study note
Vida eletrônica em McLuhan (1994 [1964])

Vida eletrônica em McLuhan (1994 [1964])

MCLUHAN, Marshall. 1994. Understanding media: the extensions of man. Cambridge: The MIT Press. [1964]

THE MEDIUM (framework) & THE MESSAGE (picture)

[I]t is the framework itself that changes with new technology, and not just the picture within the frame. Instead of thinking of doing our shopping by television, we should become aware that TV intercom means the end of shopping itself, and the end of work as we know it as present. The same fallacy besets out thinking about TV and education. We think of TV as an incidental aid, whereas in fact it has already transformed the learning process of the young, quite independently of home and school alike. (McLuhan 1994:219)


The electric energy can be applied indifferently and quickly to many kinds of tasks. […] Such was never the case in the mechanical systems. The power and the work done were always in direct relation, whether it was hand and hammer, water and wheel, horse and cart, or steam and piston. Electricity brought a strange elasticity in this matter, much as light itself illuminates a total field and does not dictate what shall be done. The same light can make possible a multiplicity of tasks, just as with electric power. Light is a nonspecialist kind of energy or power that is identical with information and knowledge. Such is also the relation of electricity to automation, since both energy and information can be applied in a great variety of ways. […] Grasp of this fact is indispensable to the understanding of the electronic age, and of automation in particular. Energy and production now tend to fuse with information and learning. Marketing and consumption tend to become one with learning, enlightenment, and the intake of information. This is all part of the electric implosion that now follows or succeeds the centuries of explosion and increasing specialism. The electronic age is literally one of illumination. Just as light is at once energy and information, so electric automation unites production, consumption, and learning in an inextricable process. (McLuhan 1994:350)

ELECTRICITY (instantaneity; enlightenment; sensory-motor system)

All nonelectric media had merely hastened things a bit. The wheel, the road, the ship, the airplane, and even the space rocket are utterly lacking in the character of instant movement. Is it strange, then, that electricity should confer on all previous human organization a completely new character? The very toil of man now becomes a kind of enlightenment. As unfallen Adam in the Garden of Eden was appointed the task of the contemplation and naming of creatures, so with automation. We have now only to name and program a process or a product in order for it to be accomplished. (McLuhan 1994:351-2)

The electric changes associated with automation have nothing to do with ideologies or social programs. If they had, they could be delayed or controlled. In­ stead, the technological extension of our central nervous system that we call the electric media began more than a century ago [from 1964], subliminally. (McLuhan 1994:352)

Mechanization depends on the breaking up of processes into homogenized but unrelated bits. Electricity unifies these fragments once more because its speed of operation requires a high degree of interdependence among all phases of any operation. It is this electric speed-up and interdependence that has ended the assembly line in industry. (McLuhan 1994:352-3)

All that we had previously achieved mechanically by great exertion and coordination can now be done electrically without effort. […] Wealth and work become information factors, and totally new structures are needed to run a business or relate it to social needs and markets. With the electric technology, the new kinds of instant interdependence and interprocess that take over production also enter the market and social organizations. […] Our education has long ago acquired the fragmentary and piecemeal character of mechanism. It is now under increasing pressure to acquire the depth and interrelation that are indispensable in the all-at-once world of electric organization. (McLuhan 1994:357)


The headline for an Associated Press re­lease (February 25, 1963) read: “PRESS BLAMED FOR SUCCESS […] KENNEDY MANAGES NEWS BOLDLY, CYNICALLY, SUBTLY, KROCK CLAIMS” Arthur Krock is quoted as saying that “the principle onus rests on the printed and electronic process itself.” That may seem like another way of saying that “history is to blame.” But it is the instant consequences of electrically moved information that makes necessary a deliberate artistic aim in the placing and management of news. In diplomacy the same electric speed causes the decisions to be announced before they are made in order to ascertain the varying responses that might occur when such decisions actually are made. Such procedure, quite inevitable at the electric speed that involves the entire society in the decision-making process, shocks the old press men because it abdicates any definite point of view. As the speed of information increases, the tendency is for politics to move away from representation and delegation of constituents toward immediate involvement of the entire community in the central acts of decision. Slower speeds of information make delegation and representation mandatory. Associated with such delegation are the points of view of the different sectors of public interest that are expected to be put forward for processing and consideration by the rest of the community. When the electric speed is introduced into such a delegated and representational organization, this obsolescent organization can only be made to function by a series of subterfuges and makeshifts. These strike some observers as base betrayals of the original aims and purposes of the established forms. (McLuhan 1994:203-4)

Today it is the instant speed of electric information that, for the first time, permits easy recognition of the patterns and the formal contours of change and development. The entire world, past and present, now reveals itself to us like a growing plant in an enormously accelerated movie. Electric speed is synonymous with light and with the understanding of causes. So, with the use of electricity in previously mechanized situations, men easily discover causal connections and patterns that were quite unobservable at the slower rates of mechanical change. (McLuhan 1994:352)

Electric speed requires organic structuring of the global economy quite as much as early mechanization by print and by road led to the acceptance of national unity. (McLuhan 1994:353)

War is accelerated social change, as an explosion is an accelerated chemical reaction and movement of matter. With electric speeds governing industry and social life, explosion in the sense of crash development becomes normal. On the other hand, the old-fashioned kind of “war” becomes as impracticable as playing hopscotch with bull­ dozers. Organic interdependence means that disruption of any part of the organism can prove fatal to the whole (McLuhan 1994:353)

The result of electric speed-up in industry at large is the creation of intense sensitivity to the interrelation and interprocess of the whole, so as to call for ever-new types of organization and talent. Viewed from the old perspectives of the machine age, this electric network of plants and processes seems brittle and tight. In fact, it is not mechanical, and it does begin to develop the sensitivity and pliability of the human organism. But it also demands the same varied nutriment and nursing as the animal organism. (McLuhan 1994:355)


Approached as newspaper form, any part of Joyce’s Ulysses or any poem of T. S. Eliot’s before the Quartets is more readily enjoyed. Such, however, is the austere continuity of book culture that it scorns to notice these liaisons dangereuses among the media, especially the scandalous affairs of the book-page with electronic creatures from the other side of the linotype. (McLuhan 1994:216)

ELECTRIC LIGHT (pure information; medium = message = total change)

The electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message, as it were, unless it is used to spell out some verbal ad or name. This fact, characteristic of all media, means that the “content” of any medium is always another medium. (McLuhan 1994:8)

Whether the light is being used for brain surgery or night baseball is a matter of indifference. It could be argued that these activities are in some way the “content” of the electric light, since they could not exist without the electric light. This fact merely underlines the point that “the medium is the message” because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. (McLuhan 1994:9)

The message of the electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and TV, creating involvement in depth. (McLuhan 1994:9)

The electric light ended the regime of night and day, of indoors and out-of-doors. But it is when the light encounters already existing patterns of human organization that the hybrid energy is released. Cars can travel all night, ball players can play all night, and windows can be left out of buildings. In a word, the message of the electric light is total change. It is pure information without any content to restrict its transforming and informing power. […] If the student of media will but meditate on the power of this medium of electric light to transform every structure of time and space and work and society that it penetrates or contacts, he will have the key to the form of the power that is in all media to reshape any lives that they touch. Except for light, all other media come in pairs, with one acting as the “content” of the other, obscuring the operation of both. (McLuhan 1994:52)

In the twentieth century we are familiar with the changes in housing and architecture that are the result of electric energy made available to elevators. The same energy devoted to lighting has altered our living and working spaces even more radically. Electric light abolished the divisions of night and day, of inner and outer, and of the subterranean and the terrestrial. It altered every consideration of space for work and production as much as the other electric media had altered the space-time experience of society. (McLuhan 1994:126-7)

Electric lighting has brought into the cultural complex of the extensions of man in housing and city, an organic flexibility unknown to any other age. […] With electric light not only can we carry out the most precise operations with no regard for time or place or climate, but we can photograph the submicroscopic as easily as we can enter the subterranean world of the mine and of the cave-painters. (McLuhan 1994:128)

Lighting as an extension of our powers affords the clearest­ cut example of how such extensions alter our perceptions. […] In this domain, the medium is the message, and when the light is on there is a world of sense that disappears when the light is off. (McLuhan 1994:128-9)

The uses of light in the world of motion, whether in the motorcar or the movie or the microscope, are as diverse as the uses of electricity in the world of power. Light is information without “content,” […] a self-contained communication system in which the medium is the message. (McLuhan 1994:129)


Persons grouped around a fire or candle for warmth or light are less able to pursue independent thoughts, or even tasks, than people supplied with electric light. (McLuhan 1994:359)


Automation is not an extension of the mechanical principles of fragmentation and separation of operations. It is rather the invasion of the mechanical world by the instantaneous character of electricity. That is why those involved in automation insist that it is a way of thinking, as much as it is a way of doing. Instant synchronization of numerous operations has ended the old mechanical pattern of setting up operations in lineal sequence. (McLuhan 1994:349)

Automation was first felt and seen on a large scale in the chemical industries of gas, coal, oil, and metallic ores. The large changes in these operations made possible by electric energy have now, by means of the computer, begun to invade every kind of white-collar and management area. Many people, in consequence, have begun to look on the whole of society as a single unified machine for creating wealth. Such has been the normal outlook of the stockbroker, manipulating shares and information with the cooperation of the electric media of press, radio, telephone, and teletype. But the peculiar and abstract manipulation of information as a means of creating wealth is no longer a monopoly of the stockbroker. It is now shared by every engineer and by the entire communications industries. With electricity as energizer and synchronizer, all aspects of production, consumption, and organization become incidental to communications. The very idea of communication as interplay is inherent in the electrical, which combines both energy and information in its intensive manifold. (McLuhan 1994:354)


Feedback is the end of the lineality that came into the Western world with the alphabet and the continuous forms of Euclidean space. (McLuhan 1994:355)

Although an automated plant is almost like a tree in respect to the continuous intake and output, it is a tree that can change from oak to maple to walnut as required. It is part of the automation or electric logic that specialism is no longer limited to just one specialty. The automatic machine may work in a specialist way, but it is not limited to one line. As with our hands and fingers that are capable of many tasks, the automatic unit incorporates a power of adaptation that was quite lacking in the pre-electric and mechanical stage of technology. […] And the characteristic of electric automation is all in this direction of return to the general-purpose handicraft flexibility that our own hands possess. The programming can now include endless changes of program. It is the electric feedback, or dialogue pattern, of the automatic and computer-programmed “machine” that marks it off from the older mechanical principle of one-way movement. (McLuhan 1994:356)


[I]n any automatic machine, or galaxy of machines and functions, the generation and transmission of power is quite separate from the work operation that uses the power. The same is true in all servo­ mechanist structures that involve feedback. The source of energy is separate from the process of translation of information, or the applying of knowledge. (McLuhan 1994:350)

In the case of electricity, as energy for production becomes independent of the work operation, there is not only the speed that makes for total and organic interplay, but there is, also, the fact that electricity is sheer information that, in actual practice, illuminates all it touches. Any process that approaches instant interrelation of a total field tends to raise itself to the level of conscious awareness, so that computers seem to “think.” In fact, they are highly specialized at present, and quite lacking in the full process of interrelation that makes for consciousness. (McLuhan 1994:351)

SPEED & POWER (global village)

The point of the matter of speed-up by wheel, road, and paper is the extension of power in an ever more homogeneous and uniform space. […] [T]he speed-up of the electronic age is as disrupting for literate, lineal, and Western man as the Roman paper routes were for tribal villagers. […] Our specialist and fragmented civilization of center-margin structure is suddenly experiencing an instantaneous reassembling of all its mechanized bits into an organic whole. This is the new world of the global village. (McLuhan 1994:92-3)


Money, like writing, has the power to specialize and to rechannel human energies and to separate functions, just as it translates and reduces one kind of work to another. Even in the electronic age it has lost none of this power.(133)

“Money talks” because money is a metaphor, a transfer, and a bridge. Like words and language, money is a storehouse of communally achieved work, skill, and experience. Money, however, is also a specialist technology like writing; and as writing intensifies the visual aspect of speech and order, and as the clock visually separates time from space, so money separates work from the other social functions. Even today money is a language for translating the work of the farmer into the work of the barber, doctor, engineer, or plumber. As a vast social metaphor, bridge, or translator, money – like writing – speeds up exchange and tightens the bonds of interdependence in any community. It gives great spatial extension and control to political organizations, just as writing does, or the calendar. It is action at a distance, both in space and in time. In a highly literate, fragmented society, “Time is money,” and money is the store of other people’s time and effort. […] Today, as the new vortices of power are shaped by the instant electric interdependence of all men on this planet, the visual factor in social organization and in personal experience recedes, and money begins to be less and less a means of storing or exchanging work and skill. Automation, which is electronic, does not represent physical work so much as programmed knowledge. As work is replaced by the sheer movement of information, money as a store of work merges with the informational forms of credit and credit card. From coin to paper currency, and from currency to credit card there is a steady progression toward commercial exchange as the movement of information itself. This trend toward an inclusive information is the kind of image rep­resented by the credit card, and approaches once more the character of tribal money. (McLuhan 1994:136-7)


Nowadays, with computers and electric programming, the means of storing and moving information become less and less visual and mechanical, while increasingly integral and organic. The total field created by the instantaneous electric forms cannot be visualized any more than the velocities of electronic particles can be visualized. The instantaneous creates an interplay among time and space and human occupations, for which the older forms of currency exchange become increasingly inadequate. […] Both time (as measured visually and segmentally) and space (as uniform, pictorial, and enclosed) disappear in the electronic age of instant information. In the age of instant information man ends his job of fragmented specializing and assumes the role of information­ gathering. Today information-gathering resumes the inclusive concept of “culture,” exactly as the primitive food-gatherer worked in complete equilibrium with his entire environment. Our quarry now, in this new nomadic and “workless” world, is knowledge and insight into the creative processes of life and society. (McLuhan 1994:138-9)


A brief summary of technological events relating to the phonograph might go this way: […] The telegraph translated writing into sound, a fact directly related to the origin of both the telephone and phonograph. With the telegraph, the only walls left are the vernacular walls that the photograph and movie and wirephoto overleap so easily. The electrification of writing was almost as big a step into the non­ visual and auditory space as the later steps soon taken by telephone, radio, and TV. […] Man the food-gatherer reappears incongruously as information-gatherer. In this role, electronic man is no less a nomad than his paleolithic ancestors.” (McLuhan 1994:283)

Thousands of years ago man, the nomadic food-gatherer, had taken up positional, or relatively sedentary, tasks. He began to specialize. The development of writing and printing were major stages of that process. They were supremely specialist in separating the roles of knowledge from the roles of action […]. But with electricity and automation, the technology of fragmented processes suddenly fused with the human dialogue and the need for over-all consideration of human unity. Men are suddenly nomadic gatherers of knowledge, nomadic as never before, informed as never before, free from fragmentary special­ ism as never before – but also involved in the total social process as never before; since with electricity we extend our central nervous system globally, instantly interrelating every human experience. […] Industry as a whole has become the unit of reckoning, and so with society, politics, and education as wholes. […] Electric means of storing and moving information with speed and precision make the largest units quite as manageable as small ones. […] Total interdependence is the starting fact. (McLuhan 1994:358-9)


Literate man naturally dreams of visual solutions to the problems of human differences. At the end of the nineteenth century, this kind of dream suggested similar dress and education for both men and women. The failure of the sex-integration programs has provided the theme of much of the literature and psychoanalysis of the twentieth century. Race integration, undertaken on the basis of visual uniformity, is an extension of the same cultural strategy of literate man, for whom differences always seem to need eradication, both in sex and in race, and in space and in time. Electronic man, by becoming ever more deeply involved in the actualities of the human condition, cannot accept the literate cultural strategy. […] The entire approach to these problems in terms of uniformity and social homogenization is a final pressure of the mechanical and industrial technology. Without moralizing, it can be said that the electric age, by involving all men deeply in one another, will come to reject such mechanical solutions. It is more difficult to provide uniqueness and diversity than it is to impose the uniform patterns of mass education; but it is such uniqueness and diversity that can be fostered under electric conditions as never before. (McLuhan 1994:316)


It was the telephone, paradoxically, that sped the commercial adoption of the typewriter. The phrase “Send me a memo on that,” repeated into millions of phones daily, helped to create the huge expansion of the typist function. […] In no time at all, the telephone expanded the work to be done on the typewriter to huge dimensions. (McLuhan 1994:262-3)

Northcote Parkinson’s law that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” is precisely the zany dynamic provided by the telephone. […] In any given structure, the rate of staff accumulation is not related to the work done but to the intercommunication among the staff, itself. […] What Parkinson carefully hides from himself and his readers is simply the fact that in the area of information movement, the main “work to be done” is actually the movement of information. The mere interrelating of people by selected information is now the principal source of wealth in the electric age. (McLuhan 1994:262-3)

“Work to be done,” of course, means the transformation of one kind of material energy into some new form, as trees into lumber or paper, or clay into bricks or plates, :or metal into pipe. In terms of this kind of work, the accumulation of office personnel in a navy, for example, goes up as the mumber of ships goes down. […] In the preceding mechanical age, work had […] meant the processing of various materials by assembly-line fragmentation of operations and hierarchically delegated authority. Electric power circuits, in relation to the same processing, eliminate both the assembly line and the delegated authority. Especially with the computer, the work effort is applied at the “programming” level, and such effort is one of information and knowledge. (McLuhan 1994:263)

In the decision-making and “make happen” aspect of the work operation, the telephone and other such speed-ups of information have ended the divisions of delegated authority in favor of the “authority of knowledge.” It is as if a symphony composer, instead of sending his manuscript to the printer and thence to the conductor and to the individual members of the orchestra, were to compose directly on an electronic instrument that would render each note or theme as if on the appropriate instrument. This would end at once all the delegation and specialism of the symphony orchestra that makes it such a natural model of the mechanical and industrial age. The typewriter, with regard to the poet or novelist, comes very close to the promise of electronic music, insofar as it compresses or unifies the various jobs of poetic composition and publication. (McLuhan 1994:263-4)

SPECIALIZATION (action) x AWARENESS (understanding)

The very suc­cess we enjoy in specializing and separating functions in order to have speed-up, however, is at the same time the cause of inattention and unawareness of the situation. […] Nietzsche said understanding stops action, and men of action seem to have an intuition of the fact in their shunning the dangers of comprehension. (McLuhan 1994:92)


[T]he electronic age […] found that instant speeds abolish time and space, and return man to an integral and primitive awareness. […] Man now can look back at two or three thousand years of varying degrees of mechanization with full awareness of the mechanical as an interlude between two great organic periods of culture. In 1911 the Italian sculptor Boccioni said, “We are primitives of an unknown culture.” Half a century later we know a bit more about the new culture of the electronic age, and that knowledge has lifted the mystery surrounding the machine. (McLuhan 1994:152)


[P]hotography mirrored the external world automatically, yielding an exactly repeatable visual image. It was this all-important quality of uniformity and repeatability that had made the Gutenberg break between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Photography was almost as decisive in making the break between mere mechanical industrialism and the graphic age of electronic man. The step from the age of Typographic Man to the age of Graphic Man was taken with the invention of photography. Both daguerrotypes and photographs introduced light and chemistry into the making process. Natural objects delineated themselves by an exposure intensified by lens and fixed by chemicals. (McLuhan 1994:190)


If the motorist is technologically and economically far superior to the armored knight, it may be that electric changes in technology are about to dismount him and return us to the pedestrian scale. (McLuhan 1994:218)

[L]ike the bees in the plant world, men have always been the sex organs of the technological world. The car is no more and no less a sex object than the wheel or the hammer. (McLuhan 1994:220)

The car and the assembly line had become the ultimate expression of Gutenberg technology; that is, of uniform and repeatable processes applied to all aspects of work and living. TV brought a questioning of all mechanical assumptions about uniformity and standardization, as of all consumer values. (McLuhan 1994:221)

The talk about the American car as a status symbol has always overlooked the basic fact that it is the power of the motorcar that levels all social differences, and makes the pedestrian a second-class citizen. […] The simple and obvious fact about the car is that, more than any horse, it is an extension of man that turns the rider into a superman: It is a hot, explosive medium of social communication. (McLuhan 1994:221)

[W]here one automobile can go, all other automobiles do go, and wherever the automobile goes, the automobile version of civilization surely follows. Now this is a TV-oriented sentiment that is not only anti­ car and anti-standardization, but anti-Gutenberg (McLuhan 1994:221)

The willingness to accept the car as a status symbol, restricting its more expansive form to the use of higher executives, is not a mark of the car and mechanical age, but of the electric forces that are now ending this mechanical age of uniformity and standardization, and recreating the norms of status and role. (McLuhan 1994:223-4)

The car has become the carapace, the protective and aggressive shell, of urban and suburban man. Even before the Volkswagen, observers above street level have often noticed the near-resemblance of cars to shiny-backed insects. In the age of the tactile­ oriented skin-diver, this hard shiny carapace is one of the blackest marks against the motorcar. (McLuhan 1994:224-5)

It is for motorized man that the shopping plazas have emerged. They are strange islands that make the pedestrian feel friendless and disembodied. The car bugs him. […] The car, in a word, has quite refashioned all of the spaces that unite and separate men, and it will continue to do so for a decade more [from 1964], by which time the electronic successors to the car will be manifest. (McLuhan 1994:225)


“[H]uman interest” is a technical term meaning that which happens when multiple book pages or multiple information items are arranged in a mosaic on one sheet. The book is a private confessional form that provides a “point of view.” The press is a group confessional form that provides communal participation. […] [I]t is the daily communal exposure of multiple items in juxtaposition that gives the press its complex dimension of human interest. (McLuhan 1994:204)


[T]he telegraph gave that immediate and inclusive dimension of “human interest” to news that does not belong to a “point of view.” It is merely a comment on our absent­ mindedness and general indifference that after more than a century of telegraph news reporting, nobody has seen that “human interest” is the electronic or depth dimension of immediate involvement in news. […] The electric gives powerful voices to the weak and suffering, and sweeps aside the bureaucratic specialisms and job descriptions of the mind tied to a manual of instructions. The “human interest” dimension is simply that of immediacy of participation in the experience of others that occurs with instant information. People become instant, too, in their response of pity or of fury when they must share the common extension of the central nervous system with the whole of mankind. (McLuhan 1994:253-4)


If we pay careful attention to the fact that the press is a mosaic, participant kind or organization and a do-it-yourself kind of world, we can see why it is so necessary to democratic government. [..] Douglas Cater is baffled by the fact that amidst the extreme fragmentation of government departments and branches, the press somehow manages to keep them in relation to each other and to the nation. He emphasizes the paradox that the press is dedicated to the process of cleansing by publicity, and yet that, in the electronic world of the seamless web of events, most affairs must be kept secret. Top secrecy is translated into public participation and responsibility by the magic flexibility of the controlled news leak. […] It is by this kind of ingenious adaptation from day to day that Western man is beginning to accommodate himself to the electric world of total interdependence. Nowhere is this transforming process of adaptation more visible than in the press. The press, in itself, presents the contradiction of an individualistic technology dedicated to shaping and revealing group attitudes. (McLuhan 1994:213)


It is a principal aspect of the electric age that it establishes a global network that has much of the character of our central nervous system. Our central nervous system is not merely an electric network, but it constitutes a single unified field of experience. (McLuhan 1994:348)

The new kind of interrelation in both industry and entertainment is the result of the electric instant speed. Our new electric technology now extends the instant processing of knowledge by interrelation that has long occurred within our central nervous system. It is that same speed that constitutes “organic unity” and ends the mechanical age that had gone into high gear with Gutenberg. Automation brings in real “mass production,” not in terms of size, but of an instant inclusive embrace. Such is also the character of “mass media.” They are an indication, not of the size of their audiences, but of the fact that everybody becomes involved in them at the same time. […] Automation affects not just production, but every phase of consumption and marketing; for the consumer becomes producer in the automation circuit, quite as much as the reader of the mosaic telegraph press makes his own news, or just is his own news. (McLuhan 1994:349)


By electricity, we everywhere resume person-to-person relations as if on the smallest village scale. It is a relation in depth, and without delegation of functions or powers. The organic everywhere supplants the mechanical. Dialogue supersedes the lecture. The greatest dignitaries hobnob with youth. When a group of Oxford undergraduates heard that Rudyard Kipling received ten shillings for every word he wrote, they sent him ten shillings by telegram during their meeting: “Please send us one of your very best words.” Back came the word a few minutes later: “Thanks.” (McLuhan 1994:255-6)

A century ago the effect of the telegraph was to send the presses racing faster, just as the application of the electric spark was to make possible the internal-combustion engine with its instant precision. Pushed further, however, the electric principle everywhere dissolves the mechanical technique of visual separation and analysis of functions.(McLuhan 1994:256)


The instant all-at-onceness and total involvement of the telegraphic form still repels some literary sophisticates. For them, visual continuity and fixed “point of view” render the immediate participation of the instant media as distasteful and unwelcome as popular sports. These people are as much media victims, unwittingly mutilated by their studies and toil, as children in a Victorian blacking factory. For many people, then, who have had their sensibilities irremediably skewed and locked into the fixed postures of mechanical writing and printing, the iconic forms of the electric age are as opaque, or even as invisible, as hormones to the unaided eye. (McLuhan 1994:254)


With the electronic music instrument, any tone can be made available in any intensity and for any length of time. Note that the older symphony orchestra was, by comparison, a machine of separate instruments that gave the effect of organic unity. With the electronic instrument, one starts with organic unity as an immediate fact of perfect synchronization. This makes the attempt to create the effect of organic unity quite pointless. Electronic music must seek other goals. (McLuhan 1994:357)


The very same process of automation that causes a withdrawal of the present work force from industry causes learning itself to become the principal kind of production and consumption. […] Paid learning is already becoming both the dominant employment and the source of new wealth in our society. This is the new role for men in society, whereas the older mechanistic idea of “jobs,” or fragmented tasks and specialist slots for “workers,” becomes meaningless under automation. (McLuhan 1994:350-1)

Tags :