The first to jump on stage was Barrington Nevitt (1908-95) with 4 books:
- ABC OF PROPHECY: Understanding the Environment
- THE COMMUNICATION ECOLOGY: Re-presentation versus Replica
- KEEPING AHEAD OF ECONOMIC PANIC
- CAPTAIN GULLIVER'S INTERPLANETARY TRAVELS
(1986, with Maurice Hecht).
These efforts by Nevitt may be the best successor to McLuhan's artistic literary purposes because Nevitt intended them to be Menippean satires. Nevitt understood Menippean satire
(traditionally defined as a "mixed-media" art form, but see Eric McLuhan, THE ROLE OF THUNDER IN FINNEGANS WAKE, 1997, p.3ff.)
is an important element in McLuhan's theory of communication
(At the end of his Ph.D. thesis, Menippean Thunder at Finnegans Wake: The Critical Problems , Eric McLuhan lists common features and topics of Menippean satire throughout its history, including the following:
- "*Do it Yourself*.
-- The reader is told to add to, subtract from or rearrange the materials of the text to suit himself...., p.455;
- *Words as Gestures*,
and vice-versa. -- ..., p.468;
- *Words as Things*,
and vice-versa. -- The preceding topic draws attention to eloquence inherent in the formal character of utterance: this topic deals with the relation between language and artefacts...., p.469;
-- The 'moderns', or dialecticians [*gloriosi*] in all ages, are a target of Menippists. The line of attack runs through Menippus, Varro, Petronius, Lucian [e.g., The Sale of Philosophers], Erasmus, Cervantes, Rabelais, Voltaire, Butler, Dekker, Nashe, Swift, Sterne, Carlyle, Flaubert and Joyce...., p.473;
- *Parody of New Forms*.
-- The chameleon-like and mimetic nature of Menippean satire, which contributes to the impossibility of accounting for it descriptively, gives it immense flexibility and adaptability to new forms and new situations. As soon as new genres or modes or media for expression appear, Menippists quickly adapt to the new form and begin to explore its satirical possibilities...., p.477;
- *Printing Conventions Trifled With*.
-- ..., p.479;
- *Simultaneity of Past and Present*.
-- ..., p.481."
The lurker familiar with Marshall McLuhan's writings, beginning with his Ph.D. thesis, should recognize some of their repeated themes in this list.)
and attempted to be true to that tradition while enhancing his own specialist bias as a management consultant with a theoretical interest in the natural sciences of astronomy, biology, and physics, etc. As a result, Nevitt's writings can be the most appropriate introduction to the Toronto school of media ecology. An example:
"... But, as old nature is transformed into new Nature, a prophet can now foretell that dogmatic faith in anti-magic will revive blind trust in magic; and that science will become occult, while occult becomes science.
[author of FINNEGANS WAKE, 1939],
who foresaw this outcome, asks mythic, tribal Finn, the rhetorical question:
'Who gave you that numb?' (FW 546).
Joyce then listens to 'what the thunders said'
[There are eleven thunders in FW, found on pp.3, 23, 44, 90, 113, 257, 314, 332, 414, 424, and on the last line of p.612 - ed.]
as the gods replied in Finnegans Wake. In this primer for prophets, Joyce reveals through the multisensuous language of the gods how archetypal Finn reacts psychically and socially to his own technological innovations, from paleolithic barbarism to modern civilization. Finn is alternately awakened to consciousness by the 'thunder' of each innovation, and lulled to unconsciousness by the environment that each creates through continued use. But, at the end of the First Cycle of merely reacting to the psychic and social consequences of innovation, he is prepared to enter the Second Cycle by anticipating them; first, he had the experience before its meaning; now he can have the meaning before the experience.
'Finn, again!' has discovered 'The keys to. Given!' (FW 628) - the KEYS (not only mechanical, but musical) to GIVEN (both data and Heaven) - in the magical intervals between sleeping and waking."-
ABC OF PROPHECY,1980, p.56.
Nevitt's concise precis of Finnegans Wake is very apt in light of his mentor's Ph.D. thesis which concludes:
"What is true of Nashe is equally true of his contemporaries. One is, therefore, faced with the fact that while much excellent and indispensable work has been done on the Elizabethan period, we have scarcely begun to see its intellectual and literary life in an Elizabethan light. Many facts contributed to make it an age of rhetoric, and even of conflicting rhetorics; but we have long persisted in viewing it in the light of the violent reaction against what Huxley called 'the pestilent cosmetic of rhetoric'. It required, perhaps, the advent of such a successful devotee of the rhetoric of the second sophistic as James Joyce, to prepare the ground for a scholarly understanding of Elizabethan literature." -
THE PLACE OF THOMAS NASHE
IN THE LEARNING OF HIS TIME, 1943, p.447.
And the relevance is reinforced when we return to the first pages of McLuhan's thesis:
"Its [the art of grammar] claim to be viewed as an important basis of scientific method, both during antiquity and continuously throughout medieval times, and in the work of Francis Bacon, has, I think, never been indicated before the present study.
In the dialogue named for Cratylus, the follower of Heraclitus, Plato has this exchange of arguments between Socrates and Cratylus:
'Socrates: 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.'
Obviously, with this kind of importance associated with the names of things, and of gods, heroes, and legendary beings, etymology would be a main source of scientific and moral enlightenment. And such was the case. The prolific labors of the etymologists reflected in Plato's Cratylus, but begun centuries before and continued until the seventeenth century, are as much the concern of the historian of philosophy and of science as of the historian of letters and culture.
Indeed, it was not only in antiquity but until the Cartesian revolution that language was viewed as simultaneously linking and harmonizing all the intellectual and physical functions of men and of the physical world as well." -
Nevitt came to understand that Finnegans Wake was the sub-plot of McLuhan's writings since his Nashe dissertation. That McLuhan was engaged in a lifelong translation of Joyce's last work can be seen in his reference to an early Menippean satire:
"We can see in the Saturnalia of Macrobius how he has become for the Roman the same source of scientific and ethical lore that Homer had already become for the Greek. Thus for Macrobius the grammarian 'it is Virgil's learning that appeals to men rather than his poetry.' As grammarian, Macrobius applied the method of etymology not only to Virgil but to mythology, and astronomy, and the music of the spheres; for one relation between grammar and astronomy in antiquity was music, or harmony and rhythm. In medieval times Macrobius as grammarian and scientist had a very great prestige; and no better indication of the need for study of the method of grammar as the accepted mode of ancient and medieval science could be adduced than the complete lack of comprehension of the aims and objectives of Macrobius which continues to prevail." -
McLuhan worked to prevent Finnegans Wake from suffering the same fate. And he was the first Joyce enthusiast to see its practical utility for perceiving clearly the pressing issues plaguing his contemporaries in all walks and labors of twentieth-century life. Nevitt gives the context:
"The great Cynic/Menippean satires get produced at a time of great technological change: Diogenes and Menippus with the advent of the phonetic alphabet; Rabelais and Erasmus with the printing press; Flaubert with the newspaper; James Joyce with the press, radio, film and TV. McLuhan got us thinking and talking about our new global village with the advent of satellites and computers." -
Nevitt in WHO WAS MARSHALL McLUHAN?,
Nevitt and McLuhan, p.201.
So Nevitt, McLuhan, and their colleagues, standing on the shoulders of Ovid, Dante, Giordano Bruno, Francis Bacon, Giambattista Vico, and James Joyce, created a new science of media ecology in which:
"The *new* SCIENZA NUOVA recognizes the primacy of percepts and Instant Replay, the complementarity of VISUAL and ACOUSTIC space structures, also the artifacts of old art and science as probes rather than programs. It is not only of words and concepts and theories derived from past experience, but also of multi-sensory images arising from encounter with constantly changing present existence that retrieves old knowledge with new meaning.
In our day, since Martin Heidegger, philology and etymology have once more become the basis for the metaphysical. Since James Joyce, the emphasis has changed from merely *reacting* to *anticipating* the material, mental, and social effects of man-made Nature -- how current artifacts reshape human nature. Today, all current artifacts resume the character of natural language to approach the *logos* with centres everywhere and boundaries nowhere. 'In my end is my beginning' (From T. S. Eliot's East Coker, which replays the last words of Mary Queen of Scots).
The *old* SCIENZA NUOVA of eighteenth-century Vico was concerned with discovering the mainsprings of human thought, feeling, and action in his own day through the languages of 'gods, heroes, and men' of ancient historical and mythical times.
The *old* SCIENCE NOUVELLE of eighteenth-century *philosophes* sought to 'explain' thinking and being in terms of old Democritean 'atoms and void', and the dominant mechanical metaphors of their day, with the Yes-OR-No logic still dominant in our day. Its ideal was to separate thought from feeling *literally*.
The *old* NEW SCIENCE of nineteenth-century Marxists revived the Heraclitean Yes-AND-No dialectic in Hegelian concepts minus percepts, by treating all order as 'visual' order, and divorcing thought from feeling *objectively*.
The *new* NEW SCIENCE of twentieth-century Utopians restores ancient Procrustean measures to replace people with machines, or 'cyborgs', with two-bit computer wits that have already achieved deadly *logical maturity*.
The *new* SCIENZA NUOVA of Comprehensive Understanding retrieves the Yin/Yang complementarity of ancient Chinese sages and Greek Heraclitus, with *human maturity* that savours the paradoxes of life itself, like Shakespeare at the dawn of Gutenberg. It seeks to achieve a new unity of thought and feeling, like Joyce as 'Finn, again' with 'the keys to. Given!', by using all human wits and senses with their technological extensions *comprehensively*.
As James Joyce put it in his multi-sensuous Finneganese, an 'artificial' natural language, that only an Irishman could have invented:
'Toborrow and toburrow and tobarrow! That's our crass, hairy and ever-grim life, till one final howdiedow Bouncer Naster raps on the bell with a bone and his stinkers tank behind him with the sceptre and the hourglass. We may come, touch and go, from atoms and ifs but we're presurely destined to be odd's without ends.' -
FINNEGANS WAKE, p.455
(A parody on what Shakespeare's Macbeth thought of life in his day upon hearing of his wife's death. Act 5, Scene 5).
Instead of projecting 'past' figures to future fantasies, learning to recognize the process patterns of the present 'ground' actually shaping the things to come by:
Expands perceptual process patterns of present ground into the future.
Contracts ground for conceptual ground rules of past sequentiality when causes logically preceded effects.
Retrieves non-visual environment of simultaneity where effects merge with causes ecologically.
Flips present into future, as all times and places NOW HERE, and effects precede causes by design.
We may envisage continuing exploration of the 'inner-space' conflicts of specialists and generalists in many disciplines, scientific and humanist, engendered by current artifacts as communication media; and that will suggest how their breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs by learning to recognize the new laws of each new situation in its own terms as *comprehensivists*.
[Note: The GENERALIST applies multi-specialist disciplines of literate Western culture, with its hidden visual sensory bias, *logically* like C. P. Snow, to provide plausible answers to current questions. In contrast, the COMPREHENSIVIST employs multi-cultural approaches of both literate and non-literate, Eastern and Western cultures, with full awareness of their visual and non-visual sensory biases, *ecologically* like Marshall McLuhan, to seek relevant questions for exposing hidden environments that create current problems.]" -
Current Artifacts as Communication Media -
paper delivered at a colloquium conducted by
Prof. Maurice Charland, Concordia University,
Montreal, Quebec, Nov. 17 '86, pp.11-13.
Nevitt demonstrates his awareness of the comprehensivist's role as having a tactile feature when he constantly highlights the biases of visual and acoustic spaces and collapses them into a statement such as:
"For understanding is the simultaneous grasp of the conflicting facets of any situation in its changing figure/ground relationships, that reveal both their complementary aspects and their dominant process patterns. Understanding demands comprehensive awareness that uses all wits and senses with ESP." -
ABC OF PROPHECY, p.39.
Or when engaging his aforementioned interest in the physical sciences, he offers a tactile "concept" to the astrophysicists:
"Pre-Socratic Parmenides reduced the infinitude of the measurable Many to the logical necessity of a finite One. But the time is now ripe to reinstate the boundless *apeiron* (Greek *Apeiron*: the unbounded) of his opponent Anaximander as a metaphor for thinking about immeasurable existence; for that is both One in Many, unity in diversity, continuity in discontinuity, and vice versa. We may think of apeiron as an invisible environment or ground with neither beginning, nor ending, nor measures - a multiverse made manifest through the interplay of its figures. Only the figures emerge and decay. Both 'space' and 'time' are relations among them." -
It is to Nevitt's credit that while he had a professional career as an electrical engineer who helped corporations build the global theater, he did not blind himself to the fact it had been hijacked by tetrad-managers
(See Marshall McLuhan [with Eric McLuhan], LAWS OF MEDIA: The New Science, 1988, pp.93ff. for an X-ray of the tetrad used by passive, postmodern social engineers who let the global audience get into the act)
who electronically massaged the "global village"
("It is important to grasp Lindberg's idea of myths and norms since they have characterized all civilization till now. But henceforth they must have new functions. Myths are for Lindberg the traditional religions imposed on men. They are products of reason. They are expedient lies. They are the means of curbing the monsters bred of men's passions. Norms or moral conventions, on the other hand, are merely a cinematic projection on the screen of the city of the passions and preferences of men. Myths are vertical affairs imposed by ruling authority on the ruled. Norms are horizontal developments spreading outwards in accordance with men's desires. Myths are static. The authoritarian myth-built city is local, brittle, easily susceptible of shock. If one myth falls, all will tend to fall. But the norm-structured society is open, elastic, malleable, receptive of change. Under current conditions of communication the static, myth-built cities of the Western world are doomed, says Lindberg. ...And it will perhaps amuse Lindberg to learn that his book is the best introduction written to date to Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake." -
Marshall McLuhan, The God-making Machines of the Modern World [a review of Foundations of Social Survival by John Lindberg], The Commonweal, March 19 '54, pp.606-607)
with the anticipatory principle that
"today, effects precede causes by design."
(Nevitt in WHO WAS MARSHALL McLUHAN?,
Nevitt and McLuhan, p.290).
With McLuhan he sought to reveal the invisible vectors behind conventional postmodern "media ecology":
"Current interest in communications media is itself an effect of electric media speedup, just as current difficulties in understanding media are the result of assuming that they can be neutral if properly programmed." -
THE COMMUNICATION ECOLOGY:
Re-presentation versus Replica,
Whereas others in the post-McLuhan Toronto school of media ecology merely emphasized one or more of the old McLuhan themes such as:
breakdown as breakthrough;
the new environment turns the old environment into an art form - a rear view mirror;
Pound's aphoristic style and technique of poetic synchronicity;
preference for percept rather than concept;
delight in the transformation of language and insight via punning;
Yeats's "emotion of multitude";
the strategy of Poe's wise sailor in "A Descent into the Maelstrom";
Eliot's "auditory imagination";
stressing of rhetorical devices and downplaying of dialectical ploys;
technological environments as numbing extensions of ourselves;
Lewis's valuation of the detached eye and collage of varying graphics;
grammar as the root of media awareness;
encyclopedism's advantages over specialism;
Joyce's use of the tactile aesthetic;
the dropping of a moral stance after THE MECHANICAL BRIDE, Marshall McLuhan, 1951;
spotlighting of advertising and its appropriation of artistic effects,
Nevitt saw a more comprehensive McLuhan who played the whole Trivium
("In brief, we are engaged in developing a new *Trivium*: the Dialectic, Grammar, and Rhetoric of everything imaginable, as communication media." -
Barrington Nevitt with Maurice Hecht,
CAPTAIN GULLIVER'S INTERPLANETARY TRAVELS,
in his writing and regarded the above inventory as only idiosyncratic reflexes and Clichés of the inevitable consciousness of the electric (and later electronic) age and its "Hundred Years' War" (1840-1960).
So Nevitt, an invisible environment himself today, succeeded in stinging the futurists, scientists, economists, and engineers who followed in McLuhan's wake, by targeting the "technology" side of the technology-culture dialectic in McLuhan's probe (McLuhan having been the Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology) through foregrounding the "cultural" products of James Joyce as an "INSTANT PREPLAY" in the context of the Menippean Global Theater created by the instant-replay technologies. Herewith his programmatic miming of the 'anticipatory democracy' sponsored by the tetrad-managers:
"Fictions foreshadow facts. We have all had the experience of living mythically as disembodied spirits via media. Those who have not missed its meaning may now plunge through the Looking Glass, like Alice, to play *yestermorrow* in:
POLITICS, to hide behind nineteenth-century planks, while seeking twentieth-century electronic images to put on new publics;
ECONOMICS, to deflate the inflators by leaving staples to public establishments beyond the market, while playing free private markets to speed beyond the established for testing the new; and to satisfy humanity through community that makes markets supply human needs, rather than fragment humanity to match market demands;
MANAGEMENT, to decentralize the centralizers through Management by Prevision, which soars above Management by Objectives, when goals move faster than plans can change; and to leave decisions to people 'on the spot' who can recognize the laws of their instantly changing situations demanding instant action;
EDUCATION, to learn the old disciplines as art forms inside academic walls, while exploring the new problems outside where the action is; to shift stress from conceptual to perceptual training, where 'bull sessions' retrieve dialogue and lectures become entertainment;
COMMUNICATION, to anticipate all the main effects of everything natural and artificial, sacred and profane, dead and alive, on every other living body and itself; to harmonize programs with their media in order to share intended experience with living beings involved in this communication ecology; to perceive that such communication is revolution by conversion, both inner and outer; and to leave communication between machines to engineers and scientists;
CORRECTION, to convert the culprits not merely outside, but inside-out, by understanding the laws of their situation rather than destroy them totally by preconceptions; and to recognize that the current alternative to written law, which lags further and further behind justice, is tribal law, which leaps further and further beyond it;
GENERALISM, to multiply technical specialisms that proliferate the fallacies of misplaced concrete, both hardware and software, as profitable substitutes for comprehensive awareness that anticipates not merely the material, but all the other consequences of major change;
SCIENCE, to organize ignorance for deliberate discovery by recognizing new process patterns through fresh percepts; to harmonize knowledge for rapid access by reorganizing the old groundrules with new concepts; to escape 'tunnel vision' through 'second sight' by perceiving the complementarity of Art and Science for matching and making; and to restore the ancient unity of thought and feeling;
FUTURISM, to regurgitate packaged futures, that replay the past, as popular substitutes for understanding the present, which is the only future for the future; and thus become self-fulfilling;
PROPHECY, to preplay *alternate* Fate, which circumvents technical grounds and digital figures alike; to make the effects precede the causes through human harmonies of rhythm, rime, reason, and silence; and thus become self-negating." -
ABC OF PROPHECY, pp.82-84.
2. The second to jump into the post-McLuhan arena was the publishing enterprise of the New York school of media ecology, SEMIOTEXTE, edited by Sylvere Lotringer (1938-). But with a twist. Ignoring the comprehensive approach of Nevitt, Lotringer (miming willy-nilly the strategies of the postmodern tetrad-managers) savored ambivalently the Menippean surface of the postmodern beachhead and sponsored an anti-postmodern debate between
(INTERVENTIONS, 1987 and FOUCAULT LIVE
[Interviews, 1966-84], 1989),
- Jean-Francois Lyotard
- Jean Baudrillard
(SIMULATIONS, 1983 and IN THE SHADOW OF THE SILENT MAJORITIES OR, THE END OF THE SOCIAL AND OTHER ESSAYS, 1983 and FORGET FOUCAULT, 1987),
- Paul Virilio
(PURE WAR, 1983 and SPEED AND POLITICS: An Essay on Dromology, 1986), and
- Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
(ON THE LINE, 1983 and NOMADOLOGY: The War Machine, 1986).
French intellectuals irritated by McLuhan's iconic status in the postmodern sixties, they danced on the toes of the "culture" side of the McLuhan dialectic by foregrounding "technological" products of the seventies and early eighties and some of their effects.
For example, while rehearsing the Menippean stance of McLuhan, post-nominalist Jean Baudrillard preferred to emphasize how the telematic society bypassed the Global Theater:
"This is our problem, insofar as this electronic encephalization, this miniaturization of circuits and of energy, this transistorization of the environment condemn to futility, to obsolescence and almost to obscenity, all that which once constituted the stage of our lives." -
THE ECSTASY OF COMMUNICATION,
Before, in the late sixties and early seventies, in his quest for a methodology that bypassed the "archetypal" McLuhan, Baudrillard had intuited the tetrad and its phatic, tactile manager (McLuhan's discovery of the late fifties as the Global Theater was inaugurated):
"From this perspective, in which the production of signs seen as a system of exchange value takes on an entirely different meaning than in the naive utopia of their use value, design and the environmental disciplines can be considered as one of the branches of mass communication, a gigantic ramification of human and social engineering. From this moment on, our true environment is the universe of communication. It is in this that it differs radically from the 19th century concepts of 'nature' or of 'milieu'. While these latter referred to physical, biological (determinism of substance, of heredity and of species) or 'socio-cultural' (the 'milieu') laws, environment is from the beginning a network of messages and signs, its laws being those of communication.
The environment is the autonomization of the entire universe of practices and forms, from the everyday to the architectural, from the discursive to the gestural and the political, as a sector of operations and calculation, as sending-receiving of messages, as space-time of communication.... Nothing is more false than the limits that a 'humanistic' design wishes to fix for itself; in fact, everything belongs to design, everything springs from it, whether it says so or not: the body is designed, sexuality is designed, political, social, human relations are designed, just as are needs and aspirations, etc. This 'designed' universe is what properly constitutes the environment...." -
FOR A CRITIQUE OF THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE SIGN,
Later, as the hologrammic effect of the Global Theater "crystallized" and became for Baudrillard "the Object", he retained McLuhan's perception of the Menippean character of the tactile interplay of the mixed corporate-media (the "telematic"), which he termed "seduction":
"Seduction is the world's elementary dynamic. Gods and men were not separated by the moral chasm of religion: they continuously played the game of mutual seduction; the symbolic equilibrium of the world is founded on these relations of seduction and playfulness. All this has changed significantly for us, at least in appearance. For what has happened to good and evil, to the true and the false, to all these great distinctions which we need to decipher and make sense of our world? All these terms, torn asunder at the cost of unbounded energy, are ready at any moment to extinguish one another, and collapse *to our greatest joy*. Seduction hurls them against one another, and unites them beyond meaning, in a paroxysm of intensity and charm." -
and mixed it with the reversibility of McLuhan's tetrad:
"The principle of reversibility, which is also the one of magic and seduction, requires that all that has been produced must be destroyed, and that which appears must disappear. We have unlearned the art of disappearance (art as such has always been a powerful lever of disappearance - power of illusion and of a denegation of the real). Saturated by the mode of production, we must return to the path of an aesthetic of disappearance. Seduction is party to this: it is that which deviates, that which turns us away from the path, that which makes the real return to the great game of simulacra, which makes things appear and disappear." -
and McLuhan's interest in the phatic
(see the top third of p.8 in Marshall McLuhan [edited by Eugene McNamara], THE INTERIOR LANDSCAPE: The Literary Criticism of Marshall McLuhan, 1969, and the bottom of p.198 in Marshall McLuhan [with Wilfred Watson], FROM CLICHÉ TO ARCHETYPE, 1970):
"If the phatic has become hypertrophied in all our communications systems (i.e., within the media and information processing systems), it is because tele-distance ensures that speech literally no longer has any meaning. One says that one is speaking, but by speaking one is only verifying the network and the fact that one is linked up with it. There is not even an 'other' at the other end, for in a simple reciprocation of signals of recognition there is no longer an identifiable transmitter or receiver, but simply two terminals. The one terminal's signal to the other is merely an indication that something is going through and that, therefore, nothing is happening. Perfect dissuasion." -
(Baudrillard used McLuhan's old theme of the "rear view mirror" to amplify the above pattern as it affected linguistics:
"Language has no need for 'contact': it is *we* who need communication to have a specific 'contact' function, precisely because it is eluding us. That is why Jakobson was able to isolate it in his analysis of language, while both the concept and the terms to express it are absent from other cultures. Jakobson's grid and his axiomatics of communication are contemporaneous with a change in language's fortune - it is beginning to no longer communicate anything. It has thus become urgent to analytically restore the functional possibility of communication, and in particular the 'phatic' function that, in logical terms, is a simple truism: if it speaks, then it speaks. But in effect it no longer speaks, and the discovery of the 'phatic' function is symptomatic of the need to inject contact, establish connections, and speak tirelessly simply in order to render language possible. A desperate situation where even simple contact appears wondrous." -
With his concept of the "Object", Baudrillard had again arrived at McLuhan's doorstep and intuited the pentadic environment
(as spelled out by Frank Zingrone in Volume One, No. 1, of McLuhan Studies , the pentad adds the syncretic, or fusion, factor to the tetrad)
where the digital "Object" subsumes, resumes, and cancels the "designs" of the electronically-based tetrad-manager
("*The object itself takes the initiative of reversibility*, taking the initiative to seduce and lead astray. Another succession is determinant. It is no longer that of a symbolic order (which requires a subject and a discourse), but the purely arbitrary one of a rule of the game. The game of the world is the game of reversibility. It is no longer the desire of the subject, but the destiny of the object, which is at the center of the world." -
THE ECSTASY OF COMMUNICATION, p.80)
and ignores the mass's stance of irony and disconnection. The inevitable fate of Baudrillard's "silent majorities" requires them to respond by engaging reflexively in Menippean phatic communion ("perfect dissuasion"):
"Yet immanence left to itself is not at all random. It deploys a connection of events or disconnection of events altogether unexpected, *in particular this singular form which combines connecting and disconnecting*, that of the exponential.... Moreover one finds this connected/disconnected form in the mythic form of challenge and seduction, of which we know that it is not a dialectical relation, but an escalating power expressed by a potentialization of the stakes, and not at all by an equilibrium. In seduction we re-encounter this exponential form, this fatal quality whose destiny sometimes chances upon us, as it does for things when they are left to their own devices." -
At this point it may serve as a relevant hint to remind the lurker that McLuhan's "doorstep" always already included Baudrillard's concept of the "rule of the game" as determinant in the pentadic situation. This is shown in
Chapter 24 of Marshall McLuhan,
UNDERSTANDING MEDIA: The Extensions of Man,
where the topic "Games" is given the same definition as "Media" - "the extensions of man" - the only other occasion in the book.
This leads naturally to the work of Michel Foucault. As a figure in the debate presented by Lotringer, Foucault replays the concerns in McLuhan's writings for the effects of "visual space" during the
Gutenberg Galaxy (1500-1750) and their internalization at the beginning of the
Marconi Galaxy (1850-1950).
"It is not a mode of language, but a hollow that traverses like a great movement all literary languages." -
FOUCAULT LIVE (Interviews, 1966-84), 1989, p.22.
"My procedure at this moment is of a regressive sort, I would say; I try to assume a greater and greater detachment in order to define the historical conditions and transformations of our knowledge." -
McLuhan's methodology focused on making an inventory of these effects by providing a mosaic of a wide range of activities and notions in diverse fields during a large span of time
(see the "Centennial Metaphor" section in FROM CLICHÉ TO ARCHETYPE, pp.35-41).
The following statements by Foucault illustrate the parallels with McLuhan's approach:
"It's why I have tried to make, obviously in a rather particular style, the history not of thought in general but of all that 'contains thought' in a culture, of all in which there is thought. For there is thought in philosophy, but also in a novel, in jurisprudence, in law, in an administrative system, in a prison." -
FOUCAULT LIVE, p.9.
"I wanted to do an historian's work by showing the simultaneous functioning of these discourses and the transformations which accounted for their visible changes." -
"I wanted to displace it; to analyze the discourses themselves, that is, these discursive practices that are intermediary between words and things; these discursive practices starting from which one can define what are the things and mark out the usage of words." -
(In this last quotation, Foucault seeks to make the "interval" of the discursive practices a transparent manifest in the style of McLuhan and Nevitt's writings.)
"By archeology I would like to designate not exactly a discipline, but a domain of research, which would be the following:
In a society, different bodies of learning, philosophical ideas, everyday opinions, but also institutions, commercial practices and police activities, mores - all refer to a certain implicit knowledge (*savoir*) special to this society. This knowledge is profoundly different from the bodies of learning that one can find in scientific books, philosophical theories, and religious justifications, but it is what makes possible at a given moment the appearance of a theory, an opinion, a practice. Thus, in order for the big centers of internment to be opened at the end of the 17th century, it was necessary that a certain knowledge of madness be opposed to non-madness, of order to disorder, and it's this knowledge (*savoir*) that I wanted to investigate, as the condition of possibility of knowledge (*connaissance*), of institutions, of practices." -
Foucault substitutes *savoir* for McLuhan's "ground" or "medium", and *connaissance* for "figure" or "content". The effect of their interplay Foucault designates as *episteme*:
"When I speak of *episteme*, I mean all those relationships which existed between the various sectors of science during a given epoch. For example, I am thinking of the fact that at a certain point mathematics was used for research in physics, while linguistics or, if you will, semiology, the science of signs, was used by biology (to deal with genetic messages). Likewise the theory of evolution was used by, or served as a model for historians, psychologists, and sociologists of the 19th century. All these phenomena of relationship between the sciences or between the various scientific sectors constitute what I call the *episteme* of an epoch. Thus for me *episteme* has nothing to do with the Kantian categories.... I simply noted that the problem of order (the problem, not the category), or rather the need to introduce an order among series of numbers, human beings, or values, appears simultaneously in many different disciplines in the 17th century. This involves a communication between the diverse disciplines, and so it was that someone who proposed, for example, the creation of a universal language in the 17th century was quite close in terms of procedure to someone who dealt with the problem of how one could catalog human beings. It's a question of relationships and communication among the various sciences. This is what I call *episteme*, and it has nothing to do with the Kantian categories." -
(see bottom half of p.31 in Marshall McLuhan [with George Thompson and Harley Parker], COUNTERBLAST, 1969),
Foucault sees this episteme as a cultural "unconscious":
"Very schematically, it consists of trying to discover in the history of science and of human knowledge (*des connaissances et du savoir humain*) something that would be like its unconscious.... These laws and determinations are what I have tried to bring to light. I have tried to unearth an autonomous domain that would be the unconscious of science, the unconscious of knowledge (*savoir*), that would have its own laws, just as the individual human unconscious has its own laws and determinations." -
FOUCAULT LIVE, pp.39-40.
"One can say with confidence that we are not speaking of an individual unconscious, in the sense that psychoanalysis generally understands that notion. Yet neither is it a collective unconscious, which would be a kind of collection or reservoir of archetypes at the disposition of everyone. The 'structural' unconscious is neither of these things." -
"My problem is essentially the definition of the implicit systems in which we find ourselves prisoners; what I would like to grasp is the system of limits and exclusion which we practice without knowing it; I would like to make the cultural unconscious apparent." -
Miming Belinda the Hen who found the letter in the middenheap of Finnegans Wake, Foucault plunders the "archive" of what McLuhan designated as visual space to produce an "archeology" of this unconscious:
"... it's the analysis of discourse in its modality of *archive*." -
"This other thing I have called therefore 'archeology'. And then, retrospectively, it seemed to me that chance has not been too bad a guide: after all, this word 'archeology' can almost mean - and I hope I will be forgiven for this - description of the *archive*. I mean by archive the set (*l'ensemble*) of discourses actually pronounced; and this set of discourses is envisaged not only as a set of events which would have taken place once and for all and which would remain in abeyance, in the limbo or purgatory of history, but also as a set that continues to function, to be transformed through history, and to provide the possibility of appearing in other discourses." -
This form of pattern-recognition and insight allows Foucault to intuit McLuhan's tetrad:
"The 'archive' appears then as a kind of great practice of discourse, a practice which has its rules, its conditions, its functioning and its effects.
The problems posed by the analysis of this practice are the following:
What are the different particular types of discursive practice that one can find in a given period?
What are the relationships that one can establish between these different practices?
What relationships do they have with non-discursive practices, such as political, social or economic practices?
What are the transformations of which these practices are susceptible? -
"I'm not looking underneath discourse for the thought of men, but try to grasp discourse in its manifest existence, as a practice that obeys certain rules - of formation, existence, co-existence - and systems of functioning. It is this practice, in its consistency and almost in its materiality, that I describe." -
"I have tried to do something else, to show that in a discourse, as in natural history, there were rules of formation for objects (which are not the rules of utilization of words), rules of formation for concepts (which are not the laws of syntax), rules of formation for theories (which are neither deductive nor rhetorical rules). These are the rules put into operation through a discursive practice at a given moment that explain why a certain thing is seen (or omitted); why it is envisaged under such an aspect and analyzed at such a level; why such a word is employed with such a meaning and in such a sentence. Consequently, the analysis starting from things and the analysis starting from words appear at this moment as secondary in relation to a prior analysis, which would be the discursive analysis." -
"I tried to define the transformations: to show the discoveries, inventions, changes of perspective and theoretical upheavals that could occur starting from a certain system of regularities." -
Knowing that the "materiality" of visual space continues to circulate in the contemporary mixed-media dance, Foucault, like McLuhan, uses a Menippean strategy by presenting the past ("visual space") as a probe of the present:
"Placing himself at the exterior of the text, he [the contemporary critic] constitutes a new exterior for it, writing texts out of texts." -
"I try to show, based upon their historical establishment and formation, those systems which are still ours today and within which we are trapped. It is a question, basically, of presenting a critique of our own time, based upon retrospective analyses." -
"My book is a pure and simple 'fiction': it's a novel, but it's not I who invented it; it is the relationship between our period and its epistemological configuration and this mass of statements." -
"My title THE ORDER OF THINGS was perfectly ironic. No one saw it clearly; doubtlessly because there wasn't enough play in my text for the irony to be sufficiently visible." -
"I dream of the intellectual destroyer of evidence and universalities, the one who, in the inertias and constraints of the present, locates and marks the weak points, the openings, the lines of power, who incessantly displaces himself, doesn't know exactly where he is heading nor what he'll think tomorrow because he is too attentive to the present;..." -
Also, Foucault defines his strategy apropos of the "game" quality of present-day cultural generation and regeneration
(see the first ten lines at the top of p.174 in THE MEDIUM AND THE LIGHT, 1999):
"To make a truly unavoidable challenge of the question: what can we make work, what new game can we invent?" -
Foucault, FOUCAULT LIVE, p.209.
And he presents this with an emphasis, like McLuhan, on a fuller understanding of "techne":
"The disadvantage of this word *techne*, I realize, is its relation to the word 'technology', which has a very specific meaning. A very narrow meaning is given to 'technology': one thinks of hard technology, the technology of wood, of fire, of electricity. Whereas government is also a function of technology: the government of individuals, the government of souls, the government of the self by the self, the government of families, the government of children, and so on. I believe that if one placed the history of architecture back in this general history of *techne*, in this wide sense of the word, one would have a more interesting guiding concept than by considering opposition between the exact sciences and the inexact ones." -
(see LETTERS OF MARSHALL McLUHAN, Selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, and William Toye, 1987, last paragraph on p.461 and first paragraph on p.541).
Other examples of their similar interests and tentative conclusions about the effects of the Gutenberg Galaxy:
"Hence two problems. Power - how does it work? Is it enough that it imposes strong prohibitions in order to function effectively? And does it always move from above to below and from the center to the periphery? -
FOUCAULT LIVE, p.149
(see "From the time I came back from Fordham I was studying the corporate and political world, and paying very little attention to media." - LETTERS, p.505, and pp.4, 5, 15, 20, 60, 80, 129, 145, 182, 213, 217, 231, 255, 259, 263, and 268 in Marshall McLuhan [with Barrington Nevitt], TAKE TODAY: The Executive as Dropout, 1972).
"Sex was, in Christian societies, that which had to be examined, watched over, confessed and transformed into discourse." -
FOUCAULT LIVE, p.138.
"In any case, what I would like to study for my part, are all of these mechanisms in our society which invite, incite and force us to speak about sex." -
(see "The theme of sex happens to be funny at the moment because sex is dead. Vietnam is *not* dead and, therefore, it is not funny." - Marshall McLuhan, letter to Playboy Magazine, December, 1969 or January, 1970, p.24. And see interview with McLuhan in Miss Chatelaine Magazine, September 3, 1974, pp.58-59, 82-87, 90-91).
"I tried to pose another problem: to discover the system of thought, the form of rationality, which since the end of the 18th century has underlain the idea that the prison is in sum the best means, one of the most efficient and most rational, to punish infractions in a society." -
FOUCAULT LIVE, p.280
(see THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE, 1967, p.61, and McLUHAN, HOT & COOL: a primer for the understanding of & a critical symposium with a rebuttal by McLuhan, edited by Gerald Emanuel Stearn, 1967, p.300 [bottom third on p.290 of paperback], and Marshall McLuhan, CULTURE IS OUR BUSINESS, 1970, p.332).
"What I tried to do was a history of the relationships that thought maintains with the truth, the history of thought insofar as it is thought about the truth. All those who say that for me the truth doesn't exist are simple-minded." -
FOUCAULT LIVE, p.295.
"I have sought to analyze how fields like madness, sexuality and delinquence could enter into a certain play of the truth, and how on the other hand, through this insertion of human practice and behavior into the play of the truth, the subject himself is effected." -
(see bottom third of p.163 in FROM CLICHÉ TO ARCHETYPE, and top of p.388 and middle of p.492 in LETTERS).
"In the first place, I don't think there is actually a sovereign, founding subject, a universal form of subject that one could find everywhere. I am very sceptical and very hostile toward this conception of the subject. I think on the contrary that the subject is constituted through practices of subjection, or, in a more anonymous way, through practices of liberation, of freedom, as in Antiquity, starting of course from a certain number of rules, styles and conventions that are found in the culture." -
FOUCAULT LIVE, p.313.
"I would call subjectivization the process through which results the constitution of a subject, or more exactly, of a subjectivity which is obviously only one of the given possibilities of organizing a consciousness of self." -
(see p.458 in LETTERS, and Chapter One in LAWS OF MEDIA).
Ignoring the technological causes of visual space as proposed by McLuhan, ironically Foucault still finds the same patterns of cultural effects in his inventories.
However, isolating and highlighting the effects of military technologies and organization that accompanied the Revolutionary circumstances in France at the end of the eighteenth century, Paul Virilio chooses to archetypalize the kinetic vectors in McLuhan’s historical phase of “visual space” (the period of the phonetic alphabet up to and through the Gutenberg Galaxy and stopping at the inauguration of the Marconi Galaxy)
(see pp.241-243 in THE GUTENBERG GALAXY: The Making of Typographic Man, 1962, first half of p.136 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE, and p.31 in TAKE TODAY)
as the *primum mobile* and primary effect in the history of Western media up to the electric telegraph and other contemporary accelerations of the Industrial Revolution:
“Commerce comes after the arrival of war in a place, the state of siege, the organization of a *glacis* around an inhabitated area, etc. It doesn’t need the city - the city in the sense of sedentariness, the mineralization of a building. Mercantilism is even the opposite of sedentariness: it’s the stop-over, the rest between two flows.”
Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer,
PURE WAR, 1983, p.5
(see middle of p.343, Marshall McLuhan, UNDERSTANDING MEDIA: The Extensions of Man, 1964 [all page numbers for this text refer to the MIT edition, 1994]).
“But no one yet suspected that ‘the conquest of the freedom to come and go’ so dear to Montaigne could, by a sleight of hand, become an *obligation to mobility*. The ‘mass uprising’ of 1793 was the institution of the first *dictatorship of movement*, subtley replacing the *freedom of movement* of the early days of the revolution.”
SPEED AND POLITICS: An Essay on Dromology, 1986, p.30.
“The military class, making sure to keep the proletariat under control, will thus allow it the illusion of being able to dominate, to submerge the bourgeois fortress.”
“The time has come, it seems, to face the facts: revolution is movement, but movement is not a revolution. Politics is only a gear-shift, and revolution only its overdrive: war as ‘*continuation* of politics by other means’ would be instead a police *pursuit* at greater speed, with other vehicles.”
“Military science, like History, is but a persistent perception of the kinetics of vanished bodies; inversely, bodies can appear as vehicles of history, as its dynamic vectors. Napoleon the Third claimed that ‘for the man of war, the ability to remember is science itself.’”
Subsequently, Virilio notices a change at the dawn of the Marconi Revolution and whereas before he could substitute *glacis* for McLuhan’s “ground” or “medium”, and the latest weapon for “figure” or “content”, now he sees the implosion of their dialectical interplay. This post-kinetic, or proprioceptive and tactile, condition Virilio designates as the “Total War” stage of the “dromocratic revolution”, his phrase for the phases of his archetypalized “speed”
(see bottom of p.77 and top of p.78, middle of p.170, and bottom of p.257 in TAKE TODAY):
“For ten years I looked for elements of the ‘European Fortress’, and that’s how I became aware of the space of war, of the spatial dimension of Total War.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.2.
“In fact, history progresses at the speed of its weapons systems.”
SPEED AND POLITICS, p.68.
“Let’s not forget that World War One was the first truly technical war in Europe (in the United States, of course, there had been the Civil War, which was already a Total War).”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.9
(see Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, WAR AND PEACE IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE: An Inventory of Some of the Current Spastic Situations that Could Be Eliminated by More Feedforward, 1968, p.36).
In the “Cold War” phase of Total War
(see Chapter 6, “Old Wars and New Overkill”, of TAKE TODAY, pp.149-185, where McLuhan and Nevitt anticipate many of the themes Virilio raises),
kinetic energy becomes an obligatory, programmed art form for the tetrad-manager in Virilio’s “military class”:
“*After the war of the domestic market, the war of the military market*. It is no longer a system of consumption/production aiming at a democratic alliance, but the system of objects seeking to directly elect the military class or, more accurately, a technological and industrial development in the area of weaponry.”
Virilio, SPEED AND POLITICS, p.128.
“Once more, the market was created not by the object of consumption but by its vector of delivery!”
“In short, the revolutionary figure of the worker, sketched less by the industrial system than by the military one, fills the kinetic disparity between slow war and rapid war. The ‘full steam ahead through the mud’ of the nihilist Nechaiev, apostle of systematized terrorist warfare, is not a rhetorical figure but a serious technological proposition: compensate for the distortion born of the destructive assault’s necessary brevity by accelerating the rhythm of attacks. Historical evolution is then kept moving literally *by a combustion engine*!”
“With the supersonic vector (airplane, rocket, airwaves), penetration and destruction become one. The instantaneousness of action at a distance corresponds to the defeat of the unprepared adversary, but also, and especially, to the defeat of the world as a field, as distance, as matter.”
“*Citizen Kane*, the most accomplished product of American civic culture (later baptised ‘pop-culture’!), is less William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate who served as Orson Welles’ model, than Howard Hughes, the invisible citizen. Hearst still delivered information; Hughes was content to speculate indifferently on whatever delivered it. He singlehandedly constituted the most radical critique of Fuller’s and McLuhan’s global theories. This completely desocialized man, who vanished from the earth, who avoided human contact for fear of germs, who was terrified by the very breath of his rare visitors, nonetheless thought only of the media, from the aerospace industry to the cinema, from gasoline to airfields, from casinos to the star system, from the design of Jane Russell’s bra to that of a bomber. His existence could be considered exemplary. Hughes cared only about that which passes in transit. His life rebounded from one vector to another, as has, for two hundred years, the power of the American nation he adored. Nothing else interested him. He died in the open sky, in an airplane.”
“To the heavy model of the hemmed-in bourgeoisie, to the single schema of the weighty Marxist *mobil-machung* (ostensibly planned control of the movement of goods, persons, ideas), the West has long opposed the diversity of its logistical hierarchy, the utopia of a national wealth invested in automobiles, travel, movies, performances... A capitalism that has become one of jet-sets and instant-information banks, actually a whole *social illusion* subordinated to the strategy of the cold war. Let’s make no mistake: whether it’s the drop-outs, the beat generation, automobile drivers, migrant workers, tourists, olympic champions or travel agents, the military-industrial democracies have made every social category, without distinction, into *unknown soldiers of the order of speeds* - speeds whose hierarchy is controlled more and more each day by the State (headquarters), from the pedestrian to the rocket, from the metabolic to the technological.”
(see bottom of p.170 in TAKE TODAY and pp.110-111 in the Spring, 1971 issue of Explorations [insert in University of Toronto’s Varsity Graduate], No.30, titled The Hijacking of Cities, Nations, Planets in the Age of Spaceship Earth, written by Marshall McLuhan).
“In the 1960s a mutation occurs: *the passage from wartime to the war of peacetime*, to that *total peace* that others still call ‘peaceful coexistence’. The blindness of the speed of means of communicating destruction is not a liberation from geopolitical servitude, but the extermination of space as the field of freedom of political action. We only need refer to the necessary controls and constraints of the railway, airway or highway infrastructures to see the fatal impulse: the more speed increases, the faster freedom decreases.
The apparatus’ self-propulsion finally entails the self-sufficiency of automation. What happens in the example of the racecar driver, who is no more than a worried lookout for the catastrophic probabilities of his movement, is reproduced on the political level as soon as conditions require an action in real time.”
SPEED AND POLITICS, p.142
(see middle of p.149 in TAKE TODAY).
In the resonance of Total War/Total Peace
(see middle of p.83 and pp.158-159 in TAKE TODAY)
Virilio sees consequences for diverse practical areas of social and economic life similar to those noted by McLuhan:
“The union functions, relayed by mob associations, are entirely supplanting the administration and services of the old bourgeois employer. Order reigns in the Bronx thanks to the Mafia, which is itself becoming international, aiming now at a direct collaboration with the military class, as was revealed by a recent scandal that called into question the relations between the Israeli generals and members of international crime.
... The military class, increasingly distanced from its bourgeois partner, abandons the street, the highway, those outmoded vectors, to the small and middle-sized business of the protection rackets. The city unions in New York are starting to replace their members’ productive activity with simple crisis management, by becoming administrators and bankers.”
SPEED AND POLITICS, p.102
(see pp.49, 94, and 211 in TAKE TODAY).
“It is enough to hear the speeches of today’s Chinese leaders about ‘consumer goods’ to know that the old thinker [Mao - ed.] did no more than delay the institution in China of the West’s fearsome system of intensive growth, and whether it is conveyed by orthodox Marxism or liberalism is of little import!”
SPEED AND POLITICS, p.67
(see p.3 in the May/June, 1970, issue of The McLuhan DEW-LINE, Volume 2, No.6, titled An Interview: McLuhan on Russia).
“The pacifists of the 1930’s opposed real war, a war inscribed in its practical execution. Pacifists today oppose the tendency toward war, in other words *the war for preparation for war*. Not a hypothetical war which could begin in France, China or elsewhere, but war as scientific and technological preparation.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.139
(see p.152 and middle of p.153 in TAKE TODAY, and last sentence of first paragraph of p.37 in UNDERSTANDING MEDIA).
“In any case, the apocalypse is here. It could happen at any moment, but the interesting argument is that apocalypse is hidden in development itself, in the development of arms - that is, in the non-development of society.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.139
(see last sentence of penultimate paragraph of p.153 in TAKE TODAY).
“The military class is turning into an internal super-police. Moreover, it’s logical. In the strategy of deterrence, military institutions, no longer fighting among themselves, tend to fight only civilian societies - with, of course, a few skirmishes in the Third World (the role of the police played here and there by Europe - particularly France, and elsewhere by the United States at the time of Vietnam.)”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.94
(see last sentence of p.31 in TAKE TODAY, p.138 in THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE, and penultimate paragraph of McLuhan’s op-ed column in The New York Times, September 23, 1976).
“In a social configuration whose precarious equilibrium is threatened by any ill-considered initiative, security can henceforth be likened to the absence of movement. The extended proletarianization of the suppression of wills can be likened to the suppression of gestures, for which the rise in unemployment is the best and most obvious image. We redistribute social work; we spotlight the performances of the physically and mentally handicapped, their records in olympics for the disabled; we impose the new belief that a body’s inability to move is not really a serious problem.”
SPEED AND POLITICS, p.125
(see p.33 and middle of p.261 in TAKE TODAY).
“For in reality, Walesa is the priest’s man. He’s not so much a union leader as a man of faith recognized by the Pope. Glemp-Walesa form a couple and the warrior, Jaruzelski, stands alone. Thus, the conflict is between two supremacies: an imperialistic and military supremacy (Jaruzelski’s) and an imperialism in the cosmic or mythical sense, which is Catholicism. If we look at recent events, the fall of Lebanon, the fall of Iran - how is it that hyper-powerful armies such as Iran’s, or at least solid ones such as Lebanon’s, could suddenly fall, with almost no resistance? Because they crumbled precisely from within, because of a religious conflict.... Thus, in my opinion, the Polish affair is especially original in the importance it gives the religious question with respect to the military question.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, pp.150-151
(see the second column on p.33 in McLuhan’s ‘80s: Living at the speed of light, MacLean’s, January 7, 1980).
“The moon and the stars are all part of the Western imperialist illusion: ‘The world is not finite, we have conquered America, tomorrow we’ll conquer the moon, etc., etc....’ It’s absurd.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.71
(see bottom of p.126 and top of p.127 in WAR AND PEACE IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE).
“Speed allows for progress in space, only progress in space has been identified with progress in time, in history. And that is really an abuse of language. We know very well that progress in space is not necessarily progress in time. The fact of going faster from Paris to New York doesn’t make the exchanges any better. It makes them shorter. But the shortest is not necessarily the best. There again it’s the same illusory ideology that when the world is reduced to nothing and we have everything at hand, we’ll be infinitely happy.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, pp.68-69
(see last paragraph of p.110 in TAKE TODAY).
“This is why the airport today has become the new city. At Dallas-Fort Worth they serve thirty million passengers a year. At the end of the century there will be one hundred million. People are no longer citizens, they’re passengers in transit. They’re in circum-navigation.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.64.
“For a long time the city existed just where it was. Paris was in Paris and Rome in Rome. There was a territorial and geographical inertia. Now there’s an inertia in time, a *polar* inertia, in the sense that the pole is simultaneously an absolute place (for the metaphor), absolute inertia which is geographically locatable, and also an absolute inertia in the planet’s movement. We’re heading toward a situation in which every city will be in the same place - in time. There will be a kind of co-existence, and probably not a very peaceful one, between these cities which have kept their distance in space, but which will be telescoped in time. When we can go to the antipodes in a second or a minute, what will remain of the city? What will remain of us? The difference of sedentariness in geographical space will continue, but real life will be led in a polar inertia.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, pp.61-62
(see pp.33-37 in Edmund Carpenter, ESKIMO REALITIES, 1973, p.72 in THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE, pp.23-25 [pp.38-40 in paperback], top of p.280 [bottom of p.272 in paperback] in McLUHAN: HOT & COOL, last sentence of p.156 in TAKE TODAY).
“We must take hold of the riddle of technology and lay it on the table as the ancient philosophers and scientists put the riddle of Nature out in the open, the two being superimposed."
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.30
(see pp.429 and 431 in LETTERS).
“I’m saying that there’s work to be done, the epistemo-technical work we were talking about before, in order to re-establish politics, at a time when technology no longer portions out matter and geographical space (as was the case in ancient democratic society), but when technology portions out time - and I would say: the depletion of time.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.28
(see McLuhan and Nevitt’s op-ed column in The New York Times, September 21, 1974),
“No, but in fact, the Second World War never ended. Legally, furthermore, it’s not finished. It hasn’t been put out. There is no state of peace. It isn’t over because it continued in Total Peace, that is in war pursued by other means. You know Clausewitz’s statement: ‘War is politics by other means’. I would say that the Total Peace of deterrence is Total War pursued by other means.”
Virilio and Lotringer,
PURE WAR, p.25
(see middle of p.152 and headline at top of p.153 in TAKE TODAY).
As the Cold War is eclipsed, Virilio intuits the pentadic stage for the global military class where the Present is necessarily programmed as an art form:
“If over thirty years ago the nuclear explosive completed the cycle of *spatial wars*, at the end of this century the implosive (beyond politically and economically invaded territories) inaugurates *the war of time*. In full peaceful coexistence, without any declaration of hostilities, and more surely than by any other kind of conflict, rapidity delivers us from this world. We have to face the facts: today, speed is war, the last war.”
SPEED AND POLITICS, pp.138-139.
“History as the extensiveness of time - of time that lasts, is portioned out, organized, developed - is disappearing in favor of the instant, as if the end of history were the end of duration in favor of instantaneousness, and of course, of ubiquity.”
PURE WAR, p.46.
“What we call *azimuthal equidistant projection* is the geography of time. Geography of the day by speed, and no longer a geography of the meteorological day. Already now, when you come back to Paris from Los Angeles or New York at certain times of the year, you can see, through the window, passing over the pole, the setting sun and the rising sun. You have dawn and dusk in a single window. These stereoscopic images show quite well the beyond of the geographical city and the advent of human concentration in travel time. This city of the beyond is the City of Dead Time.”
“We thus find ourselves facing this dilemma:
The threat of use (the second component) of the nuclear arm prohibits the terror of actual use (the third component). But for this threat to remain and allow the strategy of deterrence, we are forced to develop the threatening system that characterizes the first component: the *ill omen of the appearance of new performances for the means of communicating destruction*. Stated plainly, this is the perpetual sophistication of combat means and the replacement of the geostrategic breakthrough by the technological breakthrough, the great logistical maneuvers.”
SPEED AND POLITICS, pp.146-147
(see first paragraph of p.31 in COUNTERBLAST, and the penultimate paragraph of p.156 in TAKE TODAY).
“... The continental translation that, curiously enough, we find both in the geophysician Wegener, with the drift of land masses, and in Mackinder, with the geopolitical amalgam of lands, has given way to a world-wide phenomenon of terrestrial and technological contraction that today makes us penetrate into an artificial topological universe: *the direct encounter of every surface on the globe.*
The ancient inter-city duel, war between nations, the permanent conflict between naval empires and continental powers have all suddenly disappeared, giving way to an unheard-of opposition: *the juxtaposition of every locality, all matter*. The planetary mass becomes no more than a ‘critical mass’, a precipitate resulting from the extreme reduction of contact time, a fearsome friction of places and elements that only yesterday were still distinct and separated by a buffer of distances, which have suddenly become anachronistic. In The Origin of Continents and Oceans, published in 1915, Alfred Wegener writes that in the beginning *the earth can only have had but one face*, which seems likely, given the capacities for interconnection. In the future the earth will have but one interface...
If speed thus appears as the essential fall-out of styles of conflicts and cataclysms, the current ‘arms race’ is in fact only *’the arming of the race’ toward the end of the world as distance, in other words, as a field of action*.”
SPEED AND POLITICS, pp.135-136.
“At the close of our century, *the time of the finite world is coming to an end*; we live in the beginnings of a paradoxical *miniaturization of action*, which others prefer to baptize *automation*.”
“... Contraction in time, the disappearance of the territorial space, after that of the fortified city and armor, leads to a situation in which the notions of ‘before’ and ‘after’ designate only the future and the past in a form of war that causes the ‘present’ to disappear in the instantaneousness of decision.”
(see last sentence of p.94 in TAKE TODAY).
“Here we have the fearsome telescoping of elements born of the ‘amphibious generations’; the extreme proximity of parties *in which the immediacy of information immediately creates the crisis*; the frailty of reasoning power, which is but the effect of a miniaturization of action - the latter resulting from the miniaturization of space as a field of action.
An imperceptible movement on a computer keyboard, or one made by a ‘skyjacker’ brandishing a cookie box covered with masking tape, can lead to a catastrophic chain of events that until recently was inconceivable. We are too willing to ignore the fact that, alongside the threat of proliferation resulting from the acquisition of nuclear explosives by irresponsible parties, there is a proliferation of the threat resulting from the vectors that cause those who own or borrow them to become just as irresponsible.”
SPEED AND POLITICS, pp.143-144
(see pp.149-151 in TAKE TODAY, and p.334 in CULTURE IS OUR BUSINESS).
So, since he doesn’t ignore McLuhan as much as Foucault does, Virilio is able to forge a larger canvas which perceptively rebuilds and expands on the house that McLuhan constructed for clarifying political anti-environments to the global warlords.
Turning to Jean-Francois Lyotard, we find a writer who, paralleling McLuhan, celebrates non-specialist perception in art as the appropriate political mentor for revealing the crude maintenance of the centralized, industrial, hardware environment in the face of the services (not the disservices) of contemporary fragmented poly-sensuality, the product of a tactile, decentralized, software environment that Lyotard calls “drift”:
“... Everyone knows that socialism is identical with kapitalism. Any critique, far from transcending the latter, reinforces it. What destroys it is the drift of desire, the withdrawal of cathexis, not at all where the economists look for it (the kapitalists’ reluctance to invest), but the libidinal relinquishment of the system of kapital and of all its poles, is the fact that for millions of young people (irrespective of their social origin), desire no longer invests the kapitalist set-up; is that they no longer consider themselves or behave as a labor-power to be valorized with a view to exchanges, i.e. consumption, is that they locate what kapital persists in naming work, modern life, consumption, nation, family, State, ownership, profession, education, all ‘values’ that they perceive as so many parodies of the one and only value, the exchange-value. *That* is a drift, affecting all civilizations on a worldwide scale.”
DRIFTWORKS, 1984, p.14
(see middle of p.84 and pp.259-261 in TAKE TODAY, penultimate paragraph in the letter to H. A. Innis on p.222 in LETTERS, and p.224 in ESSENTIAL McLUHAN, edited by Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone, 1995 [all page numbers for this text refer to the House of Anansi edition]).
“Driftworks in the plural, for the question is not of leaving *one* shore, but several, simultaneously; what is at work is not one current, pushing and tugging, but different drives and tractions
(see last paragraph of p.4 in UNDERSTANDING MEDIA, and last sentence of p.56 in THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE).
Nor is just one individual *embarking* here, or even a collective of individuals, but rather, as in Bosch’s Ship, a collection of fools, each fool being an exaggerated part of the normal subject
(see bottom third of p.155 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE, and last page of Edmund Carpenter [with Ken Heyman and Marshall McLuhan], THEY BECAME WHAT THEY BEHELD, 1970),
libido cathected in such and such a sector of the body
(see first 14 lines of p.124 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE),
blocked up in this or that configuration of desire
(see last paragraph of p.13 in Ibid.),
all these fragments placed next to each other (the category of *neben*!) for an aimless voyage
(see p.100 in THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE, and the middle of the second column of the last page of THEY BECAME WHAT THEY BEHELD),
a collection of fragments impossible to unify for it drifts with the Ship
(see last sentence of p.173 in TAKE TODAY),
its very drift giving the advantage of the strongest resonance now to one *Trieb*-fool, now to another, in accordance with the diversity of the times and sceneries wafted through
(see last sentence of first paragraph of p.145 in Ibid.).
Not at all a dislocated body, since there has never been anything but pieces of the body and there will never be a body, this wandering collection being the very affirmation of the non-body
(see middle of p.144 in Ibid.).
The plural, the collection of singularities, are precisely what power, kapital, the law of value, personal identity, the ID card, responsibility, the family and the hospital are bent on repressing.”
(see p.109 and pp.238-239 in TAKE TODAY, especially concerning medical institutions).
“And we don’t want to destroy kapital because it isn’t rational, but because it is. Reason and power are one and the same thing. You may disguise the one with dialectics or prospectiveness, but you will still have the other in all its crudeness: jails, taboos, public weal, selection, genocide.”
(see pp.78-83, 211, and 213 in TAKE TODAY, and Marshall McLuhan’s Forward to Donald DeMarco, ABORTION IN PERSPECTIVE: The Rose Palace or the Fiery Dragon, 1974, pp.iv-v).
Lyotard continues McLuhan’s project of pointing out that the artist’s traditional anti-environmental role has been replaced by the Global Theater’s programmed tactile environment
(see p.224 in ESSENTIAL McLUHAN):
“The poet who does no more than ‘express himself’ is completely bound by his phantasy, and being always bound by the same elements, he is not a poet. He produces a falsely figural text, the figural traces of which are but those of his phantasies.”
(see bottom third of p.11 in THE INTERIOR LANDSCAPE, and bottom of pp.58 and 204 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE).
“Such are thus the fundamental modes of the connivance that desire establishes with figurality: transgression of the object, transgression of form, transgression of space.”
(see last sentence of p.205 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE).
But Lyotard reveals his awareness, as McLuhan also never stopped reminding us in his printed presentations, that his project’s translation into print requires a corrective maneuver vis-a-vis the printed form:
“The drift must go beyond the anchorage where this book arbitrarily interrupts it. If reason, which has been handed over to the air-conditioned totalitarianism of the very disputatious end of this century, is not to be relied upon, then its great tool, its very main-spring, its provision of infinite progress, its fertile negativity, its pains and toiling - i.e. critique - shouldn’t be given credit either. Let it be said very clearly: it is untrue that a political, philosophical, artistic position is relinquished through *sublation*; it is untrue that the experiencing of a position entails the complete development of its content, its exhaustion, and thus its transcrescence into another position which preserves-suppresses it, it is untrue that, in experience and discourse, the occupation of a position necessarily leads to its critique and impels you to adopt a new position which will negatively include the former one and sublate it. This description of the dialectic of Spirit by Hegel, is also that of the capitalist’s getting richer and richer by Adam Smith, it is the good student’s vision of life, it is in addition the thick string on which the political jumping-jacks hang their promises of happiness and with which they strangle us.”
Lyotard, DRIFTWORKS, pp.11-12
(see last sentence of p.190 in WAR AND PEACE IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE, and first sentence of Marshall McLuhan’s Forward to the 1972 edition of Harold A. Innis, EMPIRE AND COMMUNICATIONS, p.v).
“What is forgotten in dialectic is that one forgets and that forgetting implies the preservation of everything, memory being but a selection.”
(see bottom of p.viii, and pp.100-101 in LAWS OF MEDIA).
Similarly to McLuhan’s emphasis on the arts as meteorology, Lyotard advocates studying the arts as “figures” revealing the contours and rim-spins of the new pressures, or “ground”-shifts:
“Something is always happening in the arts - now the theater, now painting, or music, or the cinema (the latter being more directly placed on the orbit of kapital, however) - which incandesces the embers glowing in the depths of society. It is depressive and nihilistic to consider the region of unreality where the forms flare up as a mere deportation camp or as a cozy shelter for irresponsible elements, socially neutralized, hence politically null; the opposite is to be understood, namely that ‘artists’ want society as a whole to reach this unreality, want the repression and suppression of libidinal intensities by the so-called seriousness, which is only the torpescence of kapitalist paranoia, to be lifted everywhere, and show how to do it by working and removing the most elementary obstacles, those opposing to desire the *No* of the alleged reality, the perception of times, spaces, colors, volumes.”
(see Marshall McLuhan [with Harley Parker], THROUGH THE VANISHING POINT: Space in Poetry and Painting, 1968, pp.29-31).
But such study is not guided by the specialized critic, in any field:
“Critique as well is a selective activity:... This activity is deeply rational, deeply consistent with the system. Deeply reformist: the critic remains in the sphere of the criticized, he belongs to it, he goes beyond one term of the position but doesn’t alter the position of terms. And deeply hierarchical: where does his power over the criticized come from? he *knows* better? he is the teacher, the educator? he is therefore universality, the University, the State, the City, bending over childhood, nature, singularity, shadiness, to reclaim them? The confessor and God helping the sinner save his soul? This benign reformism is wholly compatible with the preservation of the authoritarian relationship. Multiplying the overturns and reversals leads nowhere. The transforming activity is underhandedly privileged in all this repair shop machinery, which is the reason why the ultra-leftist revolutionary groups and micro-groups have failed: they had to display their maleness, their brawn, they had to keep the initiative. But the same idea of efficiency drives the bosses - high-level bureaucrats, business executives, decision-makers and officers. Do not say that unlike them, *we* know the desire of the ‘masses’ (the criticized object): no one knows it, for desire baffles knowledge and power. He who pretends to know it is indeed the educator, the priest, the prince. Nothing will have changed, therefore, if while claiming to serve the desire of the masses you act according to your alleged knowledge and assume their *direction*. Where do you criticize from? Don’t you see that criticizing is still knowing, knowing better? That the critical relation still falls within the sphere of knowledge, of ‘realization’ and thus of the assumption of power? Critique must be drifted out of. Better still: *Drifting is in itself the end of all critique.*
(see p.65 in UNDERSTANDING MEDIA, and pp.238-239 in THROUGH THE VANISHING POINT).
Just as McLuhan discovered tactility as the prime component in most of the arts of the twentieth century, so Lyotard features those artists who mime tactility, which he names the “figural”, as of primary political importance:
“In fact, the criteria of reality are those of communication - objects are real to the extent that they are communicable on two levels: on the level of language and on that of practice. It is obvious, although not always explicitly stated, that Freud considers reality to be fundamentally social, while he at the same time always keeps it in quotation marks. This reality is the little, even the very little ‘reality’. Which means that this bound set of perceptions, signifiable in words, exchangeable by gestures, has gaps, is lacunary; there are regions that remain outside reach, that cannot be approached, that are utterly unrecognized. There are words that are unpronounceable because they lack ‘signification’, perceptions that are impossible, things that cannot be seen: thus, there are screens. This is the aspect I would call ‘Dada-reality’: reality insofar as the fabric that holds it together is missing. It is obviously in these regions where something is lacking, either the transformative experience or the words to exchange (because they are impossible to say), that works of art can take place. Figures, in Freudian terms, (not only image-figures in the plastic sense, but also three or one-dimensional figures; a movement can be a figure, so can a music) - that is to say objects that do not exist according to the two criteria just stated, that are not transformable, or at least whose reality is not measurable by their transformability - are essentially not linguistically communicable. (The commonplaces I am running through rapidly underlie Freud’s characterization of dreams and the primary process, even if they are not explicitly stated.) These objects can be characterized as figures precisely to the extent that they belong to an order of sense - to an order of existence - which is neither that of language, nor of practical transformation. I tentatively suggest calling this order an order of figure, not in the sense of figurative, but in a sense I would like to call figural.”
(see top of p.95 in “The Emperor’s Old Clothes”, an essay by Marshall McLuhan in VISION + VALUE SERIES, Gyorgy Kepes, ed., 1966, and bottom of p.199 and top of p.200 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE).
“What struck me in May 1968 was this: something happened precisely to the extent that this type of discourse, if it kept on being produced, at least had absolutely no relation whatsoever with the real unsettling of things; it even had an inverse relation to it. The people who believed in their own political awareness continued to hold this kind of discourse, and it was easy to see that their utterances, very far from promoting the real transformation of things, helped to keep them as they stood. The true problem, politically as well as from an ‘artistic’ point of view (and only anti-art is possible), is the inverse. The system, as it exists, absorbs every consistent discourse; the important thing is not to produce a consistent discourse but rather to produce ‘figures’ within reality. The problem is to endure the anguish of maintaining reality in a state of suspicion through direct practices; just like, for example, a poet is a man in a position to hold language - even if he uses it - under suspicion, i.e. to bring about figures which would never have been produced, that language might not tolerate, and which may never be audible, perceptible, for us.”
(see middle of first paragraph of p.448, bottom of p.460, and last sentence of first paragraph of p.517 in LETTERS).
“An ‘artist’ is someone who presents problems of forms. The essential element, the only decisive one, is form. Modifying social reality is not important at all if it aims at putting back into place something that will have the *same form*. What is important, above all, is to cease sympathizing with artists, what must be understood is the true problem they are putting before political people. There is more revolution, even if it is not much, in American Pop art than in the discourse of the Communist party.”
(see bottom of p.1 in THE GUTENBERG GALAXY, p.65 in UNDERSTANDING MEDIA, top of p.224 in ESSENTIAL McLUHAN, middle of p.243 in THROUGH THE VANISHING POINT).
“It is on this very level that junctions can occur between students and workers, on this level of an absolutely practical art which consists, precisely, in deconstructing not the material, plastic screen of representation - not an automobile as in the case of pop artists - but the ideological screen of representation, a subway station as a social space, for example, people’s relation to the public transport system taking them to work, their relation to subway tickets, their relation with one another, or with the hierarchical organisation of a workshop, a factory, or a university, etc. This has a direct connection with art, not with the avant-garde, but with anti-art, with that capacity to seek out and to maintain forms that are neither realist forms at the level of perception, not signifiable within an articulated discourse."
(see Marshall McLuhan [with Kathryn Hutchon and Eric McLuhan], MEDIA, MESSAGES & LANGUAGE: The World as Your Classroom, pp.xix-xxv, and bottom third of p.100 in TAKE TODAY).
Following in McLuhan’s footsteps as a phenomenologist
(see top of p.540 in LETTERS, and pp.60-66 in LAWS OF MEDIA),
Lyotard does not propose tactility, or silence, *per se* as an aesthetic program for seduction:
“I believe that the true art-phantasy relation is not direct; the artist does not externalize systems of internal figures, he is someone who undertakes to free *from* phantasy, *from* the matrix of figures whose heir and whose locus he is, what really belongs to the primary process, and is not a repetition, not a ‘graphy’.”
(see “Fantasy News, Psychedelic TV” section of Marshall McLuhan’s interview with Mark Gerzon in WORLD PAPER, Volume 1, No. 1, January, 1979).
“When this is resorted to, you have a work that is no longer jammed by phantasy, that is no longer blocked in a repetitive configuration, but on the contrary one that opens upon other possibilities, that *plays*, that sets itself up in the ‘inner-world’: this is not the world of personal phantasy (and neither, obviously, is it that of reality); this is an *oscillating* work, in which there is room for the play of forms, a field liberated by the reversal of phantasy, but which still rests upon it. This has nothing to do with aesthetics and it does not necessarily produce hermetic works.”
(see middle of p.223 in LETTERS).
Citing Freud as a media analyst, Lyotard limns McLuhan’s method of “corporate psychiatry”:
“Freud tells the hysteric: you are seeing things, you are fantasizing, tell me what you see, as you tell me about it, the consistency of the images will melt away. So there is a theater of images, of which the hysteric is the spectator, on the couch. Upon this, Freud constructs a second set-up where the hysteric is an actress, and the analyst, the invisible listener; radio comes after theater, more precisely, a radio hooked up to the auditorium, the listener not seeing the stage himself, as in radio commentary of boxing matches, football games. The charges invested in images will be *spent*, but in words. These words (the patient’s, the commentator’s) will butt against the analyst’s silence: energizing silence, of course - these words given as a request for love will remain unanswered. If the analyst were to reply, it would be as if he himself had stepped out onto the stage. Far from dissolving the phantasy, this would reinforce it, which is what happens in everyday ordinary life, where the hysteric has eyes and does not hear. But here, in Doctor Freud’s office, what is keeping silent in and being kept silent by the phantastic mise-en-scene must be heard. The analyst’s silence *must* put an end (?) to the silence of the hysteric. Obliteration of the operations of production in the symptom, exhibition of these same operations in the analysis: two silences with inverse functions; the silence of noise, of the imaginary, the silence of structure, of the symbolical; and like a springboard from one to the other, the silence of the analyst. All three the complementary elements of a single device, that of analysis. The words the patient addresses to the analyst carry the murmur of the affects; they meet with the doctor’s silence, thanks to which they will be distributed throughout the ‘pure’ silence of *ratio*, which separates distinctive units (phonemes) and allows us to recognize the verbal signifier and to communicate. This is why the scene described to the analyst under these conditions will be ‘freed’, put back into circulation, liquidated, ‘redeemed’, says Freud. The phantom-phantasy that shackled it will be removed; the true God, Logos, will triumph.”
(see bottom of p.45 in THE GUTENBERG GALAXY, and p.225 in ESSENTIAL McLUHAN).
Lyotard is writing at the beginning of the pentadic phase of technology’s evolution when there is complete fusion between our bodies (“first nature”) and our technological extensions (“second nature”), creating the circumstances of an ersatz autonomy for the after-image of one or the other. Earlier, McLuhan wrote from this vantage but emphasized the autonomous movements of second nature (the “media”) and consciously suppressed first nature, as Baudrillard did later, because the printed medium dictates an arbitrary choice, or “figure”. Lyotard emphasizes the metamorphoses of an autonomous first nature (“desire”) as his necessary printed figure:
“There is in every text a principle of displaceability (*Verschiebbarkeit*, said Freud), on account of which the written work induces other displacements here and there (within authors and readers both), and can thus never be but the snapshot of a mobile, itself a referred, secondary unity, under which currents flow in all directions. By collecting texts and making them a book, one encloses them in a protective membrane and they become part of a cell which will defend its unity; my aim, in presenting the essays collected here, is to break up this unity.”
“The desire underlying and informing institutions composes set-ups which are energetic investments in the body, in language, in the earth and the city, in the difference of sexes and ages, etc. Kapitalism is one of these set-ups.”
“Art, in the critique factory, is not a workshop for the making of tools. The most modern trends - American abstracts, pop and hyper-realism in painting and sculpture, poor and concrete musics (Cage’s above all), free choreographies (Cunningham’s), intensity theaters (if they exist) - place critical thought and negative dialectics before a considerable challenge: the works they produce are affirmative, not critical. They aver a new position of desire, the traces of which have just been referred to. The philosopher and the politicist (whose thinking you are about to consider) would have been content, after Adorno, with using the arts as formal reversal matices; they are nonetheless required to have an eye and an ear, a mouth and a hand for the new position, which is the end of all critique. They might find this difficult: what if it were their own end as well.”
(see bottom third of p.243 in THROUGH THE VANISHING POINT, and last quote from Marshall McLuhan in TIME magazine, August 9, 1968, p.40).
Lyotard also intuits McLuhan’s expose of the tetrad-manager:
“Possibility of the incompossibles, occupation of a single space by several bodies or of a single body by several positions, simultaneity of the successive, consequently, approach of a timelessness which will be the chronical pendant of this ‘topological’ space.”
“A critical political party also inhabits the silence of the signifier, the silence of domination; it considers the surface of experience as appearance, mere symptom, and even if it decides not to take power, power is already taken by it to the extent that it repeats this device of appearance and effacement, of theater, of politics as a *domaine*. Even should ‘tonal resolution’ be deferred endlessly, this party will be a tragic political party, it will be the negative dialectic of the *Aufklarung*; it is the Frankfurt School, demythologized, Lutheran, nihilistic Marxism.”
(see p.22 in THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE, and bottom of first column in McLuhan’s op-ed in The New York Times, July 29, 1973).
“Transposed to *Kapital*: it is *produktion* no longer of products, but of productions; *konsumption* no longer of objects, but of consumptions; *musikke* no longer of sounds, but of musics. So that the question is: the silence heard in noise, *immediately*, *suddenly*, is it not still dominated by the unheard silence of the Komposer-organizer, capital? *Kapital*, is it not the stage director of noises and silences themselves, as mise-en-scene? Destroy the work, but also destroy the work of works and *non-works*, kapitalism as museum, as memory of everything that is possible. De-memorize, like the unconscious.”
(see bottom third of middle column of p.89 in THE CoEVOLUTION QUARTERLY, Winter 1977/78, bottom of p.186 to top of p.188 in THE INTERIOR LANDSCAPE, and middle of p.145 in TAKE TODAY).
“I would be tempted to say that what pleases us now is what disconcerts us, and in this sense we are really in Freud’s ‘death drive’. What we are interested in is the dimension of otherness, alteration. There is a constant displacement and this displacement as such is what we are interested in, the fact that we are disconcerted, put out of time, caught on the wrong foot... Yes, the absence of a locus. Pontalis spoke of a Freudian utopia in the strong sense of the word. He meant that there was a non-locus. Well, what pleases us disconcerts us because it points to a non-locus.”
(see last sentence of p.71 in the interview with Marshall McLuhan, Toronto Daily Star, May 6, 1967).
And this brings us to the vortex of Deleuze and Guattari. They are not timid in confronting the pentadic features of the miniaturization of the post-Global Theater hologram and recognize the ambivalence it creates for all institutions, new, old and future ones, including the medium of print itself.
“A book has neither subject nor object; it is made up of variously formed materials, of very different dates and speeds. As soon as a book is attributed to a subject, this working of materials and the exteriority of their relations is disregarded
(see middle of p.33, top of p.37, and pp.56-59 in THE INTERIOR LANDSCAPE).
A beneficent God is invented for geological movements. In a book, as in everything else, there are lines of articulation or segmentation, strata, territorialities; but also lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and of destratification. The comparative rates of flow along these lines produce phenomena of relative slowness and viscosity, or alternatively of precipitation and rupture. All this, these lines and measurable speeds, constitute an *arrangement* (*agencement*). A book is such an arrangement, and as such unattributable. It is a multiplicity - but we still don’t know what the multiple implies when it ceases to be attributed, that is to say, when it is raised to the status of a substantive. A machinic arrangement (*agencement machinique*) is oriented toward the strata that undoubtedly make of it a kind of organism, either a signifying totality or a determination attributable to a subject, but it is oriented no less toward a *body without organs* that never ceases to break down the organism, causing a-signifying particles to pass and circulate freely, pure intensities, and causing the attribution to itself of subjects to which it allows no more than a name as trace of an intensity.”
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari,
ON THE LINE, 1983, pp.2-3
(see bottom of p.36, bottom third of p.144 in TAKE TODAY, and top of p.479 in LETTERS).
“Writing has nothing to do with signifying, but with land-surveying and map-making, even of countries yet to come.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, p.5
(see top paragraph in last column of p.4 in CAMPUS MAGAZINE, Volume 6, No. 3, October/November 1973).
“The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed on itself; it constructs it. It contributes to the connection of fields, the freeing of bodies without organs, and their maximal access onto the plane of consistency. It becomes itself part of the rhizome. The map is open, connectable in all its dimensions, and capable of being dismantled; it is reversible, and susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to montages of every kind, taken in hand by an individual, a group, or a social formation. It can be drawn on a wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a meditation. Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of the rhizome is that it always has multiple entrances.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, pp.25-26
(see p.120 in THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE).
“The ideal for a book would be to display everything on such a plane of exteriority, on a single page, on the same shoreline: lived events, historical determinations, received concepts, individuals, groups and social formations.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, p.17
(see bottom third of p.121 to top third of p.126 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE).
“Evolutionary schemes are no longer restricted to models of arborescent descent that go from the least to the most differentiated, but may follow a rhizome that operates immediately within the heterogeneous and jumps from one already differentiated line to another.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, p.21
(see second paragraph of p.427, and p.428 in LETTERS).
Understanding the *ad hoc* nature of the constantly improvised features of a networking crucible, Deleuze and Guattari cite the “rhizome” as the appropriate model for the digital environment’s inveterate simultaneous embrace of the centralizing and decentralizing characteristics that McLuhan stigmatized for the previously programmed, automated society
(see MacLEAN’S magazine, Volume 87, No. 1, January, 1974, p.27).
“To be a rhizomorph is to produce stems and filaments that look like roots, or better still, to connect with roots by penetrating into the trunk, even if it means having them serve strange new functions. We are tired of the tree. We must no longer put our faith in trees, roots, or radicels; we have suffered enough from them. The whole arborescent culture is founded on them, from biology to linguistics. On the contrary, only underground stems and aerial roots, the adventitious and the rhizome are truly beautiful, loving, or political. Amsterdam, a city not rooted at all, a rhizome-city with its canal-stems, where utility is linked to the greatest folly, in its relationship with a commercial war machine.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, p.33
(see middle of p.49, and middle of p.94 in TAKE TODAY, and middle of second column of p.69 in FORCES magazine, Hydro-Quebec, No. 22, 1973).
“Arborescent systems are hierarchical systems comprised of centers of significance and subjectivization, of autonomous centers like organized memories. The corresponding models are such that an element receives information only from a superior unity, and a subjective affect only from pre-established connections. This is easily seen in current problems with data processing and electronic computers, which still retain the oldest models of thought insofar as they confer power on a central organ or memory.... The authors contrast these centered systems with a-centered systems, networks of finite automata, where communication occurs between any two neighbors, where channels or links do not pre-exist, where individuals are all interchangeable and are defined only by their state at a given moment, in such a way that local operations are co-ordinated and the final overall result is synchronized independently of any central authority.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, pp.36 and 38
(see top of p.110 in TAKE TODAY, and pp.356-357 in UNDERSTANDING MEDIA).
“The margin for manoeuvre in psychoanalysis is thus very limited. There is always a General or a boss in psychoanalysis (General Freud), as there is in its object. Alternatively, by treating the unconscious as an a-centered system, that is, as a machinic network of finite automata (rhizomes), schizo-analysis reaches another state altogether of the unconscious.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, pp.39-40
(see middle of p.223 and top third of p.239 in UNDERSTANDING MEDIA, top half of p.86, middle of p.99, pp.161-162, bottom of p.199 and top of p.200 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE, bottom third of p.22 in TAKE TODAY, and pp.67 and 83 in THE GLOBAL VILLAGE: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century [with Bruce Powers], 1989).
“More still, it is American literature, and before that English, that has indicated this sense of the rhizomatic, that has known how to move between things, to institute a logic of *and*, to overthrow ontology and to dismiss the foundations, to nullify beginnings and endings. It has known how to be pragmatic. The middle is not at all an average - far from it - but the area where things take on speed. *Between* things does not designate a localizable relation going from one to the other and reciprocally, but a perpendicular direction, a transversal movement carrying away the one *and* the other, a stream without beginning or end, gnawing away at its two banks and picking up speed in the middle.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, p.58
(see pp.6-7 in The McLuhan DEW-LINE, Volume 1, No. 4, October, 1968, top third of p.136, bottom third of p.155, and photograph on p.156 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE, middle of p.81 in TAKE TODAY, and first full sentence at the top of p.371, bottom half of p.392, p.461, and p.504 in LETTERS).
“America should be considered a place apart. Obviously it is not exempt from domination by trees and the search for roots. This is evident even in its literature, in the quest for a national identity, and even for a European ancestry or genealogy (Kerouac sets off in search of his ancestry). Nevertheless, everything of importance that has happened and that is happening proceeds by means of the American rhizome: the beatnicks, the underground, the subterranean mobs and gangs - all successive lateral shoots in immediate connection with an outside. Hence the difference between an American book and a European book, even when the American sets off pursuing trees. A difference in the very conception of the book: ‘Leaves of Grass’.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, pp.42-43
(see pp.74-75 in THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE, middle of p.457 in LETTERS, p.44 and top of p.45 in TAKE TODAY, p.66 in FORCES magazine, Hydro-Quebec, No. 22, 1973, and first column of p.87 in THE CoEVOLUTION QUARTERLY, Winter 1977/78).
“The law of the State is not the law of All or Nothing (State-societies *or* counter-State societies), but that of interior and exterior. The State is sovereignty. But sovereignty only reigns over what it is capable of internalizing, of appropriating locally. Not only is there no universal State, but the outside of States cannot be reduced to ‘foreign policy’, that is to a set of relations among States. The outside appears simultaneously in two directions: huge worldwide machines branched out over the entire *ecumenon* at any given moment, which enjoy a large measure of autonomy in relation to the States (for example, commercial organization of the ‘multinational’ type, or industrial complexes, or even religious formations like Christianity, Islam, certain prophetic or messianic movements, etc.); but also the local mechanisms of bands, margins, minorities, which continue to affirm the rights of segmentary societies in opposition to the organs of State power. The modern world can provide us today with particularly well-developed images of these two directions, in the way of worldwide ecumenical machines, but also a neoprimitivism, a new tribal society as Marshall McLuhan describes it. These directions are equally present in all social fields, in all periods. It even happens that they become partially merged. For example, a commercial organization is also a band of pillage, or piracy, for part of its course and in many of its activities; or it is in bands that a religious formation begins to operate. What becomes clear is that bands, no less than worldwide organizations, imply a form irreducible to the State, and that this exteriority necessarily presents itself as that of a diffuse and polymorphous war machine. It is a *nomos* very different from the ‘law’.”
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari,
NOMADOLOGY: The War Machine, 1986, pp.15-16
(see pp.120-124 in THE GUTENBERG GALAXY, pp.60-61 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE, bottom half of p.318, top of p.360, bottom of p.361, top half of p.368, p.468, and bottom of p.515 in LETTERS, and pp.38-43 in TAKE TODAY).
“The State-form, as a form of interiority, has a tendency to reproduce itself, remaining identical to itself across its variations and easily recognizable within the limits of its poles, always seeking public recognition (there is no masked State). But the war machine’s form of exteriority is such that it exists only in its own metamorphoses; it exists in an industrial innovation as well as in a technological invention, in a commercial circuit as well as in a religious creation, in all the flows and currents that only secondarily allow themselves to be appropriated by the State. It is not in terms of independence, but of coexistence and competition *in a perpetual field of interaction*, that we must conceive of exteriority and interiority, war machines of metamorphosis and State apparatuses of identity, bands and kingdoms, megamachines and empires. The same field circumscribes its interiority in States, but describes its exteriority in what escapes States or stands against States.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see The McLuhan DEW-LINE, Volume 1, No. 8, February, 1969, and p.68, top third of p.112, p.180, and top third of p.322 in CULTURE IS OUR BUSINESS).
“One no longer goes from the straight line to its parallels, in a lamellar or laminar flow, but from a curvilinear declination to the formation of spirals and vortices on an inclined plane: the greatest slope for the smallest angle. From *turba* to *turbo*: in other words from bands or packs of atoms to the great vortical organizations. The model is a vortical one; it operates in an open space throughout which thing-flows are distributed, rather than plotting out a closed space for linear and solid things. It is the difference between a *smooth* (vectorial, projective or topological) space and a *striated* (metric) space: in the first case ‘space is occupied without being counted’, while in the second case ‘space is counted in order to be occupied’.
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see pp.214-216 in ESSENTIAL McLUHAN, bottom quarter of p.7 in CULTURE IS OUR BUSINESS, and middle of p.5 and middle of p.273 in TAKE TODAY).
In the style of McLuhan, Deleuze and Guattari offer nine dialectics as exercises to prepare their readers for a surprise:
1. “Chess is indeed a war, but an institutionalized, regulated, coded war, with a front, a rear, battles. But what is proper to Go is war without battle lines, with neither confrontation nor retreat, without battles even: pure strategy, while chess is a semiology. Finally, the space is not at all the same: in chess, it is a question of arranging a closed space for oneself, thus of going from one point to another, of occupying the maximum number of squares with the minimum number of pieces. In Go, it is a question of arraying oneself in an open space, of holding space, of maintaining the possibility of springing up at any point: the movement is not from one point to another, but becomes perpetual, without aim or destination, without departure or arrival. The ‘smooth’ space of Go, as against the ‘striated’ space of chess. The *nomos* of Go against the State of chess, *nomos* against *polis*. The difference is that chess codes and decodes space, while Go proceeds altogether differently territorializing or deterritorializing it (make the outside a territory in space; consolidate that territory by the construction of a second, adjacent territory; deterritorialize the enemy by shattering his territory from within; deterritorialize oneself by renouncing, by going elsewhere...). Another justice, another movement, another space-time.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see top half of second column of p.263 in ESSENTIAL McLUHAN, and first two sentences at top of p.227 in TAKE TODAY).
2. “Packs, bands, are groups of the rhizome type, as opposed to the arborescent type which centers around organs of power. That is why bands in general, even those engaged in banditry or high society life, are metamorphoses of a war machine that differs formally from all State apparatuses or their equivalents, which, on the contrary, structure centralized societies. One certainly would not say that discipline is what defines a war machine: discipline becomes the characteristic required of armies when the State appropriates them. But the war machine answers to other rules. We are of course not saying that they are better, only that they animate a fundamental indiscipline of the warrior, a questioning of hierarchy, perpetual blackmailing by abandonment or betrayal, and a very volatile sense of honor, all of which, once again, impedes the formation of the State.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see p.239 in CULTURE IS OUR BUSINESS, and bottom third of p.20 in TAKE TODAY).
3. “But it needs it in a very different form, because the State needs to subordinate hydraulic force to conduits, pipes, embankments which prevent turbulence, which constrain movement to go from one point to another, and space itself to be striated and measured, which makes the fluid depend on the solid, and flows proceed by parallel, laminar layers. The hydraulic model of nomad science and the war machine, on the other hand, consists in being distributed by turbulence across a smooth space, in producing a movement that holds space and simultaneously affects all of its points, instead of being held by space in a local movement from one specified point to another. Democritus, Menaechmus, Archimedes, Vauban, Desargues, Bernoulli, Monge, Carnot, Poncelet, Perronet, etc.: in each case a monograph would be necessary to take into account the special situation of these savants whom State science used only after restraining or disciplining them, after repressing their social or political conceptions. (p.21)... This opposition, or rather this tension-limit between the two kinds of science - nomad, war-machine science and royal, State science - reappears at different moments, on different levels. (p.22)... What we have, rather, are two formally different conceptions of science, and, ontologically, a single field of interaction in which royal science is perpetually appropriating the contents of vague or nomad science, and nomad science is perpetually releasing the contents of royal science. At the limit, all that counts is the constantly moving borderline. (p.28)
(see first column of p.5 in TV GUIDE, September, 1978)...
In any case, if the State is always finding it necessary to repress the nomad and minor sciences, if it opposes vague essences and the operative geometry of the trait, it does so not because the content of these sciences is inexact or imperfect, or because of their magic or initiatory character, but because they imply a division of labor opposed to the norms of the State. (p.30)... In the field of interaction of the two sciences, the ambulant sciences confine themselves to *inventing problems* the solution of which is linked to an entire set of collective, nonscientific activities, but the *scientific solution* of which depends, on the contrary, on royal science and the way it has transformed the problem by introducing it into its theorematic apparatus and its organization of work. This is somewhat like intuition and intelligence in Bergson, where only intelligence has the scientific means to solve formally the problems posed by intuition, problems that intuition would be content to entrust to the qualitative activities of a humanity engaged in *following* matter...” (p.40)
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see bottom third of p.27 and top third of p.28 in THE INTERIOR LANDSCAPE, p.271 in THE GUTENBERG GALAXY, and top third of p.119 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE).
4. “In modern States, the sociologist succeeded in replacing the philosopher (as for example when Durkheim and his disciples set out to give the republic a secular model of thought). Even today, psychoanalysis lays claim to the role of *Cogitatio universalis* as the thought of the Law, in a magical return. And there are quite a few other competitors and pretenders. Noology, which is distinct from ideology, is precisely the study of images of thought, and their historicity. In a sense, it could be said that all this has no importance, that thought has never had anything but laughable gravity. But that is all it requires: for us not to take it seriously. Because that makes it all the easier for it to think for us, and to be forever engendering new functionaries. Because the less people take thought seriously, the more they think in conformity with what the State wants. Truly, what man of the State has not dreamed of that paltry impossible thing - to be a thinker?
But noology is confronted by counterthoughts, which are violent intheir acts, discontinuous in their appearances, and the existence of which is mobile in history. These are the acts of a ‘private thinker’, as opposed to the public professor: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or even Chestov... Wherever they dwell, it is the steppe or the desert. They destroy images.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see bottom half of p.247 in THE GUTENBERG GALAXY, and middle of p.184 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE).
5. “The *nomos* is the consistency of a fuzzy aggregate: it is in this sense that it stands in opposition to the law or the *polis*, as the backcountry, a mountainside or the vague expanse around a city (“either nomos or polis”). There is therefore, and this is the third point, a significant difference between the spaces: sedentary space is striated, by walls, enclosures and roads between enclosures, while nomad space is smooth, marked only by ‘traits’ that are effaced and displaced with the trajectory. Even the lamella of the desert slide over each other, producing an inimitable sound. The nomad distributes himself in a smooth space, he occupies, inhabits, holds that space; that is his territorial principle. It is therefore false to define the nomad by movement. Toynbee is profoundly right to suggest that the nomad is on the contrary *he who does not move*. Whereas the migrant leaves behind a milieu that has become amorphous or hostile, the nomad is one who does not depart, does not want to depart, who clings to the smooth space left by the receding forest, where the steppe or the desert advance, and who invents nomadism as a response to this challenge. Of course, the nomad moves, but while seated, and he is only seated while moving (the Bedouin galloping, knees on the saddle, sitting on the soles of his upturned feet, ‘a feat of balance’). The nomad knows how to wait, he has infinite patience. (p.51)... The nomad is there, on the land, wherever there forms a smooth space that gnaws, and tends to grow, in all directions. The nomad inhabits these places, he remains in them, and he himself makes them grow, for it has been established that the nomad makes the desert no less than he is made by it
(see middle of p.443 in LETTERS, first italicized sentence at bottom of p.82, and last sentence on p.205 in TAKE TODAY).
He is a vector of deterritorialization. He adds desert to desert, steppe to steppe, by a series of local operations the orientation and direction of which endlessly vary. The sand desert does not only have oases, which are like fixed points, but also rhizomatic vegetation that is temporary and shifts location according to local rains, bringing changes in the direction of the crossings. The same terms are used to describe ice deserts as sand deserts: there is no line separating earth and sky; there is no intermediate distance, no perspective or contour, visibility is limited; and yet there is an extraordinarily fine topology that does not rely on points or objects, but on haecceities, on sets of relations (winds, undulations of snow or sand, the song of the sand or the creaking of ice, the tactile qualities of both); it is a tactile space, or rather ‘haptic’, a sonorous much more than a visual space...” (p.53)
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see top half of second column of p.71 in the interview with Marshall McLuhan, Toronto Daily Star, May 6, 1967, and p.198 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE).
6. “It is in State armies that the problem of the treatment of large quantities arise, in relation to other matters; but the war machine operates with small quantities that it treats using numbering numbers. These numbers appear as soon as one distributes something in space, instead of dividing up space or distributing space itself. The number becomes a subject. The independence of the number in relation to space is not a result of abstraction, but of the concrete nature of smooth space, which is occupied without itself being counted. The number is no longer a means of counting or measuring, but of moving: it is the number itself that moves through smooth space.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see bottom half of p.109 in UNDERSTANDING MEDIA).
7. “Weapons and weapon handling seem to be linked to a free action model, and tools to a work model. Linear displacement, from one point to another, constitutes the relative movement of the tool, but it is the vortical occupation of a space that constitutes the absolute movement of the weapon. It is as though the weapon were moving, self-propelling, while the tool is moved. (p.79)... What effectuates a free action model is not the weapons in themselves and in their physical aspect, but the ‘war machine’ assemblage as the formal cause of the weapons. And what effectuates the work model is not the tools, but the ‘work machine’ assemblage as the formal cause of the tools. When we say that the weapon is inseparable from a speed-vector, while the tool remains linked to conditions of gravity, we are claiming only to signal a difference between two types of assemblage, a distinction that holds even if in the assemblage proper to it the tool is abstractly ‘faster’, and the weapon abstractly more ‘weighty’. The tool is by essence tied to a genesis, a displacement and an expenditure of force whose laws reside in work, while the weapon concerns only the exercise or manifestation of force in space and time, in conformity with free action. The weapon does not fall from the sky, and obviously assumes production, displacement, expenditure and resistance. But this aspect relates to the common sphere of the weapon and the tool, and does not yet concern the specificity of the weapon, which only appears when force is considered in itself, when it is no longer linked to anything but the number, movement, space or time, or *when speed is added to displacement*. Concretely, a weapon as such does not relate to the Work model, but to the Free Action model, with the assumption that the conditions of work are fulfilled elsewhere. In short, from the point of view of force, the tool is tied to a gravity-displacement, weight-height system; the weapon to a speed-*perpetuum mobile* system (it is in this sense that it can be said that speed in itself is a ‘weapons system’.” (pp.80-81)
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see bottom of p.87 to top half of p.90 in LAWS OF MEDIA, and bottom half of p.510 in LETTERS).
8. “*Metallurgy in itself constitutes a flow necessarily confluent with nomadism.* (p.90)... Matter and form have never seemed more rigid than in metallurgy; and yet the succession of forms tends to be replaced by the form of a continuous development, the variability of matters tends to be replaced by the matter of a continuous variation. If metallurgy has an essential relation with music, it is not only by virtue of the sounds of the forge, but of the tendency within both arts to bring into its own, beyond separate forms, a continuous development of form, and beyond variable matters, a continuous variation of matter: a widened chromaticism sustains both music and metallurgy; the musical smith was the first ‘transformer’. In short, what metal and metallurgy bring to light is a life inherent to matter, a vital state of matter as such, a material vitalism that doubtless exits everywhere but is ordinarily hidden or covered, rendered unrecognizable, dissociated by the hylomorphic model. Metallurgy is the consciousness or thought of the matter-flow, and metal the correlate of this consciousness. As expressed in panmetallism, metal is coextensive to the whole of matter, and the whole of matter to metallurgy. Even the waters, the grasses and varieties of wood, the animals are populated by salts or mineral elements. Not everything is metal, but metal is everywhere. Metal is the conductor of all matter. The machinic phylum is metallurgical, or at least has a metallic head, as its itinerant probe-head or guidance device. And thought is born more from metal than from stone: metallurgy is minor science in person, ‘vague’ science or the phenomenology of matter. The prodigious idea of *Nonorganic Life* - the very same idea Worringer considered the barbarian idea *par excellence* - was the invention, the intuition of metallurgy. Metal is neither a thing nor an organism, but a *body* without organs.” (pp.102-103)
Deleuze and Guattari,
9. “*War does not necessarily have the battle as its object, and more importantly, the war machine does not necessarily have war as its object, although war and the battle may be its necessary result (under certain conditions).* (pp.109-110)... This explains Clausewitz’s vacillation when he establishes at one point that total war remains a war conditioned by the political aim of States, and at another that it tends to effectuate the Idea of unconditioned war. In effect, the aim remains essentially political and determined as such by the State, but the object itself has become unlimited. We could say that the appropriation has changed direction, or rather that States tend to unleash, reconstitute, an immense war machine of which they are no longer anything more than the opposable or apposed parts. This worldwide war machine, which in a way ‘reissues’ from the States, displays two successive figures: first, that of fascism, which makes war an unlimited movement with no other aim than itself; but fascism is only a rough sketch, and the second, post-fascist, figure is that of a war machine that takes peace as its object directly, as the peace of Terror or Survival. The war machine reforms a smooth space which now claims to control, to surround the entire earth. Total war itself is surpassed, towards a form of peace more terrifying still. The war machine has taken charge of the aim, worldwide order, and the States are no longer anything more than objects or means adapted to that machine. This is the point at which Clausewitz’s formula is effectively reversed; to be entitled to say that politics is the continuation of war by other means, it is not enough to invert the order of the words as if they could be spoken in either direction; it is necessary to follow the real movement at the conclusion of which the States, having appropriated a war machine, and having adapted it to their aims, reissue a war machine that takes charge of the aim, appropriates the States and assumes increasingly wider political functions.” (pp.118-119)
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see p.152 in TAKE TODAY, bottom half of p.12 to top half of p.13 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE, and last sentence on p.xi in Canadian National Bank [Montreal] 100th Annual Report Publication, December, 1974).
Deleuze and Guattari collapse the dialectic to reveal they had been playing with the tactile interval all along, and then put the post-tactile observer in the bull’s-eye position on the rhizome’s dartboard:
“Undoubtedly, nothing is more outmoded than the man of war: he has long since been transformed into an entirely different character, the military man. And the worker himself has undergone so many misadventures...
And yet men of war reappear, with many ambiguities: they are all those who know the uselessness of violence, but who are adjacent to a war machine to be recreated, one of active, revolutionary counterattacks. Workers also reappear who do not believe in work, but who are adjacent to a work machine to be recreated, one of active resistance and technological liberation. They do not resuscitate old myths or archaic figures, they are the new figure of a transhistorical assemblage (neither historical, nor eternal, but untimely): the nomad warrior and the ambulant worker. A somber caricature already precedes them, the mercenary or mobile military instructor, and the technocrat or transhumant analyst, the CIA and IBM
(see p.257 in TAKE TODAY, and top half of back-cover book flap of TAKE TODAY).
But a transhistorical figure must defend himself as much against old myths
(see pp.140-141 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE)
as against preestablished, anticipatory disfigurations
(see bottom of first column and top of second column in McLuhan’s op-ed in The New York Times, July 29, 1973).
‘One does not go back to reconquer the myth, one encounters it anew, when time quakes at its foundations under the empire of extreme danger.’ Martial arts and state-of-the-art technologies only have value because they create a possibility of bringing together worker and warrior masses of a new type
(see first paragraph of p.31 in COUNTERBLAST).
The shared line of flight of the weapon and the tool: a pure possibility, a mutation. There arise subterranean, aerial, submarine technicians who belong more or less to the world order, but who involuntarily invent and amass virtual charges of knowledge and action that are usable by others, minute but easily acquired for new assemblages. The borrowings between warfare and the military apparatus, work and free action, always run in both directions, for a struggle that is all the more varied.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see pp.117-130 in FROM CLICHE TO ARCHETYPE).
“We can now better understand why I said that sometimes there are at least three different lines, sometimes only two, and sometimes only one, all very entangled. Sometimes there are actually three lines, because the line of flight or of rupture combines all the movements of deterritorialization, precipitates quanta, tears off accelerated particles that cross into each other’s territories, and carries them onto a plane of consistency or a mutating machine. And then there is a second molecular line, where the deterritorializations are now only relative, always compensated for by reterritorializations which impose on them so many loops and detours, equilibria and stabilizations. Finally there is the molar line, with well-defined segments, where the reterritorializations accumulate in order to constitute a plane of organization and to pass into an overcoding machine.
Three lines: the nomad line, the migrant line, and the sedentary line (the migrant and nomad lines are not at all the same). Or there might only be two lines, because the molecular line would only appear in oscillation between the two extremes, sometimes swept away by the combination of deterritorializations, and sometimes contributing to the accumulation of reterritorializations (sometimes the migrant allies himself with the nomad, sometimes with the mercenary or confederate of an empire: the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths). Or perhaps there is only a single line, the primary line of flight, the border or edge that is relativized in the second line, and allows itself to be stopped or cut in the third. But even then, it can be conveniently presented as *the* line born from the explosion of the other two. Nothing is more complicated than a line or lines. This is what Melville is concerned with: the dingys tied together in their organized segmentation, Captain Ahab on his molecular line, becoming animal, and the white whale in its mad flight.”
Deleuze and Guattari,
ON THE LINE, pp.93-94.
“Doubtless, the present situation is highly discouraging. We have watched the war machine grow stronger and stronger, as in a science fiction story; we have seen it assign as its objective a peace still more terrifying than fascist death; we have seen it maintain or instigate the most terrible of local wars as parts of itself; we have seen it set its sights on a new type of enemy, no longer another State, nor even another regime, but the ‘unspecified enemy’; we have seen it put its counter-guerilla elements into place, so that it can be caught by surprise once, but not twice... Yet the very conditions that make the State or World war machine possible, in other words constant capital (resources and equipment) and human variable capital, constantly recreate unexpected possibilities for counterattack, unforseen initiatives determining revolutionary, popular, minority mutant machines. The definition of the Unspecified Enemy testifies to this... ‘multiform, maneuvering and omnipresent... of the moral, political, subversive or economic order, etc.,’ the unassignable material Saboteur or human Deserter assuming the most diverse forms. The first theoretical element of importance is the fact that the war machine has many varied meanings, and this is *precisely because the war machine has an extremely variable relation to war itself.*”
Deleuze and Guattari,
(see pp.140-143 in THE GLOBAL VILLAGE).
Deleuze and Guattari skillfully refresh the implications for autonomy that McLuhan first articulated when he recognized the discarnate “animal” stalking our tiny neighborhood.
So, in retospect, it appears Sylvere Lotringer astutely mimed the pentadic when he offered five slippery pillars to establish the foundations for the New York school of media ecology.
And, Sylvere Lotringer recently commented on the origins of his SEMIOTEXTE project:
“If you compared theorists like Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault to John Cage and William Burroughs, you could see a connection between what the French were doing with concepts and what the Americans were doing with perception.”
Time Out New York magazine,
March 7-14, 2002, p.73.
The parallels to the earlier project of the Toronto school of media ecology are obvious, including especially the playful, satirical aspects.
The third to surf the post-McLuhan wave was Arthur Kroker (1945-). But with a double twist. As a counter-environment to both the Toronto school of media ecology and the New York school, there developed the Montreal school around the Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory edited by Kroker. Initially inspired by Donald Theall's book on McLuhan, THE MEDIUM IS THE REAR VIEW MIRROR:
Understanding McLuhan (1971) and his work at McGill University in the late sixties and early seventies - Theall having been McLuhan's first Ph.D. graduate - this school targeted both ends of the McLuhan dialectic. Scanning past Baudrillard's notion of "theory fiction", Kroker et al. foregrounded the incipient organicity of "technology" - the fact that the mediascape had come alive
("The important thing is to realize that electric information systems are live environments in the full organic sense."-
Marshall McLuhan [with Quentin Fiore],
WAR AND PEACE IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE: An Inventory of Some of the Current Spastic Situations that Could Be Eliminated by More Feedforward,
If this appears as an approach perversely similar to science fiction, then it needs to be appreciated as entirely consistent with McLuhan's artistic strategy, on one level, of a more sophisticated and complex invasion and critique of the popular genre as illustrated in a letter McLuhan wrote to his mother in 1952 after the publication of THE MECHANICAL BRIDE in 1951:
"The Mechanical Bride is really a new form of science fiction, with ads and comics cast as characters. Since my object is to show the community in action rather than *prove* anything, it can indeed be regarded as a new kind of novel." -
Kroker's artistic agenda was to scratch the blackboard that displayed the iconic image of McLuhan as a technotopian created by Madison Avenue's mediascape in the sixties. Kroker did this by stressing the political and creative implications of the principle (and McLuhan's little-known aphorism)
"the user is the content"
that McLuhan had purposely suppressed in his art
("When I say 'the medium is the message', I suppress the fact that the user or audience or cognitive agent is both the 'content' and maker of the experience, in order to highlight the *effects* of the medium, or the hidden environment or *ground* of the experience. The nineteenth century, as the first great consumer age, suppressed the function of the user and the public as cognitive agent and producer. The Pre-Raphaelites at least strove to overcome the passive consumer bias of an industrial time by stressing the role of *work* and crafts in art and society." -
An example of an explicit statement of Kroker's program apropos of McLuhan:
"To dismiss McLuhan as a technological determinist is to miss entirely the point of his intellectual contribution. McLuhan's value as a theorist of culture and technology began just when he went over the hill to the side of the alien and surrealistic world of mass communications: the 'real world' of technology where the nervous system is exteriorised and everyone is videoated daily like sitting screens for television. Just because McLuhan sought *to see* the real world of technology, and even to celebrate technological reason as freedom, he could provide such superb, first-hand accounts of the new society of electronic technologies. McLuhan was fated to be trapped in the deterministic world of technology, indeed to become one of the intellectual servomechanisms of the machine-world, because his Catholicism failed to provide him with an adequate cultural theory by which to escape the hegemony of the abstract media systems that he had sought to explore. Paradoxically, however, it was just when McLuhan became most cynical and most deterministic, when he became fully aware of the nightmarish quality of the 'medium as massage', that his thought becomes most important as an entirely creative account of the great paradigm-shift now going on in twentieth-century experience. McLuhan was then, in the end, trapped in the 'figure' of his own making. His discourse could provide a brilliant understanding of the inner functioning of the technological media; but no illumination concerning how 'creative freedom' might be won through in the 'age of anxiety, and dread'. In a fully tragic sense, McLuhan's final legacy was this: he was the playful perpetrator, and then victim, of a sign-crime." -
TECHNOLOGY AND THE CANADIAN MIND:
Innis/McLuhan/Grant, 1984, pp.85-86.
But Kroker was pursuing a valid posture for media ecology because the post-satellite and post-instant replay, digital environment of the eighties replayed a hologram that boiled at the speed of thought and simulated the individual autonomy evoked by the earlier environment of slower speed-of-light, mixed corporate-media that McLuhan parodied. In this later context, the role of theory fiction performed by the pentadic Menippean technoscape required the response of "panic writing":
"In McLuhan's terms, life in the simulacrum of the mediascape consists of a big reversal: the simulacrum of the image-system goes inside; consciousness is ablated. In the sightscape of television, just like before it in the soundscape of radio, the media function as a gigantic (and exteriorised) electronic nervous system, amplifying technologically our every sense, and playing sensory functions back to us in the processed form of *mutant* images and sounds. TV life? That's television as a mutant society: the mediascape playing back to us our *own* distress as a simulated and hyperreal sign of life." -
Arthur Kroker and David Cook,
THE POSTMODERN SCENE: Excremental Culture and Hyper-Aesthetics, 1986, p.277.
This organic mutantscape thus left the global audience free to create new networks on the imaginary sidelines:
"In mathematized space, the body is only understandable cabalistically: a topographical filiation *en abyme*, a perspectival simulacrum, a fractal figure with no (hyperreal) existence except as part of a large holographic pattern, the product of the folded space of culture as a fuzzy set without depth." -
Panic Value: Bacon, Colville, Baudrillard and the Aesthetics of Deprivation in LIFE AFTER POSTMODERNISM: Essays on Value and Culture, 1987(edited and introduced by John Fekete), p.187.
Via Kroker, his wife, Marilouise Kroker, and David Cook, the Montreal school produced five books in the eighties:
TECHNOLOGY AND THE CANADIAN MIND:
THE POSTMODERN SCENE:
Excremental Culture and Hyper-Aesthetics
LIFE AFTER POSTMODERNISM:
Essays on Value and Culture
(1987, edited and introduced by John Fekete),
panic sex in America
the definitive guide to the postmodern scene
An ex-seminarian, Kroker retrieved the probes of Nietzsche for his refusal of the Toronto school:
"Nietzsche is, then, the limit and possibility of the postmodern condition. He is the *limit* of postmodernism because, as a thinker who was so deeply fixated by the death of the grand referent of God, Nietzsche was the last and best of all the modernists. In The Will to Power, the postmodernist critique of representation achieves its most searing expression and, in Nietzsche's understanding of the will as a 'perspectival simulation', the fate of postmodernity as a melancholy descent into the violence of the death of the social is anticipated. And Nietzsche is the *possibility* of the postmodern scene because the double-reversal which is everywhere in his thought and nowhere more so than in his vision of artistic practice as the release of the 'dancing star' of the body as a *solar system* is, from the beginning of time, the negative cue, the 'expanding field' of the postmodern condition.
Nietzsche's legacy for the *fin-de-millenium* mood of the postmodern scene is that we are living on the violent edge between ecstasy and decay; between the melancholy lament of postmodernism over the death of the grand signifiers of modernity - consciousness, truth, sex, capital, power - and the ecstatic nihilism of ultramodernism; between the body as a torture-chamber and pleasure-palace; between fascination and lament. But this is to say that postmodernism comes directly out of the bleeding tissues of the body - out of the body's fateful oscillation between the finality of 'time's it was' (the body as death trap) and the possibility of experiencing the body (*au-dela* of Nietzsche) as a 'solar system' - a dancing star yes, but also a black hole - which is the source of the hyper-nihilism of the flesh of the postmodern kind." -
THE POSTMODERN SCENE, pp.9-10.
And retrieved St. Augustine (see Arthur Kroker, THE POSTMODERN SCENE, pp.35-72) for his refusal of Lotringer's New York school:
"This is *imaging* to such a degree of hyper-abstraction that Jean Baudrillard's insight in Simulations that the 'real is that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction' is now rendered obsolescent by the actual transformation of the simulacrum with its hyperreality effects into its opposite: a *virtual* technology mediated with designer bodies processed through computerized imaging-systems. When technology in its ultramodernist phase connects again with the primitivism of mythic fear turned radical, it's no longer the Baudrillardian world of the simulacrum and hyperrealism, but a whole new scene of *virtual* technology and the end of the fantasy of the Real. Electronic art is the limit of postmodern aesthetics." -
Kroker was correctly intuiting that the ultramodernist phase required perception of the suiciding of the Menippean media-dance:
"And likewise with Colville's Man, Woman and Boat and Four Figures on a Wharf. These paintings (reminiscent of de Chirico's Turin meditations) are metaphysical because they illustrate the ontology of hyperrealism: our disappearance into the fascinating, and relational, topology of a measured and calculative universe. Here, everything has been reduced to perspectival relations of spatial contiguity (the mummy-like figures of Man, Woman and the symmetry of the classical statuary); the water, in both paintings, does not represent an edge, but the opposite - the dissolution of all borders; the mapping of which is sidereal and topographical. We might say, in fact, that these paintings figure the double liquidation of classical mythological space (Four Figures on a Wharf is a hologram for the world as a fuzzy set), and modern panoptic space (for there is no disappearing viewpoint in Man, Woman and Boat). As the immolation of classical and panoptic space, they also work to provide the internal grammatical rules of the intensely mathematized space of ultramodernism: folded in time, more real than the real, always topological and fractal. Consequently, the ultra-symmetry of colours, figures, and textures in Man, Woman and Boat and Four Figures on a Wharf are real because their very perfection indicates their *hyperreal* existence as sliding signifiers in a topographical and aestheticized surface of events. In space as a designer, mathematical construct, the boat floats on the water, the classical statuary is geometrically abstracted, and the designer environment is superior to any original because its ontology is that of excessive *hyper-nature*." -
Panic Value: Bacon, Colville, Baudrillard and the Aesthetics of Deprivation in LIFE AFTER POSTMODERNISM: Essays on Value and Culture, 1987 (edited and introduced by John Fekete), p.187.
“And so, postmodern culture in America is what is playing at your local theatre, TV set, office tower, or sex outlet. Not the beginning of anything new or the end of anything old, but the catastrophic, because fun, implosion of America into a whole series of panic scenes at the *fin-de-millenium*.
Panic God: This is Jimmy Bakker and what the press love to describe as the ‘heavily mascaraed Tammy Faye’. Not just TV evangelicals brought to ground by a double complicity - Jerry Falwell’s will to money and Jimmy Schwaggart’s will to power - but Jimmy and Tammy as the first, and perhaps the best, practitioners of the New American religious creed of *post-Godism*. TV evangelicism, then, is all about the creation of a postmodern God: not religion under the sign of panoptic power, but the hyper-God of all the TV evangelicals as so fascinating and so fungible, because this is where God has disappeared as a grand referent, and reappeared as an empty sign-system, waiting to be filled, indeed *demanding* to be filled, if contributions to the TV evangelicals are any measure, by all the waste, excess and sacrificial burnout of Heritage Park, U.S.A. An excremental God, therefore, for an American conservative culture disappearing into its own burnout, detritus, and decomposition. For Jimmy and Tammy’s disgrace is just a momentary *mise-en-scene* as the soap opera of a panic god reverses field on itself, and everyone waits for what is next in the salvation myth, American-style: Jimmy and Tammy in their struggle through a period of dark tribulations and hard trials on their way to asking forgiveness (on Ted Koppel’s Nightline show on ABC). As Jimmy Bakker once said: ‘In America, you have to be excessive to be successful’. Or, as Tammy likes to sign out all her TV shows: ‘Just remember. Jesus loves you. He *really, really* does’....
Panic TV: This is Max Headroom as a harbinger of the post-bourgeois individual of estheticized liberalism who actually vanishes into the simulacra of the information system, whose face can be digitalized and fractalized by computer imaging because Max is living out a panic conspiracy in TV as the real world, and whose moods are perfectly postmodern because they alternate between kitsch and dread, between the ecstasy of catastrophe and the terror of the simulacra. Max Headroom, then, is the first citizen of the end of the world.”
- Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, ‘Panic Sex in America’ in BODY INVADERS: panic sex in America, 1987, edited and introduced by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, pp.17-19.
“In a postmodern culture typified by the disappearance of the Real and by the suffocation of natural contexts, fashion provides *aesthetic holograms* as moveable texts for the general economy of excess. Indeed, if fashion cycles now appear to oscillate with greater and greater speed, frenzy and intensity of circulation of all the signs, that is because fashion, in an era when the body is the inscribed surface of events, is like Brownian motion in physics: the greater the velocity and circulation of its surface features, the greater the internal movement towards stasis, immobility, and inertia. An entire postmodern scene, therefore, brought under the double sign of culture where, as Baudrillard has hinted, the secret of fashion is to introduce the *appearance* of radical novelty, while maintaining the *reality* of no substantial change. Or is it the opposite? Not fashion as a referent of the third (simulational) order of the real, but as itself the spectacular sign of a parasitical culture which, always anyway excessive, disaccumulative, and sacrificial, is drawn inexorably towards the ecstasy of catastrophe.
Consequently, the fashion scene, and the tattooed body with it, as a Bataillean piling up of the ‘groundless refuse of activity’. When the sign of the Real has vanished into its (own) appearance, then the order of fashion, like pornography before it, must also give the appearance of no substantive change, while camouflaging the *reality* of radical novelty in a surface aesthetics of deep sign-continuity. Fashion, therefore, is a conservative agent complicit in deflecting the eye from fractal subjectivity, cultural dyslexia, toxic bodies, and parallel processing as the social physics of late twentieth-century experience. Ultimately, the appearance of the tattooed body is a last seductive, ventilated remainder in the reality of the implosion of culture and society into what quantum physicists like to call the ‘world strip’, across which run indifferent rivulets of experience.”
- Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, ‘Fashion Holograms’ in BODY INVADERS: panic sex in America, 1987, edited and introduced by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, p.45.
“The postmodern body is penetrated by power and marked by all the signs of ideology. Indeed, when power actually produces the body and when the body itself becomes conditional for the operation of a fully relational power, then the postmodern body is already only a virtual afterimage of its own simulated existence. Virtual sex, virtual eyes, virtual organs, virtual nervous system: that is the disappearing body now as the cynical site of its own exteriorization (and immolation) in the mediascape. And so, what follows is body writing for the end of the world. No longer writing *about* the body or even *from* the body, but robo-bodies writing the violent and excessive history of their (own) disappearance into the simulacrum. It’s Kathy Acker still in Haiti and Jean Baudrillard spitting on the Eiffel Tower as letters to excess for a hyper-modern time.”
- Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, ‘Body Writing’ in BODY INVADERS: panic sex in America, 1987, edited and introduced by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, p.223.
“In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan might have described television as a *cool medium*, but in the 1980s it’s the TV audience which has cooled down to degree absolute zero, to that point where the audience itself actually becomes a *superconductor*: a zone of absolute non-resistance and hyper-circulability of exchange for all the TV beams which pass through it.
Even postmodern babies, the latest wave of the TV generation, are now born as instant superconductors. Thus, for example, there was recently a televised report of some interesting mass media research which had to do with the seemingly remarkable ability of very young babies to recognize facial images on TV screens. The ideological object of the report was probably to provide comfort to working mothers by demonstrating the possibility of a new long-distance video relationship with their infants. And sure enough, when a little cooing baby, lying in a crib in the research lab, saw its mother’s face on the massive TV screen, it beamed, cooed, and gave every sign of mother recognition. However, when the TV reporter substituted herself for the mother, the baby’s eyes beamed just as much, and in its laughing noises and clapping hands, gave every sign that it wasn’t, perhaps, the mommy image which was the object of fascination, but *any* electroid, vibrating image being blasted out of that big TV screen. It seemed that the baby was responding less to the video face of its mother, than to any magnified human face which appeared on the TV screen. This was, after all, a postmodern baby who, like everyone else, might just have loved television.
And not just babies either, but if the wave of media hysteria and audience fascination with Ollie and Gorby is any indication, any hyped-up image passing through the TV ether zone streaks now through the cold mass of the audience superconductor: moving at hyper-speeds all the while and meeting absolutely no resistance.
Thus, the political curiousity of an American media audience which can, in the same TV season, go wild over Ollie and Gorby, arch-rivals perhaps in the ideological arena, but image-superconductors in the TV simulacrum where the cooled out mass of the audience is just like that postmodern baby, gurgling and clapping and beaming in fascinated seduction at all the spectral images.”
- Arthur Kroker [with Marilouise Kroker and David Cook], PANIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: the definitive guide to the postmodern scene, 1989, pp.57-58.
“The real truth of postmodern America is to be found in the machine ecstasy which is the driving force behind the production of cyber-bodies in the USA today.
It is not any longer the (American) body as quadriped as in prehistory nor even the body as a now obsolete modernist biped, but the postmodern American body (which is to say everyone’s body - since McLuhan was correct when he said that the USA is the world environment) entering a third stage of human evolution: the virtual body of ultramodern technology. Half-flesh, half-cyberspace, the virtual body of the third stage of human evolution is just what the physicists who gathered in Paris last winter predicted: a body fit for exiting Planet One with radiation-proof skin, large globular eyes for spatialized existence, and no legs (this is a floating body at zero gravity).
Recently, Scientific American described some pioneering research being done at NASA’s Ames Research Center where pilots, wearing designer helmets for ocular movement in cyberspace, can now put on wired hands (complete with photo sensors) which provide a graphic sense of tactility when touching objects in a virtual space which does not exist. And not just touching either, but if the scientists at Ames are to be believed, their dream is really about the creation of a William Gibson-like Neuromancer head where, when you wear a virtual helmet (at ultrasonic aerial speeds), the wired hand can be used to control body dimensions in the spatial environment: a clenched fist is the signal for movement around in cyberspace where suddenly vision moves outside its bodily referent and you look at yourself from any spatial referent; a Vulcan salute, in a parody of Star Trek, miniaturizes the body, and you find yourself with the sense of actually being any object in the immediate environment (research scientists at Apple Computer’s research laboratory in Hollywood are now at work developing simulations of the animal world where children can become sharks, dolphins, sea urchins, or even pebbles on the ocean floor). And in cyberspace, you can have multiple personalities: designer heads with wired hands interacting on a schizoid basis, with multiple personalities projected outwards simultaneously. Human beings, then, at the end of the world: chip nerves, spectral vision, with floating personalities fit for cyberspace as the third (technological) stage of human evolution.”
- Ibid., pp.78-79.
As the eighties ended with the perfect pitch of their Panic Encyclopedia, the Montreal school positioned themselves in the foremost assassin’s perch and awaited with consumate poise the approaching pentadic Ghost Dance of the seamless web of culture, technology and theory.
4. The Diasporic School
In the second half of the eighties there appeared graduates from the Toronto school of media ecology who attempted to preserve the liberal, encyclopedic humanist features that they perceived in McLuhan’s discoveries. Generally, what they had in common was a rejection of the multi-media “comprehensivist” themes from the Toronto school that Barrington Nevitt emphasized as they wrestled with the question of the relevance of literate “generalist”, or multi-specialist, values in the electronic maelstrom. This Diasporic school of media ecology included:
Bruce W. Powe (A CLIMATE CHARGED: Essays on Canadian Writers. Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1984, and THE SOLITARY OUTLAW. Toronto, Ontario: Lester & Orpen Dennys Limited, 1987),
William Irwin Thompson (PACIFIC SHIFT. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1985, GAIA: A WAY OF KNOWING: Political Implications of the New Biology [edited by William Irwin Thompson]. Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Lindisfarne Press, 1987, and IMAGINARY LANDSCAPE: Making Worlds of Myth and Science. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989),
Neil Postman (AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin Books, 1985),
Robert K. Logan (THE ALPHABET EFFECT: The Impact of the Phonetic Alphabet on the Development of Western Civilization. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1986), and
Derrick de Kerckhove and C. J. Lumsden, eds., (THE ALPHABET AND THE BRAIN: The Lateralization of Writing. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 1988).
The Diasporic school celebrated the assumptions and benefits of the Gutenberg Galaxy while cautiously recognizing, because of a McLuhan-schooled suspicion towards the former’s disservices, the opportunities for the renewal of humanist ideals presented by the Marconi Galaxy. This school was indifferent to McLuhan’s disgust with the sectarian conflicts that humanism necessarily evoked because it genuinely believed the struggles over cultural “content” were nutritious and invigorating. It lacked the detachment that McLuhan encouraged towards technological “content”
(see middle of p.22 in COUNTERBLAST,
and middle of p.235 in LETTERS)
that led to his kind of diagnosis such as the following:
“Professor Mansell Jones in his Modern French Poetry (pp.30-31) takes up this theme with reference to two kinds of symbolism which he refers to as vertical and horizontal. Vertical symbolism is of the dualistic variety, setting the sign or the work of art as a link between two worlds, between Heaven and Hell. It is concerned with the world as Time process, as becoming, and with the means of escape from Time into eternity by means of art and beauty. Vertical symbolism asserts the individual will against the hoi polloi. It is aristocratic. Yeats is the perfect exemplar. Horizontal symbolism, on the other hand, sets the work of art and the symbol a collective task of communication, rather than the vertical task of elevating the choice human spirit above the infernal depths of material existence. In idealist terms, the vertical school claims cognitive status for its symbols, because the conceptual meanings attached to art are in this view a means of raising the mind of man to union with the higher world from which we have been exiled. Whereas, on the other hand, the horizontal, or space school, appeals to intuition, emotion and collective participation in states of mind as a basis for communication and of transformation of the self. The vertical school seeks to elevate the self above mere existence. The horizontal symbolists seek to transform the self, and ultimately to merge or annihilate it.
Mr. Eliot’s position is by no means simple or consistent within itself, but as between the vertical and horizontal camps, his poetic allegiance is markedly horizontal or spatial.
To Catholics, (for all of whom pre-existence is nonsense), the anguish generated over the problems of Time and Space and the self may well be baffling. However, if you are frantically concerned with seeking an exit from a trap, it is of the utmost urgency to understand the mechanism of the trap that holds you. Are you a prisoner of time? (‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,’ says the young esthete Stephen Dedalus.) If so, there are specific dialectical resources which can conduct an elite few to the escape hatch. Are you a prisoner of space? Are you a mechanical puppet manipulated by a thread held in remote, invisible hands? If so, you can learn the techniques of Yoga or Zen Buddhism or some related mode of illumination which will show you the *way*. To learn how to make perfect your will, you need to negate your own personality and to learn that detachment from self and from things and from persons which reveals the totally illusory character of self, things, and persons. Existence is not so much an historical trap in time as a wilderness of horrors multiplied by mirrors. Existence creates itself by an endless chain of suggestions richocheting off each other, just as a symbolist poem of the Eliot kind generates its meanings by spatial juxtaposition. A Catholic poet like Paul Claudel, of course, is not bound by these dichotomies of space and time, the vertical and horizontal. But all he has written is strongly marked with his keen awareness of the space-time controversies in art, politics and religion. (To the European, the comparative American ignorance of these doctrines as elaborated in art, is precisely what constitutes American innocence.) Thus in his section ‘On Time’ in Poetic Knowledge, Claudel takes up the space position, then appropriates the time ammunition as well:
... Claudel’s thought and poetry obviously move freely in both time and space. As a symbolist he avails himself to the utmost degree of the spatial techniques of inner and outer landscape for fixing particular states of mind. This procedure makes available to him all the magical resources invoked by the Romantics for using particular emotions as immediate windows onto Being, as techniques of connatural union with reality. But he values equally the resources of dialectic and continuous discourse. He can therefore be both Senecan or symbolist, and temporal. That would seem to be an inevitable program for any Catholic for whom Time and Space are not sectarian problems. Today many thoughtful people are torn between the claims of time and space, and speak even of The Crucifixion of Intellectual Man as he is mentally torn in these opposite directions. As the dispute quickens, the Catholic is more and more reminded of the inexhaustible wisdom and mercy of the Cross at every intersection instant of space and time. These moments of intersection became for Father Hopkins (and also for James Joyce) epiphanies.
... It is not the purpose of this paper to explain the complex falsehoods of the time and space schools of aesthetics, religion and politics. For a Catholic it is easy to admire and use much from each position. But by and large the vertical camp is rationalist and the horizontal camp magical in its theory of art and communication.”
- Marshall McLuhan, Eliot and the Manichean Myth as Poetry, Address to Spring symposium of the Catholic Renascence Society, April 19 ‘54, The McLuhan Papers, Vol. 130, File 29, Manuscript Division, National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.
Even though McLuhan, in his role as a literary Menippean satirist
(see p.448 and first paragraph of p.517 in LETTERS),
would be reluctant to tolerate the issues raised by the Diasporic school, he still recognized the inevitable advantages they would temporarily enjoy in the coming decades over his study of the language of media forms because he knew that the diversification of *content* was the new ground for pentadic life
(see the first four lines at the top of p.248 in THROUGH THE VANISHING POINT, and the top of the first column of p.264 in ESSENTIAL McLUHAN).
However, it was the devotion to literate “content”, profitable as it would be, that stigmatized this school with the anemic pall of the POB (“print-oriented bastard”, see bottom third of p.288 in TAKE TODAY) and left it helpless before the flood of post-literate “content” fetishism (“cultural studies”). The Diasporics had been given the ammunition to bypass the postmodern distraction via the Toronto school’s perception that James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, as a perpetual motion machine of multi-media “content”, is hardly a “book” or novel but a penetrating infiltration of the coming permeable environments. Instead, they sought comfort in sifting through the lingering afterimage of the legacy of the heroic writer, artist, or scholar while painfully aware that this niche-marketed mirror of Perseus is cracked - doomed to stall and stutter before the Gorgon of digital exuberance.
Some samples of the blowing of both horns of their dilemma:
a) “For many, Shakespeare *has* been erased from our minds and the ‘art is dead’ debate is a banality. But it is hard to smother the human spirit and wherever there are individuals, there is art. Fine poems, novels, stories, plays, and essays continue to be written, defying the prophecies of the gloom-pourers.
Still, you cannot avoid the tremors of the global climate: it has to be faced that what was once called ‘High Cult’ has decayed and what is considered serious has been confined to the new cloisters of the University. There the poem and the novel are reconstructed and deconstructed as a model or paradigm of interlocking graphs and charts and abstracted symbols. The novel and the poem cease to exist: they become Structures instead. The impact on Canadian writers has been less blatant than elsewhere, but because of electric atmospheric pressures writers have been forced to deal with nineteenth century nationalism or have leapt ‘ahead’ to what has been dubbed post-modernism or ‘fabulism’. And, as Louis Dudek has shrewdly observed: ‘Modernism is something that is still developing in Canada.’ Thus the cultural mood in the country is a combination of the reactionary and the fashionable.”
- Bruce W. Powe, A CLIMATE CHARGED: Essays on Canadian Writers. Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1984, p.73.
“The literate person is an outsider today. Yet this exile, as it were, may give the literate person an advantage. To read and write may be as unique an accomplishment as it was in pre-literate societies, in the thirteenth century, the time of The Name of the Rose. Readers and writers will have the role of maintaining the freshness and ferocity of language. They will have the job of staying out of tune: to make certain that human beings remain complex. The post-literate state may tell us why those writers with nineteenth-century views of the Heroic Author sound like anachronisms. When an author exerts the same mass-public appeal on his time as a Romantic-Heroic author, then the relationship with the audience is based on a sentimental nostalgia. The word can too easily be dismissed.
Canetti has said that we cannot permit ourselves the luxury of a sentimental hope. Instant meltdown looms. What form can an eccentric literary influence take? To go beyond the wordlessness, the cynicism, and the shining surface of society, and recover the power of words. There is no way out from a critical confrontation with our world. We must probe at issues, ideas, and popular fronts; even at risk of losing a voice in the consuming-consumer rush; even at risk of having the questioning cheapened, forgotten, and flattered for the wrong reasons. Even in Canada, in the midst of post-literacy: my place, my here.”
- Bruce W. Powe, THE SOLITARY OUTLAW. Toronto, Ontario: Lester & Orpen Dennys Limited, 1987,
b) “The climactic work of the Atlantic epoch is Finnegans Wake. Coming from a marginal culture at the very edge of Europe, James Joyce very consciously finished Europe. First, he finished the remains of the Mediterranean vision in his Ulysses, a work that ends in the affirmation of the feminine brought down out of Dante’s heaven and put to bed. Then, having finished with the voyages of the solitary individual afloat on a stream of consciousness, Joyce went on to express the transition from print-isolated humanity in its book-lined study to H.C.E., Here Comes Everybody. At the time when the hardy objects of a once materialistic science disappear into subatomic particles, so characters as egos with discrete identities disappear to become patterns of *corso-ricorso*, and history becomes the performance of myth. Characterization is replaced by allusion, and as pattern and configuration become more important than persons, Joyce brings us to the end of the age of individualism. But like Moses on Mount Pisgah gazing into a Promised Land he cannot enter, Joyce brings us to the end of modernism, but he himself cannot pass over into the hieroglyphic thought of the Pacific-Aerospace cultural ecology to come.
McLuhan considered Finnegans Wake to be the prophetic work that pointed to the arrival of electronic, post-civilized humanity, the creature of changing roles who lives ‘mythically and in depth.’ Obviously, we are now only in the early days of the transition from the Atlantic cultural ecology of the European epoch to the Pacific-Space cultural ecology of the planetary epoch, and so no one knows for certain just where these electronic and aerospace technologies are taking us. But since I grew up in Los Angeles, and not in Dublin or Paris, I have a few hunches.”
- William Irwin Thompson, PACIFIC SHIFT. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1985, pp.107-108.
“If evil announces the next level of historical order, then evil is expressing the coming planetary culture. Unconsciously, the world is one, for global pollution spells out a dark integration that does not honor the rational boundaries of the nation-states. And so, industrial nation-states in their fullest development have contributed to their own end. Collectivization, then, must mean that the future is some sort of collective consciousness in which the completely individuated and conscious ego becomes surrounded by the permeable membrane of an ecology of Mind and not by the wall of civilization.
Rock festivals in particular, and rock music in general, seem to express this fascination with collectivization. Since we have become an electronic society, a society of information, it is not surprising that the pollution of the new cultural ecology is noise and paranoia. Rock music is about the relationship between information and noise, and if the medium is the message, then the requirement that rock music be loud to the point of physiological damage clearly indicates that noise is the form that creates the collectivization that does not honor the boundaries of biological integrity. At a recent concert in Amsterdam, the Irish rock group U2 was so loud that it registered as an earthquake on the seismographs at the university.”
- Ibid., p.133.
“So if we take a good look around us, we can observe the return of catastrophism to artistic and scientific narratives. What this means, I think, is that the rock bottom foundation for industrial society is giving out, and from the mathematics of Rene Thom to the novels of Doris Lessing we are being shown a new vision of planetary dynamics, a vision of sudden discontinuities. It is probably no accident that Ronald Reagan has come in to invoke all the old shibboleths of the industrial mentality, precisely at the moment when they are becoming inadequate, for one often sees in history that a radical shift is often preceded by an intensification of the old. Consider warfare in the fifteenth century: right at the moment when armor becomes most elaborate, with the knight lifted on to his horse by levers and pulleys, is right at the moment when the heavily armored knight is made irrelevant through the longbow, the crossbow, and firearms. Elsewhere I have called this kind of historical phenomenon ‘a sunset effect’, but one can see it as a kind of supernova, an intensification of a phenomenon that does not lead to its continuation, but to its vanishing. So much for Reagan, but what about us? One theme that I think this conference could consider is the ways in which the new paradigm in science and art will relate to a new paradigm in politics.”
- William Irwin Thompson, GAIA: A WAY OF KNOWING: Political Implications of the New Biology [edited by William Irwin Thompson]. Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Lindisfarne Press, 1987, p.18.
“President Reagan is the archetypal leader of our postindustrial unconscious polity precisely because he is not a thinker. He is almost entirely unconscious. He is indeed Walt Disney’s *Homo ludens* and not Luther, Calvin, or Marx’s *Homo faber*. During the rise of the middle classes and the emergence of the bourgeois nation-state, the thinker, and not the military knight or the prince of the church, was the architect of new polities. As Locke was to Jefferson, so Marx was to Lenin; but now in the age of global media, it is no longer the set of the theorist and the pragmatist, but the artist and the actor. As Locke was to Jefferson, so now is Disney to Reagan, for it was Disney who first constructed a media city in which the past became a movie set and the citizen was taken for a ride in fantasies with his own enthusiastic consent. It was Disney who, along with McLuhan, first understood that television would change the consciousness of literate, civilized humanity. Cultural critics like McLuhan and Adorno issued dire warnings about mass deception in the culture industry and the end of Western Civilization, but Disney seemed to have a Kansan American naivete and trust in the unifying power of popular culture. Indeed with his Snow White, Disney himself effected the artistic transition from the folk culture of the Brothers Grimm to pop culture; and to be fair to Disney one must recognize that the transition from oral folk tale to literature is as artistically presumptuous as the transition from literature to film. With EPCOT, however, the shadow side of Disney’s mass culture seems more apparent, as if his ‘Imagineers’ now felt that the way to achieve a new political collectivization was not through sad ‘communist suppression’ but happy participation in fantasies of progress. In an age when suburban Christianity no longer had the power of pagan rituals and frightful rites of initiation, Disneyland created frightful rides in which evil was distanced and laughed at, and the past became a visibly comforting artifact in a world that was invisibly hurtling toward a new scientific reorganization of society. The content of Disneyland was the turn-of-the-century small town, but the invisible structure was computerization. The content now of Disney World’s EPCOT is the ‘World of Motion’ in which General Motors proclaims the freedom of the individual to go where he chooses, but in the darkness of that ride there is neither choice nor freedom. Similarly, ‘The American Adventure’ of EPCOT brings all the American presidents of history on stage, while two old irreverent writers (Franklin and Twain) obligingly serve as ushers in a memorial service of a civic religion that seeks to give the citizen an uplifting patriotic experience. But all the automaton presidents are controlled by a bank of computers from another place and by a small cadre of scientists and technicians from another time.”
- Ibid., pp.174-175.
“Reagan’s Star Wars is, therefore, no sudden caprice or casual afterthought, but a deep social and economic expression of the Southern California world view, of that curious cultural mixture of Hollywood fantasies and Big Science. It is neither a thought nor a theory, but an actor’s intuition and a sense of timing of what is implicit in the audience and in the audience’s historical situation. Sometimes the intuition can sense the outlines of the historical situation more quickly than the intellect, for the intellect can become blinded by mountains of data. President Carter, the nuclear engineer, clearly has a higher I.Q. than President Reagan, but it was precisely Carter’s meticulousness that got in his way. Carter approved the MX missile system, a costly behemoth that dwarfed the pyramids as a public works project, but the MX would have only stimulated the cement contractor’s business. Reagan’s Star Wars, by contrast, demands the creation of whole new artificial intelligence systems, fifth generation computers, and an integration of universities and corporations that amounts to a complete transformation of civilian society. Ironically, Eisenhower’s Republican nightmare of ‘the military-industrial complex’ has become Republican Reagan’s dream....
Reagan’s intransigence in his refusal to give up his commitment to S.D.I. is understandable, for clearly both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would like to have some way of removing the threat of punk nations that act in non-European and irrational ways, and, obviously, space is the best place from which to monitor and control hostile flights and launchings; but Reagan’s intransigence puts him in the contradictory position of needing to keep the Soviets as an enemy to support the American scientific economy, and at the same time share information so that the Soviets do not drop out of the competition or become a spoiler or punk nation themselves. Since both Three Mile Island and Chernobyl demonstrate that the high technologies of the superpowers cannot be trusted to work without errors, it is clear that neither the U.S.A. nor the U.S.S.R. can feel safe from an accidental misfiring on either side; therefore, anything that makes one side feel threatened enough to move up to a state of Red Alert is to be avoided at all costs. It would appear that the cops and robbers game that the U.S.A. has chosen to play with the Soviets is to challenge the Soviets with Star Wars and secretly allow the information to be stolen to insure that the Soviets will not become discouraged to drop out of the competition altogether. And so we can see that ‘national defense’ is indeed an example of negation as a form of unconscious relationship, for the end result of the arms race is a transnational militarization that could be called the U.S.S.S.R.”
- Ibid., pp.176-178.
“A World is not an ideology nor a scientific institution, nor is it even a system of ideologies; rather, it is a structure of unconscious relations and symbiotic processes. In these living modes of communication in an ecology, even such irrational aspects as noise, pollution, crime, warfare and evil can serve as constituent elements of integration in which negation is a form of emphasis and hatred is a form of attraction through which we become what we hate. The Second World War in Europe and the Pacific expressed chaos and destruction *through* maximum social organization; indeed, this extraordinary transnational organization expressed the cultural transition from a civilization organized around literate rationality to a planetary noetic ecosystem in which stress, terrorism, and catastrophes were unconsciously sustained to maintain the historically novel levels of world integration. Through national, thermonuclear terrorism, and, as well, through subnational expressions of terrorism electronically amplified, these levels of stress and catastrophic integration are still at work today. A World should not be seen, therefore, as an organization structured through communicative rationality, but as the cohabitation of incompatible systems by which and through which the forces of mutual rejection serve to integrate the apparently autonomous unities in a meta-domain that is invisible to them but still constituted by their reactive energies. Therefore, ideologies do not map the complete living processes of a World, and unconscious polities emerge independent of ‘conscious purpose’. Shadow economies (such as the drug traffic between Latin America and the United States), and shadow exports (such as the acid rain from the United States to Canada), and shadow integrations (such as the war between the United States and Japan in the forties) all serve to energize the emergence of a biome that is not governed by conscious purpose.”
- Ibid., pp.209-210.
“Paradoxically, for my generation, one that came of age in the revolutionary spirit of the affluent 1960s, liberation from institutions and their systems of meanings was not a relationship with a specific oppressive condition but a general, eternal, and absolute value in and of itself. In challenging the rhetoric of Western Civilization, the generation that mocked the bourgeois liberal pieties of its fathers and mothers rather smugly took for granted a naive and simpleminded faith in revolt against all forms of authority and enduring value. And, as always seems to be the case in the world of fashion, the French led the way. Roland Barthes announced ‘The Death of the Author’ and tore down this idol of literate civilization; Michel Foucault exposed the ‘episteme’ that bound institutions and forms of knowing into the ‘discourse’ that was itself the system of domination; and Derrida made certain, with an ultimate Deconstruction, that no text would ever rise up again with a pretense to ultimate meaning, or high-minded and high-handed final authority. For an affluent and expanding bureaucracy of academic literary critics and behavioral scientists, this demolishing of the mystique of the solitary romantic artist who could pretend to cosmic knowledge without the necessary university credentials was indeed welcome news, and without much regret the culture of Author-hood and Author-ity was shouldered aside. ‘Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile.... We know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.’
Such was the Paris of 1968. Meanwhile, back in California, people couldn’t care less about such remote issues of European thought. The electronic counterculture, and not literary high culture, was giving body to the *zeitgeist* and in an elitist diminuendo, first Aldous Huxley, then Alan Watts, then Timothy Leary, and then Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead worked to extend explorations with drugs to the new postindustrial masses who were about to find themselves in the new musical economy of the global village.
Intellectual fashions, much like those of *couture*, stimulate changes that are not so much developments as reactions and a mere craving that signals boredom and a desire to mark the new decade with a new style. So the liberationism of the 1960s led to the reactionary ‘New Age’ movement of the 1970s, one in which the counterculture became caught up in the pre-civilized ‘epistemes’ of megalithic stone circles, dowsing, witchcraft, palmistry, shamanism, and all the esoteric schools of the world religions that were not popular with clerical orthodoxy: namely, Kabbalah, Sufism, Zen, Tibetan Tantra, Yoga, and the Christian mystics from Meister Eckhart to Thomas Merton. This fashion, in turn, generated its reaction in the 1980s, as the populace swung back to fundamentalisms in Christianity and Islam, and capitalist neoconservatism in the governments of Thatcher, Reagan, and Kohl.
Just as the scholarly and introverted style of Aldous Huxley became vulgarized by Timothy Leary, so the New Age movement, initiated by the quiet introvert David Spangler in a remote village in Northern Scotland, became vulgarized by Shirley MacLaine in television specials and book dumps in supermarkets. These vulgarizations at once express the distribution of a message to its largest audience but also an addition of noise picked up by the transmitting medium that overwhelms the signal and indicates that the communication has become more mess than message and has lost its integrity as it begins to dissolve into cultural entropy. Ennui quickly follows excitement and people begin to look around for new signals to flash their passage through time.
With the replacement of bookstores by supermarket chains, the only books that are now available are books by movie stars and TV celebrities. In a *differance*, the text is a sign of being famous, and the famous are simply those who are famous for being famous. An appearance on a TV show is itself an achievement, an epiphany of the culture. A text in this world is not meant to be read: it is simply another form of currency and a means of exchange. In the consequent breakup of culture into subcultures, intellectual respectability must come from its unavailability and its resistance to communication and exchange, much like the heavy gold stored under the Paradeplatz in Zurich, and so incomprehensibility becomes the essential value. Here, the Europeans come back into their own, and no American professors can hope to compete with the likes of Derrida and Habermas.”
- William Irwin Thompson, IMAGINARY LANDSCAPE: Making Worlds of Myth and Science. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989, pp.5-7.
c) “The first is that at no point do I care to claim that changes in media bring about changes in the structure of people’s minds or changes in their cognitive capacities. There are some who make this claim, or come close to it (for example, Jerome Bruner, Jack Goody, Walter Ong, Marshall McLuhan, Julian Jaynes, and Eric Havelock). I am inclined to think they are right, but my argument does not require it. Therefore, I will not burden myself with arguing the possibility, for example, that oral people are less developed intellectually, in some Piagetian sense, than writing people, or that ‘television’ people are less developed intellectually than either. My argument is limited to saying that a major new medium changes the structure of discourse; it does so by encouraging certain uses of the intellect, by favoring certain definitions of intelligence and wisdom, and by demanding a certain kind of content - in a phrase, by creating new forms of truth-telling. I will say once again that I am no relativist in this matter, and that I believe the epistemology created by television not only is inferior to a print-based epistemology but is dangerous and absurdist.
The second point is that the epistemological shift I have intimated, and will describe in detail, has not yet included (and perhaps never will include) everyone and everything. While some old media do, in fact, disappear (e.g., pictographic writing and illuminated manuscripts) and with them, the institutions and cognitive habits they favored, other forms of conversation will always remain. Speech, for example, and writing. Thus the epistemology of new forms such as television does not have an entirely unchallenged influence....
Obviously, my point of view is that the four-hundred-year imperial dominance of typography was of far greater benefit than deficit. Most of our modern ideas about the uses of the intellect were formed by the printed word, as were our ideas about education, knowledge, truth and information. I will try to demonstrate that as typography moves to the periphery of our culture and television takes its place at the center, the seriousness, clarity and, above all, value of public discourse dangerously declines. On what benefits may come from other directions, one must keep an open mind.”
- Neil Postman, AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin Books, 1985, pp.27-29.
“In 1976, I was appointed editor of ETC: The Journal of General Semantics. For ten years, I served in that capacity, and with each passing year, my respect for Alfred Korzybski increased and my respect for those academics who kept themselves and their students ignorant of his work decreased. I here pay my respects to a unique explorer, and by implication mean to express my disdain for those language educators who steep their students in irrelevancies and who believe that William Safire and Edwin Newman have something important to say about language.”
- Neil Postman, ‘Alfred Korzybski’ in CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTIONS: Stirring Up Trouble About Language, Technology, and Education. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1988, p.136.
d) “Let us examine the mechanism whereby the integration of left- and right-brain processes could take place and see what role the alphabet effect would play in the realization of this transformation. Just as the printing press enhanced the alphabet through uniformity and the ability to create multiple copies relatively cheaply, so too the computer steps up the intensity of alphabetic writing by making it more accessible and easily controllable through word-processing routines. The ability to easily assemble alphabetic texts, to automatically correct, edit, and manipulate them beginning at the first-grade level reinforces a number of left-brain processes of analysis and rationality without requiring slavish conformity to the patterns of linearity and sequence. The ease with which blocks of text can be moved about in the larger composition promotes right-brain processes of pattern recognition and hence creates a new balance in the production of literary materials that belongs uniquely to the computer. It is somewhat paradoxical that it is the unique properties of the alphabet as a writing system that enables the computer to develop the right-brain features of pattern recognition and formation....
This is the promise of computer technology - that the vitality of alphabetic literacy will be not only maintained but also enhanced. The paradox of computers is that by stepping up the left-brain processes of linear sequencing to the speed of light, new patterns emerge, such as cybernetics and ecological analysis. These right-brain processes, however, still retain many of the analytic properties of preelectric alphabetic literacy. And it is also a reflection of the flexibility and durability of the alphabet that a machine that was designed primarily for numbers, as an automatic computing machine, should now emerge just as importantly as a processor and handler of alphabetic texts, i.e., a word processor. This transformation of the computer is another example of the ubiquity and the potency of the alphabet effect.”
- Robert K. Logan, THE ALPHABET EFFECT: The Impact of the Phonetic Alphabet on the Development of Western Civilization. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1986, pp.246-247.
e) “The theory I proposed in The Alphabet and the Brain: The Lateralization of Writing is based on the observation that when the ancient Greeks created their alphabet, around the eighth century BC, they changed the direction of their written script from the left orientation of the Phoenician model to the right orientation to which we’ve become accustomed. A few years ago, to find out if there were corresponding features between the inner structure of orthographies and their orientation on the surface of writing, I surveyed all the writing systems of the world. The results were surprising.
All writing systems that represent sounds are written horizontally, but all systems that represent images, like Chinese ideograms or Egyptian hieroglyphs, are written vertically. Furthermore, the vertical columns of image-based systems generally read right to left.
All writing systems, except for the Etruscan, are written to the right if they contain vowels. All systems without vowels are written to the left. To explain this, I had to study the brain and the visual systems.
My theory, which pertains not only to the Greek situation but also to the impact of alphabetic literacy generally, can be summarized by three basic hypotheses. Each theoretical point is supported by specific historical evidence.
It is the intrinsic structure of a language that determines the direction of writing. Systems such as Greek, Latin or Ethiopian, which were first modelled on right-to-left consonantal systems, eventually changed the direction of their script, but only after vowels were added to the original model.
The choice of direction depends on whether the reading process is based on combining letters by context (right to left) or stringing them in sequence (left to right). This is because the typical human brain recognizes configurations faster in the left visual field, while it detects sequences faster in the right visual field. The change of direction in Greek script happened soon after a full complement of vowels was added to the exclusively consonantal Phoenician language. The presence of the vowels made the sequence of letters continuous, whereas the system from which they had borrowed was a discontinuous line of symbols, which relied upon being read in context rather than sequence.
The fact that our alphabet changed direction once it acquired vowels supports my hypothesis: that the structure of our language has put pressure on our brain to emphasize its sequential and ‘time-ordered’ processing abilities.
Since literacy is generally acquired during our formative years, and since it affects the organization of language - our most integral information-processing system - there are good reasons to suspect that the alphabet also affects the organization of our thought. Language is the software that drives human psychology. Any technology that significantly affects language must also affect behaviour at a physical, emotional and mental level. The alphabet is like a computer program, but more powerful, more precise, more versatile and more comprehensive than any software yet written. A program designed to run the most powerful instrument in existence: the human being. The alphabet found its way in the brain to specify the routines that would support the firmware of the literate brainframe. The alphabet created two complementary revolutions: one in the brain and the other in the world.”
- Derrick de Kerckhove and C. J. Lumsden, eds., THE ALPHABET AND THE BRAIN: The Lateralization of Writing, 1988 (reprinted in Derrick de Kerckhove, THE SKIN OF CULTURE: Investigating the New Electronic Reality. Toronto, Ontario: Somerville House Publishing, 1995, edited by Christopher Dewdney, pp.27-28).
The Diasporic school could be accused of shrinking before the task of discovering “the means of living simultaneously in all cultural modes while quite conscious”
(see p.120 in THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE)
because they not only failed to notice that McLuhan, in his books, satirized the pervasive twentieth-century discovery in many fields that the “medium is the message”, but they were also unable to intuit McLuhan’s strategy for confronting the pentadic fate of the tetrad-manager. Nonetheless, they can be commended for creating rich packages that stimulated the POBs with old questions inspired by the Toronto school.
... The Diasporic school celebrated the assumptions and benefits of the Gutenberg Galaxy while cautiously recognizing, because of a McLuhan-schooled suspicion towards the former?s disservices, the opportunities for the renewal of humanist ideals presented by the Marconi Galaxy. This school was indifferent to McLuhan's disgust with the sectarian conflicts that humanism necessarily evoked because it genuinely believed the struggles over cultural 'content' were nutritious and invigorating. It lacked the detachment that McLuhan encouraged towards technological 'content'...
5. As the eighties turned into the nineties, a great surprise confronted all the post-McLuhan schools floating in the pentadic debris. Events such as the CNN coverage of the protests and massacre in China's Tiananmen Square, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union, genetically-engineered food, and the widespread use of the Internet evoked a new school of media ecology. This school was established by communication technology itself - that is, technology that had come alive decades earlier. I call it the Pentadic school. No longer were the slogans identified with McLuhan's icon - 'the global village', 'the medium is the message' - to be debated and analysed. Now they were paraded about as essential wisdom, as necessary facts to be acknowledged for economic and social survival. Tom Wolfe's old question about Marshall McLuhan, 'What if he is right'?, had been answered in the affirmative. It was as if, while passing over into the astral realms, the pentadic saw not only its whole life pass before it, but could not avoid recognizing the pattern, the laws of its experience - it all made sense! And McLuhan was the physicist, sociologist, artist whose oeuvre had the most staying power of all knowledge profiles that had surfed the information highway since 1960. McLuhan rode the biggest, the longest, the most daunting wave.(see pp.150-151 in THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE).
My name for this organic technology that produced the Pentadic school is "the Android Meme". It was this environmental, organic robotoid that created the swan song of the nineties as it hid its death throes under the cover of propping up and promoting the evolutionary triumphs of human creativity. This sleight-of-hand was only possible because humanity and its technological by-products had completely merged and therefore could restage the drama of cognition and recognition. The function of metaphor, of looking at one thing through another, was replayed as an ersatz anti-environment by the Android Meme. Thus, the four schools of media ecology, in following McLuhan's mandate to perceive the Present, were presented with an awesome challenge in penetrating this Mount Everest of communication problems.
It is, therefore, most interesting to review the acumen of the four previous schools' interpretation of and response to this strange 'revival' of McLuhan's mode of media ecology:...