significance in western Europe, where man often develops, and must develop, a remarkable ability to disregard them. Whereas for Europeans, in general, “seeing is believing,” for rural Africans reality seems to reside far more in what is heard and what is said…. Indeed, one is constrained to believe that the eye is regarded by many Africans less as a receiving organ than as an instrument of the will, the ear being the main receiving organ. Carothers reiterates that the Westerner depends on a high degree of visual shaping of spatio-temporal relations without which it is impossible to have the mechanistic sense of causal relations so necessary to the order of our lives. But the quite different assumptions of native perceptual life have led him to ask (p. 311) what has been the possible role of written words in shifting habits of perception from the auditory to visual stress: When words are written, they become, of course, a part of the visual world. Like most of the elements of the visual world, they become static things and lose, as such, the dynamism which is so characteristic of the auditory world in general, and of the spoken word in particular. They lose much of the personal element, in the sense that the heard word is most commonly directed at oneself, whereas the seen word most commonly is not, and can be read or not as whim dictates. They lose those emotional overtones and emphases which have been described, for instance, by Monrad-Krohn… Thus, in general, words, by becoming visible, join a world of relative indifference to the viewer— a world from which the magic “power” of the word has been abstracted.

Essential McLuhan 110 Carothers continues his observations into the area of “free ideation” permitted to literate societies and quite out of the question for oral, non- literate communities: The concept that verbal thought is separable from action, and is, or can be, ineffective and contained within the man…has important sociocultural implications, for it is only in societies which recognize that verbal thoughts can be so contained, and do not of their nature emerge on wings of power, that social constraints can, in theory at least, afford to ignore ideation. (p. 311) Thus, in a society still so profoundly oral as Russia, where spying is done by ear and not by eye, at the memorable “purge” trials of the 1930’s Westerners expressed bafflement that many confessed total guilt not because of what they had done but what they had thought. In a highly literate society, then, visual and behavioural conformity frees the individual for inner deviation. Not so in an oral society where inner verbalization is effective social action: In these circumstances it is implicit that behaviour constraints must include constraint of thought. Since all behaviour in such societies is governed and conceived on highly social lines, and since directed thinking can hardly be other than personal and unique for each individual, it is furthermore implicit in the attitude of these societies that the very possibility of such thinking is hardly to be recognized. Therefore, if and when such thinking does occur, at other than strictly practical and utilitarian levels, it is apt to be seen as deriving from the devil or from other external evil influences, and as something to be feared and shunned as much in oneself as in others. (p. 312) It is, perhaps, a little unexpected to hear the compulsive and rigid patterns of a deeply oral-aural community referred to as “governed and conceived on highly social lines.” For nothing can exceed the automatism and rigidity of an oral, non-literate community in its non-personal collectivity. As Western literate communities encounter the various “primitive” or auditory communities still remaining in the world, great confusion occurs. Areas like China and India are still audile-tactile in the main. Such phonetic literacy as has penetrated there has altered very little. Even Russia is still profoundly oral in bias. Only gradually does literacy alter substructures of language and sensibility. Alexander Inkeles in his book on Public Opinion in Russia (p. 137) gives a useful account of how the ordinary and unconscious bias, even of the Russian literate groups, has a direction quite counter to anything a

The gutenberg galaxy 111 long-literate community would consider “natural.” The Russian attitude, like that of any oral society, reverses our stress: In the United States and England it is the freedom of expression, the right itself in the abstract, that is valued…. In the Soviet Union, on the other hand, the results of exercising freedom are in the forefront of attention, and the preoccupation with the freedom itself is secondary. It is for this reason that the discussions between Soviet and Anglo-American representatives characteristically reach absolutely no agreement on specific proposals, although both sides assert that there should be freedom of the press. The American is usually talking about freedom of expression, the right to say or not to say certain things, a right which he claims exists in the United States and not in the Soviet Union. The Soviet representative is usually talking about access to the means of expression, not to the right to say things at all, and this access he maintains is denied to most in the United States and exists for most in the Soviet Union. Soviet concern with media results is natural to any oral society where interdependence is the result of instant interplay of cause and effect in the total structure. Such is the character of a village, or, since electric media, such is also the character of global village. And it is the advertising and PR community that is most aware of this basic new dimension of global interdependence. Like the Soviet Union, they are concerned about access to the media and about results. They have no concern whatever about self- expression and would be shocked by any attempt to take over, say, a public advertisement for oil or coke as a vehicle of private opinion or personal feeling. In the same way the literate bureaucrats of the Soviet Union cannot imagine anybody wanting to use public media in a private way. And this attitude has just nothing to do with Marx, Lenin, or Communism. It is a normal tribal attitude of any oral society. The Soviet press is their equivalent of our Madison Avenue in shaping production and social processes. Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy. Carothers stresses that until phonetic writing split apart thought and action, there was no alternative but to hold all men responsible for their thoughts as much as their actions. His great contribution has been to point to the breaking apart of the magical world of the ear and the neutral world of the eye, and to the emergence of the detribalized individual from this split. It follows, of course, that literate man, when we meet him in the

Essential McLuhan 112 Greek world, is a split man, a schizophrenic, as all literate men have been since the invention of the phonetic alphabet. Mere writing, however, has not the peculiar power of the phonetic technology to detribalize man. Given the phonetic alphabet with its abstraction of meaning from sound and the translation of sound into a visual code, and men were at grips with an experience that transformed them. No pictographic or ideogrammic or hieroglyphic mode of writing has the detribalizing power of the phonetic alphabet. No other kind of writing save the phonetic has ever translated man out of the possessive world of total interdependence and interrelation that is the auditory network. From that magical resonating world of simultaneous relations that is the oral and acoustic space there is only one route to the freedom and independence of detribalized man. That route is via the phonetic alphabet, which lands men at once in varying degrees of dualistic schizophrenia. Here is how Bertrand Russell describes (in his History of Western Philosophy, p. 39) this condition of the Greek world in the early throes of dichotomy and the trauma of literacy: Not all of the Greeks, but a large proportion of them, were passionate, unhappy, at war with themselves, driven along one road by the intellect and along another by the passions, with the imagination to conceive heaven and the wilful self-assertion that creates hell. They had a maxim “nothing too much”, but they were in fact excessive in everything—in pure thought, in poetry, in religion, and in sin. It was the combination of passion and intellect that made them great, while they were great…. There were, in fact, two tendencies in Greece, one passionate, religious, mystical, other worldly, the other cheerful, empirical, rationalistic, and interested in acquiring knowledge of a diversity of facts. The division of faculties which results from the technological dilation or externalization of one or another sense is so pervasive a feature of the past century that today we have become conscious, for the first time in history, of how these mutations of culture are initiated. Those who experience the first onset of a new technology, whether it be alphabet or radio, respond most emphatically because the new sense ratios set up at once by the technological dilation of eye or ear, present men with a surprising new world, which evokes a vigorous new “closure,” or novel pattern of interplay, among all of the senses together. But the initial shock gradually dissipates as the entire community absorbs the new habit of perception into all of its areas of work and association. But the real revolution is in this later and prolonged phase of “adjustment” of all personal and social life to the new model of perception set up by the new technology. The Romans carried out the alphabetic translation of culture into visual terms. The Greeks, whether ancient or Byzantine, clung to much of the

The gutenberg galaxy 113 older oral culture with its distrust of action and applied knowledge. For applied knowledge, whether in military structure or industrial organization, depends upon uniformity and homogenization of populations. “It is certain,” wrote the symbolist Edgar Allan Poe, “that the mere act of inditing tends in a great degree to the logicalization of thought.” Lineal, alphabetic inditing made possible the sudden invention of “grammars” of thought and science by the Greeks. These grammars or explicit spellings out of personal and social processes were visualizations of non-visual functions and relations. The functions and processes were not new. But the means of arrested visual analysis, namely the phonetic alphabet, was as new to the Greeks as the movie camera in our century. We can ask ourselves later why the fanatic specialism of the Phoenicians, which hacked the alphabet out of the hieroglyphic culture, did not release any further intellectual or artistic activity in them. Meantime, it is relevant to note that Cicero, the encyclopedic synthesizer of the Roman world, when surveying the Greek world, reproves Socrates for having been the first to make a split between mind and heart. The pre- Socratics were still mainly in a non-literate culture. Socrates stood on the border between that oral world and the visual and literate culture. But he wrote nothing. The Middle Ages regarded Plato as the mere scribe or amanuensis of Socrates. And Aquinas considered that neither Socrates nor Our Lord committed their teaching to writing because the kind of 3 interplay of minds that is in teaching is not possible by means of writing. Does the interiorization of media such as letters alter the ratio among our senses and change mental processes? What concerned Cicero, the practical Roman, was that the Greeks had put difficulties in the way of his own program for the doctus orator. In chapters xv–xxiii of the third book of the De oratore, he offers a history of philosophy from the beginning to his own time, trying to explain how it came about that the professional philosophers had made a breach between eloquence and wisdom, between practical knowledge and knowledge which these men professed to follow for its own sake. Before Socrates learning had been the preceptress of living rightly and speaking well. But with Socrates came the division between the tongue and the heart. That the eloquent Socrates should have been of all people the one to initiate a division between thinking wisely and speaking well was inexplicable: “…quorum princeps Socrates fuit, is, qui omnium eruditorum testimonio totiusque judicio Graeciae cum prudentia et acumine et venustate et subtilitate, tum vero eloquentia, varietate, copia, quam se cumque in partem dedisset omnium fuit facile princeps…” But after Socrates things became much worse in Cicero’s opinion. The Stoics, despite a refusal to cultivate eloquence, have alone of all the philosephers declared eloquence to be a virtue and wisdom. For Cicero, wisdom is eloquence because only by eloquence can knowledge be

Essential McLuhan 114 applied to the minds and hearts of men. It is applied knowledge that obsesses the mind of Cicero the Roman as it did the mind of Francis Bacon. And for Cicero, as for Bacon, the technique of application depends upon the Roman brick procedure of uniform repeatability and homogeneous segments of knowledge. If a technology is introduced either from within or from without a culture, and if it gives new stress or ascendancy to one or another of our senses, the ratio among all of our senses is altered. We no longer feel the same, nor do our eyes 3 Utrum Christus debuerit doctrinam Suam Scripto tradere. Summa Theologica, part III, q. 42, art. 4. and ears and other senses remain the same. The interplay among our senses is perpetual save in conditions of anesthesia. But any sense when stepped up to high intensity can act as an anesthetic for other senses. The dentist can now use “audiac”—induced noise—to remove tactility. Hypnosis depends on the same principle of isolating one sense in order to anesthetize the others. The result is a break in the ratio among the senses, a kind of loss of identity. Tribal, non-literate man, living under the intense stress on auditory organization of all experience, is, as it were, entranced. Plato, however, the scribe of Socrates as he seemed to the Middle Ages, could in the act of writing4 look back to the non-literate world and say: It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

The gutenberg galaxy 115 Plato shows no awareness here or elsewhere of how the phonetic alphabet had altered the sensibility of the Greeks; nor did anybody else in his time or later. Before his time, the myth-makers, poised on the frontiers between the old oral world of the tribe and the new technologies of specialism and individualism, had foreseen all and said all in a few words. The myth of Cadmus states how this King who had introduced the Phoenician script, or the phonetic alphabet to Greece, had sown the dragon’s teeth and they had sprung up armed men. This, as with all myth, is a succinct statement of a complex social process that had occurred over a period of centuries. But it was only in recent years that the work of Harold Innis opened up the Cadmus myth fully. (See, for example, The Bias of Communication and Empire and Communications.) The myth, like the aphorism and maxim, is characteristic of oral culture. For, until literacy deprives language 4 Phaedrus, trans. B.Jowett, 274–5. All quotations from Plato are from Jowett’s translation. of its multi-dimensional resonance, every word is a poetic world unto itself, a “momentary deity” or revelation, as it seemed to non-literate men. Ernst Cassirer’s Language and Myth presents this aspect of non-literate human awareness, surveying the wide range of current study of language origins and development. Towards the end of the nineteenth century numerous students of non-literate societies had begun to have doubts about the a priori character of logical categories. Today, when the role of phonetic literacy in the creating of the techniques of enunciation of propositions (“formal logic”) is well known, it is still supposed, even by some anthropologists, that Euclidean space and three-dimensional visual perception is a universal datum of mankind. The absence of such space in native art is considered by such scholars to be owing to lack of artistic skill. Cassirer, reporting on the notion of words as myth (the etymology of mythos indicates that it means “word”) says (p. 62): According to Usener, the lowest level to which we can trace back the origin of religious concepts is that of “momentary gods”, as he calls those images which are born from the need or the specific feeling of a critical moment…and still bearing the mark of all its pristine volatility and freedom. But it appears that the new findings which ethnology and comparative religion have put at our disposal during the three decades since the publication of Usener’s work enable us to go back one step further yet. Civilization gives the barbarian or tribal man an eye for an ear and is now at odds with the electronic world.

Essential McLuhan 116 This step takes to a more generalized sense of the manifestations of divine potency, away from particular, individualized “archetypes” and epiphanies of “momentary deities.” It must often have puzzled the scholars and physicists of our time that just in the degree to which we penetrate the lowest layers of non-literate awareness we encounter the most advanced and sophisticated ideas of twentiethcentury art and science. To explain that paradox will be an aspect of the present book. It is a theme around which much emotion and controversy are daily engendered as our world shifts from a visual to an auditory orientation in its electric technology. The controversy, of course, ignores the cause of the process altogether and clings to the “content.” Setting aside the effects of the alphabet in creating Euclidean space for the Greek sensibility, as well as the simultaneous discovery of perspective and chronological narrative, it will be necessary to return briefly to the native world with J.C.Carothers. For it is in the non-literate world that it is easiest to discern the operation of phonetic letters in shaping our Western world. That the Greeks were able to do more with the written word than other communities such as the Babylonian and Egyptian was, according to H.A.L.Fisher (A History of Europe, p. 19) that they were not under “the paralysing control of organized priestcraft.” But even so, they had only a brief period of exploration and discovery before settling into a clichéd pattern of repetitive thought. Carothers feels that the early Greek intelligentsia not only had the stimulus of sudden access to the acquired wisdom of other peoples, but, having none of its own, there were no vested interests in acquired knowledge to frustrate the immediate acceptance and development of the new. It is this very situation which today puts the Western world at such a disadvantage, as against the “backward” countries. It is our enormous backlog of literate and mechanistic technology that renders us so helpless and inept in handling the new electric technology. The new physics is an auditory domain and long-literate society is not at home in the new physics, nor will it ever be. This, of course, is to overlook the utter discrepancy between the phonetic alphabet and any other kind of writing whatever. Only the phonetic alphabet makes a break between eye and ear, between semantic meaning and visual code; and thus only phonetic writing has the power to translate man from the tribal to the civilized sphere, to give him an eye for an ear. The Chinese culture is considerably more refined and perceptive than the Western world has ever been. But the Chinese are tribal, people of the ear. “Civilization” must now be used technically to mean detribalized man for whom the visual values have priority in the organization of thought and action. Nor is this to give any new meaning or value to “civilization” but rather to specify its character. It is quite obvious that most civilized people are crude and numb in their perceptions, compared with the hyperesthesia of oral and auditory cultures. For the eye has none of the delicacy of the ear. Carothers goes on (p. 313) to observe that:

The gutenberg galaxy 117 So far as Plato’s thinking can be considered representative of the thinking of the Greeks, it is very clear that the word, whether thought or written, still retained, for them, and from our point of view, vast powers in the ‘real’ world. Although at last it was seen as nonbehavioural itself, it now came to be regarded as the fount and origin not only of behaviour but of all discovery: it was the only key to knowledge, and thought alone—in words or figures—could unlock all doors for understanding the world. In a sense, indeed, the power of words or other visual symbols became greater than before…now verbal and mathematical thought became the only truth, and the whole sensory world came to be regarded as illusory, except insofar as thoughts were heard or seen. In his dialogue of the Cratylus, named for his teacher of language and grammar, Plato has Socrates say (438): But if these things are only to be known through names, how can we suppose that the givers of names had knowledge, or were legislators before there were names at all, and therefore before they could have known them? Cratylus: I believe, Socrates, the true account of the matter to be, that a power more than human gave things their first names, and that the names which were thus given are necessarily their true names. This view of Cratylus was the basis of most language study until the Renaissance. It is rooted in the old oral “magic” of the “momentary deity” kind such as is favoured again today for various reasons. That it is most alien to merely literary and visual culture is easily found in the remarks of incredulity which Jowett supplies as his contribution to the dialogue. Carothers turns to David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd (p. 9) for further orientation in his queries concerning the effects of writing on non- literate communities. Riesman had characterized our own Western world as developing in its “typical members a social character whose conformity is insured by their tendency to acquire early in life an internalized set of goals.” Riesman made no effort to discover why the manuscript culture of the ancient and medieval worlds should not have conferred inner direction, nor why a print culture should inevitably confer inner direction. That is part of the business of the present book. But it can be said at once that “inner direction” depends upon a “fixed point of view.” A stable, consistent character is one with an unwavering outlook, an almost hypnotized visual stance, as it were. Manuscripts were altogether too slow and uneven a matter to provide either a fixed point of view or the habit of gliding steadily on single planes of thought and information. As we shall see, manuscript culture is intensely audile-tactile compared to print

Essential McLuhan 118 culture; and that means that detached habits of observation are quite uncongenial to manuscript cultures, whether ancient Egyptian, Greek, or Chinese or medieval. In place of cool visual detachment the manuscript world puts empathy and participation of all the senses. But non-literate cultures experience such an overwhelming tyranny of the ear over the eye that any balanced interplay among the senses is unknown at the auditory extreme, just as balanced interplay of the senses became extremely difficult after print stepped up the visual component in Western experience to extreme intensity. The modern physicist is at home with oriental field theory. Carothers finds Riesman’s classification of “tradition-directed” peoples as corresponding “quite closely to those areas occupied by societies which are non-literate or in which the great majority of the population has been untouched by literacy” (p. 315). It should be understood that to be “touched” by literacy is not a very sudden affair, nor is it a total matter at any time or in any place. That should become very clear as we move through the sixteenth and later centuries. But today, as electricity creates conditions of extreme interdependence on a global scale, we move swiftly again into an auditory world of simultaneous events and over-all awareness. Yet the habits of literacy persist in our speech, our sensibilities, and in our arrangement of the spaces and times of our daily lives. Short of some catastrophe, literacy and visual bias could bear up for a long time against electricity and “unified field” awareness. And the same is true the other way around. Germans and the Japanese, while far- advanced in literate and analytic technology, retained the core of auditory tribal unity and total togetherness. The advent of radio, and electricity generally, was not only for them but for all tribal cultures a most intense experience. Long-literate cultures have naturally more resistance to the auditory dynamic of the total electric field culture of our time. Riesman, referring to tradition-directed people, says (p. 26): Since the type of social order we have been discussing is relatively unchanging, the conformity of the individual tends to be dictated to a very large degree by power relations among the various age and sex groups, the clans, castes, professions, and so forth—relations which have endured for centuries and are modified but slightly, if at all, by successive generations. The culture controls behaviour minutely, and,…careful and rigid etiquette governs the fundamentally influential sphere of kin relationships…. Little energy is directed toward finding new solutions of the age-old problems…

The gutenberg galaxy 119 Riesman points out that to meet even the rigid demands of complex religious ritual and etiquette “individuality of character need not be highly developed.” He speaks as a highly literate man for whom “development” means having a private point of view. High development as it might appear to a native would not be accessible to our visual mode of awareness. We can get some idea of the attitude of a member of a tradition-directed society to technological improvements from a story related by Werner Heisenberg in The Physicist’s Conception of Nature. A modern physicist with his habit of “field” perception, and his sophisticated separation from our conventional habits of Newtonian space, easily finds in the pre-literate world a congenial kind of wisdom. Heisenberg is discussing “science as a part of the interplay between man and Nature” (p. 20): In this connection it has often been said that the far- reaching changes in our environment and in our way of life wrought by this technical age have also changed dangerously our ways of thinking, and that here lie the roots of the crises which have shaken our times and which, for instance, are also expressed in modern art. True, this objection is much older than modern technology and science, the use of implements going back to man’s earliest beginnings. Thus, two and a half thousand years ago, the Chinese sage Chuang-Tzu spoke of the danger of the machine when he said: ‘As Tzu-Gung was travelling through the regions north of the river Han, he saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would descend into the well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the results appeared to be very meagre. ‘Tzu-Gung said, “There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred ditches in one day, and whereby you can do much with little effort. Would you not like to hear of it?” Then the gardener stood up, looked at him and said, “And what would that be?” ‘Tzu-Gung replied, “You take a wooden lever, weighted at the back and light in front. In this way you can bring up water so quickly that it just gushes out. This is called a draw-well.” ‘Then anger rose up in the old man’s face, and he said, “I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure

Essential McLuhan 120 in the strivings of his soul. Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something which does not agree with honest sense. It is not that I do not know of such things: I am ashamed to use them.”’ Clearly this ancient tale contains a great deal of wisdom, for “uncertainty in the strivings of the soul” is perhaps one of the aptest descriptions of man’s condition in our modern crisis; technology, the machine, has spread through the world to a degree that our Chinese sage could not even have suspected. The sort of “simplicity” envisaged by the sage is a more complex and subtle product than anything that occurs in a society with specialized technology and sense life. But perhaps the real point of the anecdote is that it appealed to Heisenberg. It would not have interested Newton. Not only does modern physics abandon the specialized visual space of Descartes and Newton, it re-enters the subtle auditory space of the non- literate world. And in the most primitive society, as in the present age, such auditory space is a total field of simultaneous relations in which “change” has as little meaning and appeal as it had for the mind of Shakespeare or the heart of Cervantes. All values apart, we must learn today that our electric technology has consequences for our most ordinary perceptions and habits of action which are quickly recreating in us the mental processes of the most primitive men. These consequences occur, not in our thoughts or opinions, where we are trained to be critical, but in our most ordinary sense life, which creates the vortices and the matrices of thought and action. This book will try to explain why print culture confers on man a language of thought which leaves him quite unready to face the language of his own electro-magnetic technology. The strategy any culture must resort to in a period like this was indicated by Wilhelm von Humboldt: Man lives with his objects chiefly—in fact, since his feeling and acting depends on his perceptions, one may say exclusively—as language presents them to him. By the same process whereby he spins language out of his own being, he ensnares himself in it; and each language draws a magic circle round the people to which it belongs, a circle from which there is no escape save by stepping out 5 of it into another. Such awareness as this has generated in our time the technique of the suspended judgment by which we can transcend the limitations of our own assumptions by a critique of them. We can now live, not just amphibiously in divided and distinguished worlds, but pluralistically in many worlds and cultures simultaneously. We are no more committed to one culture—to a single ratio among the human senses—any more than to

The gutenberg galaxy 121 one book or to one language or to one technology. Our need today is, culturally, the same as the scientist’s who seeks to become aware of the bias of the instruments of research in order to correct that bias. Compartmentalizing of human potential by single cultures will soon be as absurd as specialism in subject or discipline has become. It is not likely that our age is more obsessional than any other, but it has become sensitively aware of the conditions and fact of obsession beyond any other age. However, our fascination with all phases of the unconscious, personal and collective, as with all modes of primitive awareness, began in the eighteenth century with the first violent revulsion against print culture and mechanical industry. What began as a “Romantic reaction” towards organic wholeness may or may not have hastened the discovery of electro- magnetic waves. But certainly the electro-magnetic discoveries have recreated the simultaneous “field” in all human affairs so that the human family now exists under conditions of a “global village.” We live in a single constricted space resonant with tribal drums. So that concern with the “primitive” today is as banal as nineteenth-century concern with “progress,” and as irrelevant to our problems. 5 Quoted by Cassirer in Language and Myth, p. 9. The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village. It would be surprising, indeed, if Riesman’s description of tradition- directed people did not correspond to Carothers’ knowledge of African tribal societies. It would be equally startling were the ordinary reader about native societies not able to vibrate with a deep sense of affinity for the same, since our new electric culture provides our lives again with a tribal base. There is available the lyrical testimony of a very Romantic biologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in his Phenomenon of Man (p. 240): Now, to the degree that—under the effect of this pressure and thanks to their psychic permeability—the human elements infiltrated more and more into each other, their minds (mysterious coincidence) were mutually stimulated by proximity. And as though dilated upon themselves, they each extended little by little the radius of their influence upon this search which, by the same token, shrank steadily. What, in fact, do we see happening in the modern paroxysm? It has been stated over and over again. Through the discovery yesterday of the railway, the motor car and the aeroplane, the physical influence of each man, formerly restricted to a few miles, now extends to hundreds of leagues or more. Better still: thanks to the prodigious biological event represented by the discovery of

Essential McLuhan 122 electromagnetic waves, each individual finds himself henceforth (actively and passively) simultaneously present, over land and sea, in every corner of the earth. People of literary and critical bias find the shrill vehemence of de Chardin as disconcerting as his uncritical enthusiasm for the cosmic membrane that has been snapped round the globe by the electric dilation of our various senses. This externalization of our senses creates what de Chardin calls the “noosphere” or a technological brain for the world. Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as in an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. It is easy to perceive signs of such panic in Jacques Barzun who manifests himself as a fearless and ferocious Luddite in his The House of the Intellect. Sensing that all he holds dear stems from the operation of the alphabet on and through our minds, he proposes the abolition of all modern art, science, and philanthropy. This trio extripated, he feels we can slap down the lid on Pandora’s box. At least Barzun localizes his problem even if he has no clue as to the kind of agency exerted by these forms. Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. Reverting to the earlier theme of conformity, Carothers continues (pp. 315–16): “Thought and behavior are not seen as separate; they are both seen as behavioral. Evil-willing is, after all the most fearful type of “behavior” known in many of these societies, and a dormant or awakening fear of it lies ever in the minds of all their members.” In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture. Literacy affects the physiology as well as the psychic life of the African. Carothers concludes his discussion of the effects of phonetic writing on Africans with an excerpt (pp. 317–18) from an article that appeared in a Kenya daily newspaper, the East African Standard. The author, a missionary doctor, headed his article “How Civilization Has Affected the African.” The purpose of this article is to show that through a very little education a remarkably rapid and far-reaching change has taken place in African boys and girls, so much

The gutenberg galaxy 123 so that in a generation, human characteristics and reactions have altered to a degree which one would have expected to have taken centuries. The high qualities of the African untouched by missions or education impress nearly everyone. Those of this district are good workers, cheerful, uncomplaining, unaffected by monotony or discomforts, honest and usually remarkably truthful But it is not uncommon to hear uncomplimentary comparisons made between those Africans and those born of Christian parents or those who started school at an early age. A writer, however, who visited schools in Madagascar says that these untouched children are naturally lethargic. They sit still too long: the impulse to play seems to be dormant. They are impervious to monotony and their mental lethargy enables them to perform, for children, prodigious acts of endurance. These children naturally develop into the uneducated African, who is incapable of filling any skilled post. At the most he can be trained to carry out work that requires no reasoning. That is the penalty paid for his good qualities. The African will remain in permanent servitude if only to ignorance unless there is willingness to risk the destruction of those qualities in the changes education brings and a desire to face building up his character again but with a totally different mentality. This different mentality may show itself in a shirking of work, trouble over food or in a desire to have his wife living with him however difficult for the employer. The reasons are clear; the African’s whole capacity for interest, pleasure and pain are immensely increased through even a little education. For the educated African (using this term for even the comparatively low standard achieved by the average African schoolboy) the sense of interest has been aroused through the new variety of life and monotony has become a trial to him as it is to the normal European. It takes greater will-power for him to be faithful to uninteresting work, and lack of interest brings fatigue. The author next turned to the changed attitudes to taste and sex and pain resulting from literacy: I suggest also that the nervous system of the untouched African is so lethargic that he needs little sleep. Many of our workmen walk some miles to their jobs, work well all day and then return home and spend most of the night

Essential McLuhan 124 sitting up guarding their gardens against the depredations of wild pigs. For weeks on end they sleep only two or three hours a night. The important moral inference from all this is that the African of the old generation with whom we have nearly all worked, will never be seen again. The new generation is completely different, capable of rising to greater heights and of descending to greater depths. They deserve a more sympathetic knowledge of their difficulties and their far greater temptations. African parents need to be taught this before it is too late so that they may realize that they are dealing with finer bits of mechanism than they themselves were. Carothers stresses the fact that it is indeed a very little literacy that produces these effects, “some familiarity with written symbols—in reading, writing and arithmetic.” Finally (p. 318), Carothers turns for a moment to China, where printing had been invented in the seventh or eighth century and yet “seems to have had little effect in emancipating thought.” He calls in the testimony of Kenneth Scott Latourette, who writes in The Chinese, Their History and Culture (p. 310): The hypothetical visitor from Mars might well have expected the Industrial Revolution and the modern scientific approach to have made their first appearance in China rather than the Occident. The Chinese are so industrious, and have shown such ingenuity in invention and by empirical processes have forestalled the West in arriving at so much useful agricultural and medical lore that they, rather than the nations of the West, might have been looked to as the forerunners and leaders in what is termed the scientific approach towards the understanding and mystery of man’s natural environment. It is little short of amazing that a people who pioneered in the invention of paper, printing, gunpowder, and the compass—to speak only of some of their best known innovations—did not also take precedence in devising the power loom, the steam engine, and the other revolutionary machines of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The purpose of printing among the Chinese was not the creation of uniform repeatable products for a market and a price system. Print was an alternative to their prayer-wheels and was a visual means of multiplying incantatory spells, much like advertising in our age.

The gutenberg galaxy 125 But we can learn much about print from the Chinese attitude towards it. For the most obvious character of print is repetition, just as the obvious effect of repetition is hypnosis or obsession. Moreover, printing ideograms is totally different from typography based on the phonetic alphabet. For the ideograph even more than the hieroglyph is a complex Gestalt involving all of the senses at once. The ideogram affords none of the separation and specialization of sense, none of the breaking apart of sight and sound and meaning which is the key to the phonetic alphabet. So that the numerous specializations and separations of function inherent in industry and applied knowledge simply were not accessible to the Chinese. Today they appear to be proceeding along the lines of the phonetic alphabet. This ensures that they will liquidate their present and traditional culture in toto. They will then proceed by the paths of schizophrenia and multiply dichotomies in the direction of physical power and aggressive organization, on a centre-margin or Roman pattern. The quite irrelevant ground that Carothers assigns to explaining the earlier Chinese indifference to industrialism is that Chinese writing—or printing—requires much erudition for its understanding. The same is true in varying degrees of all non-alphabetic forms of writing. The comment of Latourette on this point will help here as well as later: The greater part of the voluminous literature in Chinese has been written in the classical style… The Chinese classical language presents difficulties. It is highly artificial. It is often replete with allusions and quotations and to appreciate and even to understand much of it the reader has to bring to it a vast store of knowledge of existing literature… It is only by going through a prodigious amount of literature and especially by memorising quantities of it that the scholar obtains a kind of sixth sense which enables him to divine which of several readings is correct. Even the perusal of the classical language, therefore, requires long preparation. Composition is still more of a task. Few Occidentals have achieved an acceptable style and many a modern Chinese who is the finished product of the present-day curriculum is far from adept. The concluding observation of Carothers is that genetic studies of human groups offer no certainty and very small data, indeed, compared to cultural and environmental approaches. My suggestion is that cultural ecology has a reasonably stable base in the human sensorium, and that any extension of the sensorium by technological dilation has a quite appreciable effect in setting up new ratios or proportions among all the senses. Languages being that form of technology constituted by dilation or uttering (outering) of all of our senses at once, are themselves

Essential McLuhan 126 immediately subject to the impact or intrusion of any mechanically extended sense. That is, writing affects speech directly, not only its 6 accidence and syntax but also its enunciation and social uses. Why non-literate societies cannot see films or photos without much training. Since the present object is to elucidate the effective causality of phonetic writing in setting up new kinds of perception, let us turn to a paper7 by Professor John Wilson of the African Institute of London University. For literate societies it is not easy to grasp why non-literates cannot see in three dimensions or perspective. We assume that this is normal vision and that no training is needed to view photos or films. Wilson’s experiences arose from trying to use film in teaching natives to read: The next bit of evidence was very, very interesting. This man—the sanitary inspector—made a moving picture, in very slow time, very slow technique, of what would be required of the ordinary household in a primitive African village in getting rid of standing water—draining pools, picking up all empty tins and putting them away, and so forth. We showed this film to an audience and asked them what they had seen, and they said they had seen a chicken, a fowl, and we didn’t know that ihere was a fowl in it! So we very carefully scanned the frames one by one for this fowl, and, sure, enough, for about a second, a fowl went over the corner of the frame. Someone had frightened the fowl and it had taken flight, through the righthand, bottom segment of the frame. This was all that had been seen. The other things he had hoped they would pick up from the film they had not picked up at all, and they had picked up something which we didn’t k now was in the film until we inspected it minutely. Why? We developed all sorts of theories. Perhaps it was the sudden movement of the chicken. Everything else was done in slow technique— people going forward slowly picking up the tin, demonstrating and all the rest of it, and the bird was apparently the one bit of reality for them. For them there was another theory that the fowl had religious significance, which we rather dismissed. Question: Could you describe in more detail the scene in the film? Wilson: Yes, there was very slow movement of a sanitary laborer coming along and seeing a tin with water in it, picking the tin up and very carefully

The gutenberg galaxy 127 pouring the water out and then rubbing it into the ground so no mosquito could breed and very carefully putting this tin in a basket on the back of a donkey. This was to 6 H.M.McLuhan, “The Effect of the Printed Book on Language in the Sixteenth Century,” in Explorations in Communication, pp. 125–35. 7 “Film Literacy in Africa,” Canadian Communications, vol. I, no. 4, summer, 1961, pp. 7–14. show how you disposed of rubbish. It was like the man in the park with a spiked stick, picking up the bits of paper and putting them in the sack. All this was done very slowly to show how important it was to pick up those things because of mosquitoes breeding in standing water. The cans were all very carefully taken away and disposed of in the ground and covered up so there would be no more standing water. The film was about five minutes long. The chicken appeared for a second in this kind of setting. Question: Do you literally mean that when you talked with the audience you came to believe that they had not seen anything else but the chicken? Wilson: We simply asked them: What did you see in this film? Question: Not what did you think? Wilson: No, what did you see? Question: How many people were in the viewing audience of whom you asked this question? Wilson: 30-odd. Question: No one gave you a response other than “We saw the chicken”? Wilson: No, this was the first quick response—“We saw a chicken” Question: They did see a man, too? Wilson: Well, when we questioned them further they had seen a man, but what was really interesting was they hadn’t made a whole story out of it, and in point of fact, we discovered afterwards that they hadn’t s

Essential McLuhan 128 een a whole frame—they had inspected the frame for details. Then we found out from the artist and an eye specialist that a sophisticated audience, an audience that is accustomed to the film, focuses a little way in front of the flat screen so that you take in the whole frame. In this sense, again, a picture is a convention. You’ve got to look at the picture as a whole first, and these people did not do that, not being accustomed to pictures. When presented with the picture they began to inspect it, rather as the scanner of a television camera, and go over it very rapidly. Apparently, that is what the eye unaccustomed to pictures does— scans the picture—and they hadn’t scanned one picture before it moved on, in spite of the slow technique of the film. The key facts are at the end of the passage. Literacy gives people the power to focus a little way in front of an image so that we take in the whole image or picture at a glance. Non-literate people have no such acquired habit and do not look at objects in our way. Rather they scan objects and images as we do the printed page, segment by segment. Thus they have no detached point of view. They are wholly with the object. They go emphatically into it. The eye is used, not in perspective but tactually, as it were. Euclidean spaces depending on much separation of sight from touch and sound are not known to them. Further difficulties which these natives had with film will help us to see how many of the conventions of literacy are built into even non-verbal forms like film: My point is that I think we’ve got to be very wary of pictures; they can be interpreted in the light of your experience. Now, next we thought that if we are going to use these films we’ve got to have some sort of process of education and we’ve got to have some research. We found also some fascinating things in this research process. We found that the film is, as produced in the West, a very highly conventionalized piece of symbolism although it looks very real For instance, we found that if you were telling a story about two men to an African audience and one had finished his business and he went off the edge of the screen, the audience wanted to know what had happened to him; they didn’t accept that this was just the end of him and that he was of no more interest in the story. They wanted to know what happened to this fellow, and we had to write stories that way, putting in a lot of material that wasn’t to us necessary. We had to follow him along

The gutenberg galaxy 129 the street until he took a natural turn—he mustn’t w alk off the side of the screen, but must walk down the street and make a natural turn. It was quite understandable that he could disappear around the turn. The action had to follow a natural course of events. Panning shots were very confusing because the audience didn’t realize what was happening. They thought the items and details inside the picture were literally moving. You see, the convention was not accepted. Nor was the idea of a person sitting still while the camera was brought in to a close-up; this was a strange thing, this picture growing bigger in your presence. You know the common way of starting a film: show the city, narrow it down to a street, narrow it down to one house, take your camera in through the window, etc. This was literally interpreted as you walking forward and doing all those things until you were finally taken in through the window. All of this meant that to use the film as a really effective medium we had to begin a process of education in useful conventions and make those films which would educate people to one convention, to the idea, for example, of a man walking off the side of the screen. We had to show that there was a street corner and have the man walk around the street corner and then in the next part of the film show him walking away, and then cut the scene. African audiences cannot accept our passive consumer role in the presence of film. A basic aspect of any literate audience is its profound acceptance of a passive consumer role in the presence of book or film. But an African audience had had no training in the private and silent following of a narrative process. This is an important matter. An African audience does not sit silently without participating. They like to participate, so the person who shows the films and makes the live commentary must be flexible, stimulating, and get responses. If there is a situation where a character sings a song, the song is sung and the audience is invited to join in. This audience participation had to be thought of as the film was made and opportunities provided for it. Live commentators who presented the films had to be trained to the last degree in what the film meant and in their interpretation of the film for different audiences. They

Essential McLuhan 130 were Africans taken out of the teaching profession and trained for this business. But even when trained to follow film the native of Ghana cannot accept a film about Nigerians. He cannot generalize his experience from film to film, such is the depth of involvement in particular experiences. This empathic involvement, natural to the oral society and the audile-tactile man, is cracked by the phonetic alphabet which abstracts the visual component from the sensory complex. This leads to one further point of Wilson’s. He explained the relevance of Chaplin’s technique in making films for native audiences. The story was in the gestures, and the gestures were complex and precise. Wilson noted the inability of Africans to follow complex narratives but also their subtlety in dramatization: One thing we were ignorant of at this time, and something we ought to have known a lot more about is that those African audiences are very good at roleplaying. Part of a child’s education in a pre-literate society is role-playing; he’s got to learn to play the role of elders in certain given situations. One thing fortunately we did discover was that the cartoon went down very well. This puzzled us until we found out that puppetry is quite a common pastime. But there is more to this point than Wilson supposes. Had TV been available he would have been amazed to discover how much more readily the Africans took to it than they did to film. For with film you are the camera and the non-literate man cannot use his eyes like a camera. But with TV you are the screen. And TV is two-dimensional and sculptural in its tactile contours. TV is not a narrative medium, is not so much visual as audile-tactile. That is why it is empathic, and why the optimal mode of TV image is the cartoon. For the cartoon appeals to natives as it does to our children, because it is a world in which the visual component is so small that the viewer has as much to do as in a crossword puzzle.8 More important still, with the bounding line of a cartoon, as with a cave painting, we tend to be in an area of the interplay of the senses, and hence of strongly haptic or tactile character. That is to say, the art of the draughtsman and the celator alike is a strongly tactile and tangible art. And even Euclidean geometry is by modern standards very tactile. 8 For more data on the new space orientation in TV-viewing, see H.M.McLuhan, “Inside the Five Sense Sensorium,” Canadian Architect, June, 1961, vol. 6, no. 6, pp. 49–54. This is a matter discussed by William Ivins, Jr., in Art and Geometry: A Study in Space Intuitions. He explains the unverbalized assumptions of Greek space awareness: “The Greeks never mentioned among the axioms

The gutenberg galaxy 131 and postulates of their geometry their basic assumption of congruence, and yet…it is among the most fundamental things in Greek geometry, and plays a determining role in its form, its power, and its limitations.” (p. x) Congruence was a new and exciting visual dimension, unknown to audile- tactile cultures. As Ivins says in this regard, “Unlike the eye, the unaided hand is unable to discover whether three or more objects are on a line.” (p. 7) It is very obvious why Plato might have insisted that “no one destitute of geometry enter” his academy. A similar motive leads the Viennese musician Carl Orff to forbid children to study music in his school if they have already learned to read and write. The visual bias so attained he feels makes it quite hopeless to develop their audile-tactile powers in music. Ivins goes on to explain why we have the illusion of space as a kind of independent container, whereas in fact space is “a quality or relationship of things and has no existence without them.” (p. 8) Yet in comparison with later centuries, “the Greeks were tactile minded and…whenever they were given the choice between a tactile or a visual way of thought they instinctively chose the tactile one.” (pp. 9–10) Such remained the case until well after Gutenberg in Western experience. Considering the history of Greek geometry, Ivins observes: “… again and again during a period of six or seven centuries they went right up to the door of modern geometry, but that, inhibited by their tactile-muscular, metrical ideas, they were never able to open that door and pass out into the great open spaces of modern thought.” (p. 58) When technology extends one of our senses, a new translation of culture occurs as swiftly as the new technology is interiorized. Although the main theme of this book is the Gutenberg Galaxy or a configuration of events, which lies far ahead of the world of alphabet and of scribal culture, it needs to be known why, without alphabet, there would have been no Gutenberg. And, therefore, we must get some insight into the conditions of culture and perception that make first, writing, and 9 then, perhaps, alphabet possible at all. 9 The Koreans by 1403 were making cast-metal type by means of punches and matrices (The Invention of Printing in China and its Spread Westward by T.F.Carter). Carter had no concern with the alphabet relation to print and was probably unaware that the Koreans are reputed to have a phonetic alphabet. Wilson’s account of the years of perceptual training needed to enable adult Africans to be able to see movies has its exact analogue in the difficulties which Western adults have with “abstract” art. In 1925 Bertrand Russell wrote his ABC of Relativity, pointing out on the first page that:

Essential McLuhan 132 Many of the new ideas can be expressed in non- mathematical language, but they are none the less difficult on that account. What is demanded is a change in our imaginative picture of the world…. The same sort of change was demanded by Copernicus, when he taught that the earth is not stationary… To us now there is no difficulty in this idea, because we learned it before our mental habits had become fixed. Einstein’s ideas, similarly, will seem easier to generations which grow up with them; but for us a certain effort of imaginative reconstruction is unavoidable. It is simpler to say that if a new technology extends one or more of our senses outside us into the social world, then new ratios among all of our senses will occur in that particular culture. It is comparable to what happens when a new note is added to a melody. And when the sense ratios alter in any culture then what had appeared lucid before may suddenly be opaque, and what had been vague or opaque will become translucent. As Heinrich Wolfflin stated the matter in 1915, in his revolutionary Principles of Art History (p. 62) “the effect is the thing that counts, not the sensuous facts.” Wolfflin began working from the discoveries of the sculptor Adolf von Hildebrand, whose Problem of Form in the Figurative Arts had first clearly explained the disorder in ordinary human sense perception, and the role of art in clarifying this confusion. Hildebrand had shown how tactility was a kind of synesthesia or interplay among the senses, and as such, was the core of the richest art effects. For the low definition imagery of the tactile mode compels the viewer into an active participant role. When Africans watch movies as if they were low definition forms for active participation, we are amused by the incongruity. Working from effect rather than from cause, which we have already seen as native to the Russian, was for us a novel mode of procedure in the later nineteenth century, and will come in for fuller discussion later in this book. A recent work by Georg von Bekesy, Experiments in Hearing, offers an exactly reverse answer to the problem of space to the one which Carothers and Wilson have just given us. Whereas they are trying to talk about the perception of non-literate people in terms of literate experience, Professor von Bekesy chooses to begin his discussion of acoustical space on its own terms. As one proficient in auditory spaces, he is keenly aware of the difficulty of talking about the space of hearing, for the acoustical is 10 necessarily a world in “depth.” It is of the utmost interest that 10See “Acoustic Space.” in trying to elucidate the nature of hearing and of acoustic space, Professor von Bekesy should deliberately avoid viewpoint and perspective

The gutenberg galaxy 133 in favour of mosaic field. And to this end he resorts to two-dimensional painting as a means of revealing the resonant depth of acoustic space. Here are his own words (p. 4): It is possible to distinguish two forms of approach to a problem. One, which may be called the theoretical approach, is to formulate the problem in relation to what is already known, to make additions or extensions on the basis of accepted principles, and then to proceed to test these hypotheses experimentally. Another, which may be called the mosaic approach, takes each problem for itself with little reference to the field in which it lies, and seeks to discover relations and principles that hold within the circumscribed area. Von Bekesy then proceeds to introduce his two paintings: A close analogy to these two approaches may be found in the field of art. In the period between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries the Arabs and the Persians developed a high mastery of the arts of description…. Later, during the Renaissance, a new form of representation was developed in which the attempt was made to give unity and perspective to the picture and to represent the atmosphere…. When in the field of science a great deal of progress has been made and most of the pertinent variables are known, a new problem may most readily be handled by trying to fit it into the existing framework. When, however, the framework is uncertain and the number of variables is large the mosaic approach is much the easier. The mosaic approach is not only “much the easier” in the study of the simultaneous which is the auditory field; it is the only relevant approach. For the “two-dimensional” mosaic or painting is the mode in which there is muting of the visual as such, in order that there may be maximal interplay among all of the senses. Such was the painterly strategy “since Cézanne,” to paint as if you held, rather than as if you saw, objects. A theory of cultural change is impossible without knowledge of the changing sense ratios effected by various externalizations of oursenses. It is very much worth dwelling on this matter, since we shall see that from the invention of the alphabet there has been a continuous drive in the Western world towards the separation of the senses, of functions, of

Essential McLuhan 134 operations, of states emotional and political, as well as of tasks—a fragmentation which terminated, thought Durkheim, in the anomie of the nineteenth century. The paradox presented by Professor von Bekesy is that the two-dimensional mosaic is, in fact, a multidimensional world of interstructural resonance. It is the three-dimensional world of pictorial space that is, indeed, an abstract illusion built on the intense separation of the visual from the other senses. There is here no question of values or preferences. It is necessary, however, for any other kind of understanding to know why “primitive” drawing is two-dimensional, whereas the drawing and painting of literate man tends towards perspective. Without this knowledge we cannot grasp why men ever ceased to be “primitive” or audile-tactile in their sense bias. Nor could we ever understand why men have “since Cézanne” abandoned the visual in favour of the audiletactile modes of awareness and of organization of experience. This matter clarified, we can much more easily approach the role of alphabet and of printing in giving a dominant role to the visual sense in language and art and in the entire range of social and of political life. For until men have up-graded the visual component communities know only a tribal structure. The detribalizing of the individual has, in the past at least, depended on an intense visual life fostered by literacy, and by literacy of the alphabetic kind alone. For alphabetic writing is not only unique but late. There had been much writing before it. In fact, any people that ceases to be nomadic and pursues sedentary modes of work is ready to invent writing. No merely nomadic people ever had writing any more than they ever developed architecture or “enclosed space.” For writing is a visual enclosure of non- visual spaces and senses. It is, therefore, an abstraction of the visual from the ordinary sense interplay. And whereas speech is an outering (utterance) of all our senses at once, writing abstracts from speech. At the present time it is easier to grasp this specific technology of writing. The new institutes for teaching speeded-up reading habits work on the separation of eye-movements from inner verbalization. It will be indicated later that all reading in the ancient and medieval worlds was reading aloud. With print the eye speeded up and the voice quieted down. But inner verbalizing was taken for granted as inseparable from the horizontal following of the words on the page. Today we know that the divorce of reading and verbalizing can be made by vertical reading. This, of course, pushes the alphabetic technology of the separation of the senses to an extreme of inanity, but it is relevant to an understanding of how writing of any sort gets started. In a paper entitled “A History of the Theory of Information,” read to the Royal Society in 1951, E.Colin Cherry of the University of London, observed that “Early invention was greatly hampered by an inability to dissociate mechanical structure from animal form: The invention of the wheel was one outstanding early effort of such dissociation. The great spurt in invention which began in the sixteenth century rested on the

The gutenberg galaxy 135 gradual dissociation of the machine from animal form.” Printing was the first mechanization of an ancient handicraft and led easily to the further mechanization of all handicrafts. The modern phases of this process are the theme of Mechanization Takes Command by Siegfried Giedion. However, Giedion is concerned with a minute tracing of the stages by which in the past century we have used mechanism to recover organic form: In his celebrated studies of the ’seventies on the motions of men and animals, Edward Muybridge set up a series of thirty cameras at twelve-inch intervals, releasing their shutters electromagnetically as soon as the moving object passed before the plate…. Each picture showed the object in an isolated phase as arrested by each camera. (p. 107) That is to say, the object is translated out of organic or simultaneous form into a static or pictorial mode. By revolving a sequence of such static or pictorial spaces at a sufficient speed, the illusion of organic wholeness, or interplay of spaces, is created. Thus, the wheel finally becomes the means of moving our culture away from the machine. But it was by means of electricity applied to the wheel that the wheel merges once more with animal form. In fact, the wheel is now an obsolete form in the electric- missile age. But hyper-trophy is the mark of obsolescence, as we shall see again and again. Just because wheel is now returning to organic form in the twentieth century it is quite easy for us to understand how primitive man “invented” it. Any creature in motion is a wheel in that repetition of movement has a cyclic and circular principle in it. Thus the melodies of literate societies are repeatable cycles. But the music of non-literate people has no such repetitive cyclic and abstract form as melody. Invention, in a word, is translation of one kind of space into another. Giedion devotes some time to the work of the French physiologist, Etienne Jules Morey (1830–1904), who devised the myograph for recording the movements of muscles: “Morey quite consciously looks back to Descartes, but instead of graphically representing sections he translates organic movement into graphic form.” (p. 19) The twentieth century encounter between alphabetic and electronic faces of culture confers on the printed word a crucial role in staying the return to the Africa within. The invention of the alphabet, like the invention of the wheel, was the translation or reduction of a complex, organic interplay of spaces into a single space. The phonetic alphabet reduced the use of all the senses at once, which is oral speech, to a merely visual code. Today, such translation can be effected back and forth through a variety of spatial forms which we call the “media of communication.” But each of these

Essential McLuhan 136 spaces had unique properties and impinges upon our other senses or spaces in unique ways. Today, then, it is easy to understand the invention of the alphabet because, as A.N.Whitehead pointed out in Science and the Modern World (p. 141) the great discovery of the nineteenth century was the discovery of the method of discovery: The greatest invention of the nineteenth century was the invention of the method of invention. A new method entered into life. In order to understand our epoch, we can neglect all the details of change, such as railways, telegraphs, radios, spinning machines, synthetic dyes. We must concentrate on the method in itself; that is the real novelty which has broken up the foundations of the old civilization …. One element in the new method is just the discovery of how to set about bridging the gap between the scientific ideas, and the ultimate product. It is a process of disciplined attack upon one difficulty after another. The method of invention, as Edgar Poe demonstrated in his “Philosophy of Composition,” is simply to begin with the solution of the problem or with the effect intended. Then one backtracks, step by step, to the point from which one must begin in order to reach the solution or effect. Such is the method of the detective story, of the symbolist poem, and of modern science. It is, however, the twentieth century step beyond this method of invention which is needed for understanding the origin and the action of such forms as the wheel or the alphabet. And that step is not the backtracking from product to starting point, but the following of process in isolation from product. To follow the contours of process as in psychoanalysis provides the only means of avoiding the product of process, namely neurosis or psychosis. It is the purpose of the present book to study primarily the print phase of alphabetic culture. The print phase, however, has encountered today the new organic and biological modes of the electronic world. That is, it is now interpenetrated at its extreme development of mechanism by the electro-biological, as de Chardin has explained. And it is this reversal of character which makes our age “connatural,” as it were, with non-literate cultures. We have no more difficulty in understanding the native or non- literate experience, simply because we have recreated it electronically within our own culture. (Yet post-literacy is a quite different mode of interdependence from pre-literacy.) So my dwelling upon the earlier phases of alphabetic technology is not irrelevant to an understanding of the Gutenberg era. Colin Cherry had this to say about early writing:

The gutenberg galaxy 137 A detailed history of spoken and written languages would be irrelevant to our present subject, but nevertheless there are certain matters of interest which may be taken as a starting-point. The early writings of Mediterranean civilizations were in picture, or “logographic” script: simple pictures were used to represent objects and also, by association, ideas, actions, names, and so on. Also, what is much more important, phonetic writing was developed, in which sounds were given symbols. With the passage of time, the pictures were reduced to more formal symbols as determined by the difficulty of using a chisel, or a reed brush, while the phonetic writing simplified into a set of two or three dozen alphabetic letters, divided into consonants and vowels. In Egyptian hieroglyphics we have a supreme example of what is now called redundancy in languages and code; one of the difficulties in deciphering the Rosetta stone lay in the fact that a polysyllabic word might give each syllable not one symbol but a number of different ones in common use, in order that the word should be thoroughly understood. (The effect when literally transcribed into English is one of stuttering.) On the other hand the Semitic languages show an early recognition of redundancy. Ancient Hebrew script had no vowels: modern Hebrew has none, too, except in children’s books. Many other ancient scripts have no vowels. Slavonic Russian went a step further in condensation: in religious texts, commonly used words were abbreviated to a few letters, in a manner similar to our present-day use of the ampersand, abbreviations such as lb and the increasing use of initials, e.g., U.S.A., Unesco, O.K. It is not the avoidance of redundancy that is the key to the phonetic alphabet and its effects on person and society. “Redundancy” is a “content” concept, itself a legacy of alphabetic technology. That is, any phonetic writing is a visual code for speech. Speech is the “content” of phonetic writing. But it is not the content of any other kind of writing. Pictographic and ideographic varieties of writing are Gestalts or snapshots of various situations, personal or social. In fact, we can get a good idea of non-alphabetic forms of writing from modern mathematical equations like E=MC2 or from the ancient Greek and Roman “figures of rhetoric.” Such equations or figures have no content but are structures like an individual melody which evoke their own world. The figures of rhetoric are postures of the mind, as hyperbole, or irony, or litotes, or simile, or paranomasia. Picture writing of all kinds is a ballet of such postures which delights our modern bias towards synesthesia and audile-tactile richness of experience,

Essential McLuhan 138 far more than does the bare, abstract alphabetic form. It would be well today if children were taught a good many Chinese ideograms and Egyptian hieroglyphs as a means of enhancing their appreciation of our alphabet. Colin Cherry, then, misses the point about the unique character of our alphabet, namely that it dissociates or abstracts, not only sight and sound, but separates all meaning from the sound of the letters, save so far as the meaningless letters relate to the meaningless sounds. So long as any other meaning is vested in sight or sound, the divorce between the visual and the other senses remains incomplete, as is the case in all forms of writing save the phonetic alphabet. Current concern with reading and spelling reform steers away from visual to auditory stress. It is interesting that today there is a growing unrest about our alphabetic dissociation of the senses. On page 143 there is a sample of a recent attempt at a new alphabet that would restore more phonic character to our script. The most notable thing about the sample is that it has the highly textural and tactile quality of an ancient manuscript page. In our desire to restore some unity of interplay among our senses we grope towards ancient manuscript forms which must be read aloud to be read at all. Side by side with this extreme development is that of the new institutes for speeded-up reading. There they are taught how to use the eye on the page so as to avoid all verbalization and all incipient movements of the throat which accompany our cinematic chase from left to right, in order to create the mental sound movie which we call reading. The most definitive work we have on the phonetic letters is The Alphabet by David Diringer. He begins his story as follows (p. 37): The alphabet is the last, the most highly developed, the most convenient and the most easily adaptable system of writing. Alphabetic writing is now universally employed by civilized peoples; its use is acquired in childhood with ease. There is an enormous advantage, obviously, in the use of letters which represent single sounds rather than ideas or syllables; no sinologist knows all the 80,000 or so Chinese symbols, but it is also far from easy to master the 9,000 or so symbols actually employed by Chinese scholars. How far simpler is it to use 22 or 24 or 26 signs only! The alphabet may also be passed from one language to another without great difficulty; the same alphabet is used now for English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Turkish, Polish, Dutch, Czech, Croatian, Welsh, Finnish, Hungarian and others, and has derived from the alphabet

The gutenberg galaxy 139 once used by the ancient Hebrews, Phoenicians, Aramaeans, Greeks, Etruscans and Romans. Thanks to the simplicity of the alphabet, writing has become very common; it is no longer a more or less exclusive domain of the priestly or other privileged classes, a it was in Egypt, or Mesopotamia, or China. Education has become largely a matter of reading and writing, and is possible for all. The fact that alphabetic writing has survived with relatively little change for three and a half millennia, notwithstanding the introduction of printing and the typewriter, and the extensive use of shorthand-writing, is the best evidence for its suitability to serve the needs of the whole modern world. It is this simplicity, adaptability and suitability which have secured the triumph of the alphabet over the other systems of writing. Alphabetic writing and its origin constitute a story in themselves; they offer a new field for research which American scholars are beginning to call

Essential McLuhan 140 Figure 1, from the New York Times, July 20, 1961. “alphabetology.” No other system of writing has had so extensive, so intricate and so interesting a history.

The gutenberg galaxy 141 Diringer’s observation that the alphabet is “now universally employed by civilized peoples” is a bit tautological since it is by alphabet alone that men have detribalized or individualized themselves into “civilization.” Cultures can rise far above civilization artistically but without the phonetic alphabet they remain tribal, as do the Chinese and the Japanese. It is necessary to stress that my concern is with the process of separation of sense by which the detribalizing of men is achieved. Whether such personal abstraction and social detribalization be a “good thing” is not for any individual to determine. But a recognition of the process may disembarrass the matter of the miasmal moral fogs that now invest it. The alphabet is an aggressive and militant absorber and transformer of cultures, as Harold Innis was the first to show. Another observation of Diringer’s that deserves comment is the acceptability among all peoples of a technology that uses letters to “represent single sounds rather than ideas or syllables.” Another way of putting this is to say that any society possessing the alphabet can translate any adjacent cultures into its alphabetic mode. But this is a one-way process. No non-alphabetic culture can take over an alphabetic one, because the alphabet cannot be assimilated; it can only liquidate or reduce. However, in the electronic age we may have discovered the limits of the alphabet technology. It need no longer seem strange that peoples like the Greeks and Romans, who had experienced the alphabet, should also have been driven in the direction of conquest and organization-at-a-distance. Harold Innis, in Empire and Communications, was the first to pursue this theme and to explain in detail the simple truth of the Cadmus myth. The Greek King Cadmus, who introduced the phonetic alphabet to Greece, was said to have sown the dragon’s teeth and that they sprang up armed men. (The dragon’s teeth may allude to the old hieroglyphic forms.) Innis also explained why print causes nationalism and not tribalism; and why print causes price systems and markets such as cannot exist without print. In short, Harold Innis was the first person to hit upon the process of change as implicit in the forms of media technology. The present book is a footnote of explanation to his work. Diringer is emphatic about only one thing concerning the alphabet. No matter how or when it was achieved: At any rate, it must be said that the great achievement of the invention was not the creation of the signs. It lies in the adoption of a purely alphabetic system, which, moreover, denoted each sound by one sign only. For this achievement, simple as it now seems to us, the inventor, or the inventors are to be ranked among the greatest benefactors of mankind. No other people in the world has

Essential McLuhan 142 been able to develop a true alphabetic writing. The more or less civilized peoples of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Crete, Asia Minor, Indus Valley, China, Central America, reached an advanced stage in the history of writing, but could not get beyond the transitional stage. A few peoples (the ancient Cypriotes, the Japanese and others), developed a syllabary. But only the Syro-Palestinian Semites produced a genius who created the alphabetic writing, from which have descended all past and present alphabets. Each important civilization modifies its script and time may make its relation to some of its near relatives quite unrecognizable. Thus, the Brahmi, the great mother-script of India, the Korean alphabet, the Mongolian scripts are derived from the same source as the Greek, the Latin, the Runic, the Hebrew, the Arabic, the Russian alphabet, although it is practically impossible for a layman to see a real resemblance between them. (pp. 216–17) By the meaningless sign linked to the meaningless sound we have built the shape and meaning of Western man. Our next concern will be to trace somewhat sketchily the effects of the alphabet in manuscript culture in the ancient and medieval world. After that, we shall look much more closely at the transformation of alphabetic culture, by the printing press. The Homeric hero becomes a split-man as he assumes an individual ego. In his Art and Illusion, E.H.Gombrich writes (p. 116): If I had to reduce the last chapter to a brief formula it would be “making comes before matching.” Before the artist ever wanted to match the sights of the visible world he wanted to create things in their own right…. The very violence with which Plato denounces this trickery reminds us of the momentous fact that at the time he wrote, mimesis was a recent invention. There are many critics now who share his distaste, for one reason or another, but even they would admit there are few more exciting spectacles in the whole history of art than the great awakening of Greek sculpture and painting between the sixth century and the time of Plato’s youth toward the end of the fifth century B.C. Etienne Gilson makes much of the distinction between making and matching in his Painting and Reality. And whereas till Giotto a painting

The gutenberg galaxy 143 was a thing, from Giotto till Cézanne painting became the representation of things. See his chapter VIII on “Imitation and Creation.” There was, of course, the same development towards representation and direct lineal narrative in poetry and prose, as we shall see. What is essential for understanding this process, however, is that mimesis in Plato’s (not Aristotle’s) sense is the necessary effect of separating out the visual mode from the ordinary enmeshment with the audile-tactile interplay of senses. It is this process, brought about by the experience of phoentic literacy, that hoicks societies of the world of “sacred” or cosmic space and time into the detribalized or “profane” space and time of civilized and pragmatic man. Such is the theme of The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion by Mircea Eliade. In The Greeks and the Irrational, E.R.Dodds discusses the emotional instability and manias of the Homeric heroes: “And we may also ask ourselves why a people so civilised, clear-headed, and rational as the Ionians did not eliminate from their national epics these links with Borneo and the primitive past, just as they eliminated the fear of the dead…” (p. 13) But it is his next page that is especially helpful: “His own behaviour…has become alien to him. He cannot understand it. It is for him no part of his Ego.” This is a perfectly true observation, and its relevance to some of the phenomena we have been considering cannot, I think, be doubted. Nilsson is also, I believe, right in holding that experiences of this sort played a part—along with other elements, such as the Minoan tradition of protecting goddesses—in building up that machinery of physical intervention to which Homer resorts so constantly and, to our thinking, often so superfluously. We find it superfluous because the divine machinery seems to us in many cases to do no more than duplicate a natural psychological causation. But ought we not perhaps to say rather that the divine machinery “duplicates” a psychic intervention— that is, presents it in a concrete pictorial form? This was not superfluous; for only in this way could it be made vivid to the imagination of the hearers. The Homeric poets were without the refinements of language which would have been needed to “put across” adequately a purely psychological miracle. What more natural than that they should first supplement, and later replace, an old unexciting threadbare formula like by making the god appear as a physical presence and exhort his favourite with the spoken word? How much more vivid than a mere inward monition is the famous scene in Iliad I where Athena plucks Achilles by the hair and warns him not to strike Agamemnon! But she is visible to Achilles

Essential McLuhan 144 alone: “none of the others saw her” That is a plain hint that she is projection, the pictorial expression, of an inward monition—a monition which Achilles might have described by such a vague phrase as . And I suggest that in general the inward monition, or the sudden unaccountable feeling of power, or the sudden unaccountable loss of judgement, is the germ out of which the divine machinery developed. The hero has become a split man as he moves towards the possession of an individual ego. And the “split” is manifest as pictorialized models or “machinery” of complex situations such as tribal, auditory man had made no effort to visualize. That is to say, detribalization, individualization, and pictorialization are all one. The magical mode disappears in proportion as interior events are made visually manifest. But such manifestation is also reduction and distortion of complex relations which are more fully sensed when there is full interplay of all the senses at once. Mimesis to Plato had appeared, quite understandably, as varieties of representation, especially visual. In his Poetics 4, Aristotle made mimesis central to his entire cognitive and epistemological world, not limiting it to any one sense. But the first onset of literacy, and, therefore, of visuality as abstracted from the other senses, seemed to Plato a diminution of ontological awareness, or an impoverishment of Being. Bergson somewhere asks, how should we be able to know if some agent could double the speed of all events in the world? Quite simply, he answered. We would discern a great loss of richness in experience. Such seems to have been Plato’s attitude towards literacy and visual mimesis. Gombrich begins his tenth chapter of Art and Illusion with further observations on visual mimesis: The last chapter has led this inquiry back to the old truth that the discovery of appearances was not due so much to a careful observation of nature as to the invention of pictorial effects. I believe indeed that the ancient writers who were still filled with a sense of wonder at man’s capacity to fool the eye came closer to an understanding of this achievement than many later critics…but if we discard Berkeley’s theory of vision, according to which we “see” a flat field but “construct” a tactile space, we can perhaps rid art history of its obsession with space and bring other achievements into focus, the suggestion of light and texture, for instance, or the mastery of physiognomic expression. Berkeley’s New Theory of Vision (1709) is now favoured by psychologists of our sense lives. But Berkeley was concerned to refute Descartes and

The gutenberg galaxy 145 Newton, who had wholly abstracted the visual sense from the interaction of the other senses. On the other hand, the suppression of the visual sense in favour of the audile-tactile complex, produces the distortions of tribal society, and of the configuration of jazz and primitive art imitations which 11 broke upon us with radio, but not just “because” of radio. 11Georg von Bekesy’s article on “Similarities between Hearing and Skin Sensations” (Psychological Review, Jan., 1959, pp. 1–22) provides a means of understanding why no sense can function in isolation nor can be unmodified by the operation and diet of the other senses. Gombrich not only has all the most relevant information about the rise of the pictorial mode; he has all the right difficulties. He ends his Art and Illusion by commenting (pp. 117–18): There is finally the history of Greek painting as we can follow it in painted pottery, which tells of the discovery of foreshortening and the conquest of space early in the fifth century and of light in the fourth…. Emanuel Loewy at the turn of the century first developed his theories about the rendering of nature in Greek art that stressed the priority of conceptual modes and their gradual adjustment to natural appearances…. But in itself it explains very little. For why was it that this process started comparatively so late in the history of mankind? In this respect our perspective has very much changed. To the Greeks the archaic period represented the dawn of history, and classical scholarship has not always shaken off this inheritance. From this point of view it appeared quite natural that the awakening of art from primitive modes should have coincided with the rise of all those other activities, that, for the humanist, belong to civilization: the development of philosophy, of science, and of dramatic poetry.

9 Understanding Media Introduction James Reston wrote in The New York Times (July 7, 1957): A health director…reported this week that a small mouse, which presumably had been watching television, attacked a little girl and her full-grown cat…. Both mouse and cat survived, and the incident is recorded here as a reminder that things seem to be changing. After three thousand years of explosion, by means of fragmentary and mechanical technologies, the Western world is imploding. During the mechanical ages we had extended our bodies in space. Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man—the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media. Whether the extension of consciousness, so long sought by advertisers for specific products, will be “a good thing” is a question that admits of a wide solution. There is little possibility of answering such questions about the extensions of man without considering all of them together. Any extension, whether of skin, hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex. Some of the principal extensions, together with some of their psychic and social consequences, are studied in this book. Just how little consideration has been given to such matters in the past can be gathered from the consternation of one of the editors of this book. He noted in dismay that “seventy-five per cent of your material is new. A successful book cannot venture to be more than ten per cent new.” Such a risk seems quite worth taking at the present time when the stakes are very high, and the need to understand the effects of the extensions of man becomes more urgent by the hour. In the mechanical age now receding, many actions could be taken without too much concern. Slow movement insured that the reactions were delayed for considerable periods of time. Today the action and the

Understanding media 147 reaction occur almost at the same time. We actually live mythically and integrally, as it were, but we continue to think in the old, fragmented space and time patterns of the pre-electric age. Western man acquired from the technology of literacy the power to act without reacting. The advantages of fragmenting himself in this way are seen in the case of the surgeon who would be quite helpless if he were to become humanly involved in his operation. We acquired the art of carrying out the most dangerous social operations with complete detachment. But our detachment was a posture of noninvolvement. In the electric age, when our central nervous system is technologically extended to involve us in the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole of mankind in us, we necessarily participate, in depth, in the consequences of our every action. It is no longer possible to adopt the aloof and dissociated role of the literate Westerner. The Theater of the Absurd dramatizes this recent dilemma of Western man, the man of action who appears not to be involved in the action. Such is the origin and appeal of Samuel Beckett’s clowns. After three thousand years of specialist explosion and of increasing specialism and alienation in the technological extensions of our bodies, our world has become compressional by dramatic reversal. As electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village. Electric speed in bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion has heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree. It is this implosive factor that alters the position of the Negro, the teen-ager, and some other groups. They can no longer be contained, in the political sense of limited association. They are now involved in our lives, as we in theirs, thanks to the electric media. This is the Age of Anxiety for the reason of the electric implosion that compels commitment and participation, quite regardless of any “point of view.” The partial and specialized character of the viewpoint, however noble, will not serve at all in the electric age. At the information level the same upset has occurred with the substitution of the inclusive image for the mere viewpoint. If the nineteenth century was the age of the editorial chair, ours is the century of the psychiatrist’s couch. As extension of man the chair is a specialist ablation of the posterior, a sort of ablative absolute of backside, whereas the couch extends the integral being. The psychiatrist employs the couch, since it removes the temptation to express private points of view and obviates the need to rationalize events. The aspiration of our time for wholeness, empathy and depth of awareness is a natural adjunct of electric technology. The age of mechanical industry that preceded us found vehement assertion of private outlook the natural mode of expression. Every culture and every age has its favorite model of perception and knowledge that it is inclined to prescribe for everybody and everything. The mark of our time is its revulsion against imposed patterns. We are suddenly eager to have things and people declare their beings totally. There is a deep faith to be found in this new attitude—a faith that concerns the ultimate harmony of all being.

Essential McLuhan 148 Such is the faith in which this book has been written. It explores the con- tours of our own extended beings in our technologies, seeking the principle of intelligibility in each of them. In the full confidence that it is possible to win an understanding of these forms that will bring them into orderly service, I have looked at them anew, accepting very little of the conventional wisdom concerning them. One can say of media as Robert Theobald has said of economic depressions: “There is one additional factor that has helped to control depressions, and that is a better understanding of their development.” Examination of the origin and development of the individual extensions of man should be preceded by a look at some general aspects of the media, or extensions of man, beginning with the never-explained numbness that each extension brings about in the individual and society. The Medium Is the Message In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium— that is, of any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology. Thus, with automation, for example, the new patterns of human association tend to eliminate jobs, it is true. That is the negative result. Positively, automation creates roles for people, which is to say depth of involvement in their work and human association that our preceding mechanical technology had destroyed. Many people would be disposed to say that it was not the machine, but what one did with the machine, that was its meaning or message. In terms of the ways in which the machine altered our relations to one another and to ourselves, it mattered not in the least whether it turned out cornflakes or Cadillacs. The restructuring of human work and association was shaped by the technique of fragmentation that is the essence of machine technology. The essence of automation technology is the opposite. It is integral and decentralist in depth, just as the machine was fragmentary, centralist, and superficial in its patterning of human relationships. The instance of the electric light may prove illuminating in this connection. The electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message, as it were, unless it is used to spell out some verbal ad or name. This fact, characteristic of all media, means that the “content” of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph. If it is asked, “What is the content of speech?,” it is necessary to say, “It is an actual process of thought, which is in itself nonverbal.” An abstract painting represents direct manifestation of

Understanding media 149 creative thought processes as they might appear in computer designs. What we are considering here, however, are the psychic and social consequences of the designs or patterns as they amplify or accelerate existing process. For the “message” of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs. The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure. This happened whether the railway functioned in a tropical or a northern environment, and is quite independent of the freight or content of the railway medium. The airplane, on the other hand, by accelerating the rate of transportation, tends to dissolve the railway form of city, politics, and association, quite independently of what the airplane is used for. Let us return to the electric light. Whether the light is being used for brain surgery or night baseball is a matter of indifference. It could be argued that these activities are in some way the “content” of the electric light, since they could not exist without the electric light. This fact merely underlines the point that “the medium is the message” because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium. It is only today that industries have become aware of the various kinds of business in which they are engaged. When IBM discovered that it was not in the business of making office equipment or business machines, but that it was in the business of processing information, then it began to navigate with clear vision. The General Electric Company makes a considerable portion of its profits from electric light bulbs and lighting systems. It has not yet discovered that, quite as much as A.T.&T., it is in the business of moving information. The electric light escapes attention as a communication medium just because it has no “content.” And this makes it an invaluable instance of how people fail to study media at all. For it is not till the electric light is used to spell out some brand name that it is noticed as a medium. Then it is not the light but the “content” (or what is really another medium) that is noticed. The message of the electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and TV, creating involvement in depth. A fairly complete handbook for studying the extensions of man could be made up from selections from Shakespeare. Some might quibble about whether or not he was referring to TV in these familiar lines from Romeo and Juliet:

Essential McLuhan 150 But soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It speaks, and yet says nothing. In Othello, which, as much as King Lear, is concerned with the torment of people transformed by illusions, there are these lines that bespeak Shakespeare’s intuition of the transforming powers of new media: Is there not charms By which the property of youth and maidhood May be abus’d? Have you not read Roderigo, Of some such thing? In Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, which is almost completely devoted to both a psychic and social study of communication, Shakespeare states his awareness that true social and political navigation depend upon anticipating the consequences of innovation: The providence that’s in a watchful state Knows almost every grain of Plutus’ gold, Finds bottom in the uncomprehensive deeps, Keeps place with thought, and almost like the gods Does thoughts unveil in their dumb cradles. The increasing awareness of the action of media, quite independently of their “content” or programming, was indicated in the annoyed and anonymous stanza: In modern thought, (if not in fact) Nothing is that doesn’t act, So that is reckoned wisdom which Describes the scratch but not the itch. The same kind of total, configurational awareness that reveals why the medium is socially the message has occurred in the most recent and radical medical theories. In his Stress of Life, Hans Selye tells of the dismay of a research colleague on hearing of Selye’s theory: When he saw me thus launched on yet another enraptured description of what I had observed in animals treated with

Understanding media 151 this or that impure, toxic material, he looked at me with desperately sad eyes and said in obvious despair: “But Selye, try to realize what you are doing before it is too late! You have now decided to spend your entire life studying the pharmacology of dirt!” As Selye deals with the total environmental situation in his “stress” theory of disease, so the latest approach to media study considers not only the “content” but the medium and the cultural matrix within which the particular medium operates. The older unawareness of the psychic and social effects of media can be illustrated from almost any of the conventional pronouncements. In accepting an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame a few years ago, General David Sarnoff made this statement: “We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.” That is the voice of the current somnambulism. Suppose we were to say, “Apple pie is in itself neither good nor bad; it is the way it is used that determines its value.” Or, “The smallpox virus is in itself neither good nor bad, it is the way it is used that determines its value.” Again, “Firearms are in themselves neither good nor bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.” That is, if the slugs reach the right people firearms are good. If the TV tube fires the right ammunition at the right people it is good. I am not being perverse. There is simply nothing in the Sarnoff statement that will bear scrutiny, for it ignores the nature of the medium, of any and all media, in the true Narcissus style of one hypnotized by the amputation and extension of his own being in a new technical form. General Sarnoff went on to explain his attitude to the technology of print, saying that it was true that print caused much trash to circulate, but it had also disseminated the Bible and the thoughts of seers and philosophers. It has never occurred to General Sarnoff that any technology could do anything but add itself on to what we already are. Such economists as Robert Theobald, W.W.Rostow, and John Kenneth Galbraith have been explaining for years how it is that “classical economics” cannot explain change or growth. And the paradox of mechanization is that although it is itself the cause of maximal growth and change, the principle of mechanization excludes the very possibility of growth or the understanding of change. For mechanization is achieved by fragmentation of any process and by putting the fragmented parts in a series. Yet, as David Hume showed in the eighteenth century, there is no principle of causality in a mere sequence. That one thing follows another accounts for nothing. Nothing follows from following, except change. So the greatest of all reversals occurred with electricity, that ended sequence by making things instant. With instant speed the causes of things began to emerge to awareness again, as they had not done with things in sequence

Essential McLuhan 152 and in concatenation accordingly. Instead of asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, it suddenly seemed that a chicken was an egg’s idea for getting more eggs. Just before an airplane breaks the sound barrier, sound waves become visible on the wings of the plane. The sudden visibility of sound just as sound ends is an apt instance of that great pattern of being that reveals new and opposite forms just as the earlier forms reach their peak performance. Mechanization was never so vividly fragmented or sequential as in the birth of the movies, the moment that translated us beyond mechanism into the world of growth and organic interrela-tion. The movie, by sheer speeding up the mechanical, carried us from the world of sequence and connections into the world of creative configuration and structure. The message of the movie medium is that of transition from lineal connections to configurations. It is the transition that produced the now quite correct observation: “If it works, it’s obsolete.” When electric speed further takes over from mechanical movie sequences, then the lines of force in structures and in media become loud and clear. We return to the inclusive form of the icon. To a highly literate and mechanized culture the movie appeared as a world of triumphant illusions and dreams that money could buy. It was at this moment of the movie that cubism occurred, and it has been described by E.H.Gombrich (Art and Illusion) as “the most radical attempt to stamp out ambiguity and to enforce one reading of the picture—that of a man- made construction, a colored canvas.” For cubism substitutes all facets of an object simultaneously for the “point of view” or facet of perspective illusion. Instead of the specialized illusion of the third dimension on canvas, cubism sets up an interplay of planes and contradiction or dramatic conflict of patterns, lights, textures that “drives home the message” by involvement. This is held by many to be an exercise in painting, not in illusion. In other words, cubism, by giving the inside and outside, the top, bottom, back, and front and the rest, in two dimensions, drops the illusion of perspective in favor of instant sensory awareness of the whole Cubism, by seizing on instant total awareness, suddenly announced that the medium is the message. Is it not evident that the moment that sequence yields to the simultaneous, one is in the world of the structure and of configuration? Is that not what has happened in physics as in painting, poetry, and in communication? Specialized segments of attention have shifted to total field, and we can now say, “The medium is the message” quite naturally. Before the electric speed and total field, it was not obvious that the medium is the message. The message, it seemed, was the “content,” as people used to ask what a painting was about. Yet they never thought to ask what a melody was about, nor what a house or a dress was about. In such matters, people retained some sense of the whole pattern, of form and function as a unity. But in the electric age this integral idea of structure and configuration has become so prevalent that

Understanding media 153 educational theory has taken up the matter. Instead of working with specialized “problems” in arithmetic, the structural approach now follows the lines of force in the field of number and has small children meditating about number theory and “sets.” Cardinal Newman said of Napoleon, “He understood the grammar of gunpowder.” Napoleon had paid some attention to other media as well, especially the semaphore telegraph that gave him a great advantage over his enemies. He is on record for saying that “Three hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” Alexis de Tocqueville was the first to master the grammar of print and typography. He was thus able to read off the message of coming change in France and America as if he were reading aloud from a text that had been handed to him. In fact, the nineteenth century in France and in America was just such an open book to de Tocqueville because he had learned the grammar of print. So he, also, knew when that grammar did not apply. He was asked why he did not write a book on England, since he knew and admired England. He replied: One would have to have an unusual degree of philosophical folly to believe oneself able to judge England in six months. A year always seemed to me too short a time in which to appreciate the United States properly, and it is much easier to acquire clear and precise notions about the American Union than about Great Britain. In America all laws derive in a sense from the same line of thought. The whole of society, so to speak, is founded upon a single fact; everything springs from a simple principle. One could compare America to a forest pierced by a multitude of straight roads all converging on the same point. One has only to find the center and everything is revealed at a glance. But in England the paths run criss-cross, and it is only by travelling down each one of them that one can build up a picture of the whole. De Tocqueville, in earlier work on the French Revolution, had explained how it was the printed word that, achieving cultural saturation in the eighteenth century, had homogenized the French nation. Frenchmen were the same kind of people from north to south. The typographic principles of uniformity, continuity, and lineality had overlaid the complexities of ancient feudal and oral society. The Revolution was carried out by the new literati and lawyers. In England, however, such was the power of the ancient oral traditions of common law, backed by the medieval institution of Parliament, that no uniformity or continuity of the new visual print culture could take complete hold. The result was that the most important event in English

Essential McLuhan 154 history has never taken place; namely, the English Revolution on the lines of the French Revolution. The American Revolution had no medieval legal institutions to discard or to root out, apart from monarchy. And many have held that the American Presidency has become very much more personal and monarchical than any European monarch ever could be. De Tocqueville’s contrast between England and America is clearly based on the fact of typography and of print culture creating uniformity and continuity. England, he says, has rejected this principle and clung to the dynamic or oral common-law tradition. Hence the discontinuity and unpredictable quality of English culture. The grammar of print cannot help to construe the message of oral and nonwritten culture and institutions. The English aristocracy was properly classified as barbarian by Matthew Arnold because its power and status had nothing to do with literacy or with the cultural forms of typography. Said the Duke of Gloucester to Edward Gibbon upon the publication of his Decline and Fall: “Another damned fat book, eh, Mr. Gibbon? Scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr. Gibbon?” De Tocqueville was a highly literate aristocrat who was quite able to be detached from the values and assumptions of typography. That is why he alone understood the grammar of typography. And it is only on those terms, standing aside from any structure or medium, that its principles and lines of force can be discerned. For any medium has the power of imposing its own assumption on the unwary. Prediction and control consist in avoiding this subliminal state of Narcissus trance. But the greatest aid to this end is simply in knowing that the spell can occur immediately upon contact, as in the first bars of a melody. A Passage to India by E.M.Forster is a dramatic study of the inability of oral and intuitive oriental culture to meet with the rational, visual European patterns of experience. “Rational,” of course, has for the West long meant “uniform and continuous and sequential.” In other words, we have confused reason with literacy, and rationalism with a single technology. Thus in the electric age man seems to the conventional West to become irrational. In Forster’s novel the moment of truth and dislocation from the typographic trance of the West comes in the Marabar Caves. Adela Quested’s reasoning powers cannot cope with the total inclusive field of resonance that is India. After the Caves: “Life went on as usual, but had no consequences, that is to say, sounds did not echo nor thought develop. Everything seemed cut off at its root and therefore infected with illusion.” A Passage to India (the phrase is from Whitman, who saw America headed Eastward) is a parable of Western man in the electric age, and is only incidentally related to Europe or the Orient. The ultimate conflict between sight and sound, between written and oral kinds of perception and organization of existence is upon us. Since understanding stops action, as Nietzsche observed, we can moderate the fierceness of this

Understanding media 155 conflict by understanding the media that extend us and raise these wars within and without us. Detribalization by literacy and its traumatic effects on tribal man is the theme of a book by the psychiatrist J.C.Carothers, The African Mind in Health and Disease (World Health Organization, Geneva, 1953). Much of his material appeared in an article in Psychiatry magazine, November, 1959: “The Culture, Psychiatry, and the Written Word.” Again, it is electric speed that has revealed the lines of force operating from Western technology in the remotest areas of bush, savannah, and desert. One example is the Bedouin with his battery radio on board the camel. Submerging natives with floods of concepts for which nothing has prepared them is the normal action of all of our technology. But with electric media Western man himself experiences exactly the same inundation as the remote native. We are no more prepared to encounter radio and TV in our literate milieu than the native of Ghana is able to cope with the literacy that takes him out of his collective tribal world and beaches him in individual isolation. We are as numb in our new electric world as the native involved in our literate and mechanical culture. Electric speed mingles the cultures of prehistory with the dregs of industrial marketeers, the nonliterate with the semiliterate and the postliterate. Mental breakdown of varying degrees is the very common result of uprooting and inundation with new information and endless new patterns of information. Wyndham Lewis made this a theme of his group of novels called The Human Age. The first of these, The Childermass, is concerned precisely with accelerated media change as a kind of massacre of the innocents. In our own world as we become more aware of the effects of technology on psychic formation and manifestation, we are losing all confidence in our right to assign guilt. Ancient prehistoric societies regard violent crime as pathetic. The killer is regarded as we do a cancer victim. “How terrible it must be to feel like that,” they say. J.M.Synge took up this idea very effectively in his Playboy of the Western World. If the criminal appears as a nonconformist who is unable to meet the demand of technology that we behave in uniform and continuous patterns, literate man is quite inclined to see others who cannot conform as somewhat pathetic. Especially the child, the cripple, the woman, and the colored person appear in a world of visual and typographic technology as victims of injustice. On the other hand, in a culture that assigns roles instead of jobs to people—the dwarf, the skew, the child create their own spaces. They are not expected to fit into some uniform and repeatable niche that is not their size anyway. Consider the phrase “It’s a man’s world.” As a quantitative observation endlessly repeated from within a homogenized culture, this phrase refers to the men in such a culture who have to be homogenized Dagwoods in order to belong at all. It is in our I.Q. testing that we have produced the greatest flood of misbegotten standards. Unaware of our typographic cultural bias, our testers assume

Essential McLuhan 156 that uniform and continuous habits are a sign of intelligence, thus eliminating the ear man and the tactile man. C.P.Snow, reviewing a book of A.L.Rowse (The New York Times Book Review, December 24, 1961) on Appeasement and the road to Munich, describes the top level of British brains and experience in the 1930s. “Their I.Q.’s were much higher than usual among political bosses. Why were they such a disaster?” The view of Rowse, Snow approves: “They would not listen to warnings because they did not wish to hear.” Being anti-Red made it impossible for them to read the message of Hitler. But their failure was as nothing compared to our present one. The American stake in literacy as a technology or uniformity applied to every level of education, government, industry, and social life is totally threatened by the electric technology. The threat of Stalin or Hitler was external. The electric technology is within the gates, and we are numb, deaf, blind, and mute about its encounter with the Gutenberg technology, on and through which the American way of life was formed. It is, however, no time to suggest strategies when the threat has not even been acknowledged to exist. I am in the position of Louis Pasteur telling doctors that their greatest enemy was quite invisible, and quite unrecognized by them. Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot. For the “content” of a medium is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the bur- glar to distract the watchdog of the mind. The effect of the medium is made strong and intense just because it is given another medium as “content.” The content of a movie is a novel or a play or an opera. The effect of the movie form is not related to its program content. The “content” of writing or print is speech, but the reader is almost entirely unaware either of print or of speech. Arnold Toynbee is innocent of any understanding of media as they have shaped history, but he is full of examples that the student of media can use. At one moment he can seriously suggest that adult education, such as the Workers Educational Association in Britain, is a useful counterforce to the popular press. Toynbee considers that although all of the oriental societies have in our time accepted the industrial technology and its political consequences: “On the cultural plane, however, there is no uniform corresponding tendency.” (Somervell, I. 267) This is like the voice of the literate man, floundering in a milieu of ads, who boasts, “Personally, I pay no attention to ads.” The spiritual and cultural reservations that the oriental peoples may have toward our technology will avail them not at all. The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts, but alter sense ratios or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance. The serious artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity, just because he is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception. The operation of the money medium in seventeenth-century Japan had effects not unlike the operation of typography in the West. The

Understanding media 157 penetration of the money economy, wrote G.B.Sansom (in Japan, Cresset Press, London, 1931) “caused a slow but irresistible revolution, culminating in the breakdown of feudal government and the resumption of intercourse with foreign countries after more than two hundred years of seclusion.” Money has reorganized the sense life of peoples just because it is an extension of our sense lives. This change does not depend upon approval or disapproval of those living in the society. Arnold Toynbee made one approach to the transforming power of media in his concept of “etherialization,” which he holds to be the principle of progressive simplification and efficiency in any organization or technology. Typically, he is ignoring the effect of the challenge of these forms upon the response of our senses. He imagines that it is the response of our opinions that is relevant to the effect of media and technology in society, a “point of view” that is plainly the result of the typographic spell. For the man in a literate and homogenized society ceases to be sensitive to the diverse and discontinuous life of forms. He acquires the illusion of the third dimension and the “private point of view” as part of his Narcissus fixation, and is quite shut off from Blake’s awareness or that of the Psalmist, that we become what we behold. Today when we want to get our bearings in our own culture, and have need to stand aside from the bias and pressure exerted by any technical form of human expression, we have only to visit a society where that particular form has not been felt, or a historical period in which it was unknown. Professor Wilbur Schramm made such a tactical move in studying Television in the Lives of Our Children. He found areas where TV had not penetrated at all and ran some tests. Since he had made no study of the peculiar nature of the TV image, his tests were of “content” preferences, viewing time, and vocabulary counts. In a word, his approach to the problem was a literary one, albeit unconsciously so. Consequently, he had nothing to report. Had his methods been employed in 1500 A.D. to discover the effects of the printed book in the lives of children or adults, he could have found out nothing of the changes in human and social psychology resulting from typography. Print created individualism and nationalism in the sixteenth century. Program and “content” analysis offer no clues to the magic of these media or to their subliminal charge. Leonard Doob, in his report Communication in Africa, tells of one African who took great pains to listen each evening to the BBC news, even though he could understand nothing of it. Just to be in the presence of those sounds at 7 P.M. each day was important for him. His attitude to speech was like ours to melody—the resonant intonation was meaning enough. In the seventeenth century our ancestors still shared this native’s attitude to the forms of media, as is plain in the following sentiment of the Frenchman Bernard Lam, expressed in The Art of Speaking (London, 1696):

Essential McLuhan 158 ’Tis an effect of the Wisdom of God, who created Man to be happy, that whatever is useful to his conversation (way of life) is agreeable to him…because all victual that conduces to nourishment is relishable, whereas other things that cannot be assimulated and be turned into our substance are insipid. A Discourse cannot be pleasant to the Hearer that is not easie to the Speaker; nor can it be easily pronounced unless it be heard with delight. Here is an equilibrium theory of human diet and expression such as even now we are only striving to work out again for media after centuries of fragmentation and specialism. Pope Pius XII was deeply concerned that there be serious study of the media today. On February 17, 1950, he said: It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of modern society and the stability of its inner life depend in large part on the maintenance of an equilibrium between the strength of the techniques of communication and the capacity of the individual’s own reaction. Failure in this respect has for centuries been typical and total for mankind. Subliminal and docile acceptance of media impact has made them prisons without walls for their human users. As A.J.Liebling remarked in his book The Press, a man is not free if he cannot see where he is going, even if he has a gun to help him get there. For each of the media is also a powerful weapon with which to clobber other media and other groups. The result is that the present age has been one of multiple civil wars that are not limited to the world of art and entertainment. In War and Human Progress, Professor J.U.Nef declared: “The total wars of our time have been the result of a series of intellectual mistakes…” If the formative power in the media are the media themselves, that raises a host of large matters that can only be mentioned here, although they deserve volumes. Namely, that technological media are staples or natural resources, exactly as are coal and cotton and oil. Anybody will concede that society whose economy is dependent upon one or two major staples like cot