Posts Tagged ‘McLuhan


Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter

Friedrich Kittler
Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
Area: Digital Media
Translator’s Intro

•    Media determine our situation
•    Media of the present influence how we think about the media of the past or future
•    “Media Science” will remain mere “media history”
o    Study of media should concern itself primarily with mediality and not resort to the usual suspects (history, sociology, anthropology, lit and cultural studies) to explain how and why media so what they do
•    Media are not coefficients but effects of ideology (Baudrillard)
o    Media do no mediate; they are anti-mediatory and intransitive
•    Kittler: merger of Foucault, Lacan, McLuhan
o    Discourse analysis, structuralist psychoanalysis, and first generation media theory
o    “Media discourse analysis”
•    Lacan: human consciousness is a camera that captures and stores imagtes even when no one is around
•    Ulmer: grammatological works of Derrida “already reflect an internalization of the electronic media”
•    Hypertext and hypermedia : poststructuralism :: cybernetics : structuralism/semiotics
•    Hermeneutic “master plan” can only work if people are trained to work with language in standardized ways that downplay its changing materiality
•    People have been trained to disregard the change from handwriting to print
•    When a camera (Lacan) does all the registering, storing, and developing on its own, there is on need for an intervening subject and is celebrated consciousness
o    When the phonograph stores everything on might say there might be an unconscious, but no mediating Soul
•    Use of military combat illustrations
Xii: “Such framing, however, implies that the (re)discovery of a past orality will affect the perception of our present literacy, since every exploration of the dynamics of orality is a renegotiation of the limits and boundaries of literacy and its associated media networks.”
Xv: “technologies such as the transistor radio recognize no contradiction between transmitter and receiver.  Rather, these technical distinctions reflect the social division of labor into producers and consumers and therefore are ultimately predicated on the contradiction between the ruling and ruled classes.  If passive consumers were to become active citizens and producers, they would have to take charge of this untapped technological potential, install themselves as producers, and thereby ‘bring the communications media, which up to now have not deserved the name, into their own.”
Xx: “Step 1: We recognize that we are spoken by language.  Step 2: we understand that language is not some nebulous entity but appears in the shape of historically limited discursive practices.  Step 3: We finally perceived that these practices depend on media. In short, structuralism begot discourse analysis, and discourse analysis begot media theory.”
Xx: “Whereas Foucault’s archives are based on the hegemony of written language, on the silent assumption that print is the primary (if not the only) carrier of signification, Kittler’s archeology of the present seeks to include the technological storage and communication media of the post-print age(s).  ‘Even writing itself, before it ends up in libraries, is a communication medium, the technology of which the archeologist [Foucault] simply forgot.  It is for this reason that all his analyses end immediately before that point in time at which other media penetrated the library’s stacks. Discourse analysis cannot be applied to sound archives and towers of film rolls.’”
Xxv: “While the typewriter did away with either’s sex’s need for a writing stylus ( and in the process giving women control over a writing machine-qua-phallus), it reinscribed women’s subordination to men: women not only became writers but also became secretaries taking dictation on typewriters, frequently without comprehending what was being dictated.”
•    McLuhan: One media’s content is always other media
•    Media are always already beyond aesthetics
•    “If the film called history rewinds itself, it turns into an endless loop”
o    History if Foucault’s “wave like succession of words”
•    Writing merely stores the fact of its authorization
o    Writing celebrates the storage monopoly of the God who invented it
•    Hegel: the alphabetized individual had his ‘appearance and externality’ in this continuous flow of ink and letters
•    “Once memories and dreams, the dead and ghosts become technically reproducible, readers and writers no longer need the powers of hallucination”
•    Reproductions don’t simply resemble, but guarantee this resemblance by being a product of the object in question
•    Media are always flight apparatuses to the great beyond (specter)
•    Typewriters don’t store individuals
•    No computer has ever or will ever be built that can do more than the Turing machine
10: “Once storage media can accommodate optical and acoustic data, human memory capacity is bound to dwindle.  Its liberation is its end.  As long as the book was responsible for all serial data flows, words quivered with sensuality and memory.”
11: “If (according to Balzacz) the human body consists of many infinitely thin layers of ‘specters,’ and if the human spirit cannot be created from nothingness, then the daguerreotype must be a sinister trick: it fixes, that is steals, one layer after the other, until nothing remains of the specters and the photographed body.”
14: “The beginning of our age was marked by separation or differentation.  On the one hand, we have two technological media that, for the first time, fix unwritable data flows; on the other, an ‘intermediate’ thing between a tool and a machine, as Heidegger wrote so precisely about the typewriter.  On the one hand, we have the entertainment industry with its new sensualities; on the other, a writing that already separated paper and body during textual production, not first during reproduction (as Gutenberg’s movable types had done).”


Steur’s “Defining Virtual Reality”

Jonathan Steur
“Defining Virtual Reality: Dimensions Determining Telepresence”
Area: Digital Media

•    Structures need to be established to assess different VR systems
•    Defining VR in terms of human experience, not technical hardware
o    Presence: experience of one’s physical environment
•    “Not as they exist in the physical world, but to the perception of those surroundings as mediated by both automatic and controlled mental processes.”
o    Distal attribution and externalization
•    Forced to perceived 2 environments:
o    Actual
o    Environment via medium (telepresence)
•    Presence = natural perception
•    Telepresence = mediated perception
•    VR = real or simulated environment in which a perceiver experiences telepresence
•    Telepresence is a relationship between an individual who is both a sender and a receiver and on the mediated environment with which one interacts
•    The definition of VR in terms of telepresence provides a conceptual framework in which such newly developed technologies can be expanded in relation to other media technologies
•    “Vividness means the representational riches of a mediated environment as defined by its formal features; that is by the way in which an environment presents information to the senses
o    “Hot” in McLuhan-ese
•    “Interactivity: The extent to which users can participate in modifying the form and content of a mediated environment in real time
o    Three factors: speed (rate); range (number of possibilities); mapping (control, connected action)



Marshall McLuhan
Area: Digital Media
(All notes from the McLuhan Reader)

•    Studies of the effects of mass media on thought and social behavior
•    The perception of reality now depends on the structure of information
•    “Because of the decentralizing, integrating, and accelerating character of electric proves, 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” (2).
•    Hot v. cool media
o    “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” (3).
•    Retribalize the structure of psychic and social awareness
o    Closely related to tribal relations of tyrannous instruction and control
•    How do our sensory lived change in response to the media we use?
•    McLuhan: an “updated” rhetorician
•    In electronic media, the user is the co-producer
•    The future is always a new way of retrieving the past
Gutenberg Galaxy
•    Shapes and structures of human interdependence and expression are non-verbal, but oral in form
•    Competitive individualism
•    3-D perspective
o    “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 and acquired illusion Shakespeare helps us to see by his comments on the other senses in relation to sight.”
•    “The interiorization of the technology of the phonetic alphabet translates man from the magical world of the earth to the neutral visual world”
•    Literacy gives people a way to focus a bit in front of an image so we take in the whole image or picture at a glance.
•    Imaginative reconstruction
o    Cultures having difficulty attaining skills after others are ingrained: music after reading/writing; film and the non-literate
•    Writing is a visual enclosure of non-visual spaces and senses
o    Ordinary sense interplay
•    The alphabet is not used by civilized people—it is used to do the civilizing
97: “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.”
114: “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 world.”
127: “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.”
137: “A theory of cultural change is impossible without knowledge of the changing sense ratios effected by various externalizations of our senses.”
139: “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.”
Understanding Media/The Medium is the Message
•    Technology of literacy: power to act without acting
•    Mark of our time = revulsion against imposed patterns
•    Brain surgery/baseball game: content of electric light—couldn’t exist without
o    Medium (light) controls the scale and form of human association and action
•    “The products of modern science are neither good or bad; it’s the way they’re used that determined their value.”
o    This ignores the nature of the medium
•    Cool media—so little is given and much has to be filled in
•    Hot media—don’t leave much to be filled in
•    Hot: low in participation; Cool: high in participation
•    Makes all the different whether a hot/cool medium is used in hot/cool culture
•    Extensions of man: “make happen” agents, not “make aware” agents
149: “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.”
151: “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.”
158: “If the criminal appears as a nonconformist who is unable to need 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.”
164: “For myth is the instant vision of a complex process that ordinary extends over a long period.  Myth is contraction or implosion of any process, and the instant speed of electricity confers the mythic dimension on ordinary industrial and social action today.  We live mythically but continue to think fragmentarily and on single planes.”
171: “Electricity does not centralize but decentralizes.  It is like the difference between a railway system and an electric grid system: the one requires railheads and big urban centers.  Electric power, equally available in the farmhouse and the Executive Suite, permits any place to be a center, and does not require large aggregations.”
177: “What I am saying is that media as extensions of our senses institute new ratios, not only among our private senses, but among themselves, when they interact among themselves.  Radio changed the form of the news story as much as it altered the film image in the talkies.  TV caused drastic changes in drastic changes in radio programming, and in the form of the thing or documentary novel.”

July 2017
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