The Medium and the Message
This is more I have gleaned from Postman – and indirectly McLuhan. I urge you to go direct, and get Amusing Ourselves to Death for yourself. It’s not a big book, and it is still in print.
But I can hear everyone whining “I don’t have the time,” when they can sit down and watch a 30-minute TV show with no problem at all. Reading and understanding is not something they do.
Here are some sound-bites for them, from pages 9 and 10 of the book, which will no doubt be way over their heads, since they are taken out of the context of the book.
The medium of communication available to a culture are a dominant influence on the formation of the culture’s intellectual and social preoccupations.
Physical reality seems to recede in proportion as man’s symbolic activity advances. Instead of dealing with things themselves man is in a sense constantly conversing with himself. He has so enveloped himself in linguistic forms, in artistic images, in mythical symbols or religious rites that he cannot see or know anything except by the interposition of an artificial medium.
He then refers to Lewis Mumford, one of my favorites also:
The clock is a piece of machinery whose product is seconds and minutes. In manufacturing such a product, the clock has the effect of disassociating time from human evens and this nourishes the belief in an independent world of mathematically measured sequences. Moment to moment, if turns out, is not God’s conception, or nature’s. It is man conversing with himself about and through a piece of machinery he has created.
I have to tell you about a recent experience of mine. An important funeral took place yesterday at the church only three short blocks from my home. I got mixed up in the crowd following the coffin to the cemetery. I was forced to slow down and walk at their pace – when I realized that Latinos have no abstract sense of time and space, and don’t want one. For them, everything is social (in this case a funeral) and they don’t want this priority disrupted.