In this Leadership Journal piece, there is a useful intro to McLuhan's approach which is really helpful.
"...four questions he believed were crucial to understanding media.
First: What does the medium enhance and extend? For instance: The wheel is an extension of the foot.
Second: What does the medium obsolesce? And 'obsolesce' doesn't mean get rid of. It means change the function of. So, for example, the automobile extends our speed of transportation, but it obsolesces the horse-drawn carriage. The horse-drawn carriage doesn't disappear; it simply changes its function. It's now used for romance and entertainment, but it is still used.
Third: What does the medium retrieve from the past? This is the conviction that nothing is new under the sun. And so every new medium retrieves some older medium. For example, security cameras retrieve the medieval city wall which simultaneously protects and imprisons its citizens.
Fourth: What does the medium reverse into? This means that every medium will always reverse into some form of its opposite when it is overused. So for example, when the automobile, which is designed to increase speed, is overextended or overused, it actually reverses into traffic jams and even fatalities."
So far, so good. However I'm not sure about the following: whether it stands up to brain science (for example the rather old and inaccurate right brain thing) and whether it isn't more reliant on a particular set of cultural practices from the late twentieth century. "The messages that are best conveyed by video or multimedia are almost exclusively emotional and entertaining. The bias of these media is that they exercise the right hemisphere of the brain, which evokes emotions, impressions, and intuitions." One of the reasons I doubt that is that it is increasingly the case in education and training that the visual is being used to extend abilities to process information rationally and to make connections. I suspect that the bias against appreciating the visual as a thinking tool and consigning it to the 'feelies' says more about entrepreneurship in the twentieth century and peoples' desires for entertainment through the dominant aspects of our sensorium. That said, because of the cultural background we inherit, we can't ignore the push towards entertainment values that such media give. However, I don't think that they are as intrinsic as the author thinks they are. And when he says; "We need to understand that we're dealing with an incredibly powerful medium that all too easily leans towards manipulation—a subtle form of coercion" I feel that it is a little unfair to do so as if what already goes on does not contain its entail of manipulation and coercion. It's just that the unfamiliarity foregrounds the matter. Let's face it; all communication is manipulation; just not all of it is with ill intent or negatively coercive. All of the criticisms that follow about the use of connotative meaning bypassing 'argument' are simply the visual equivalent of the tricks of rhetoric in the verbal and written media. It may be, in fact, that what visual media do is extend our rhetorical vocabulary.
Is Video Technology in Church Manipulative? | Out of Ur | Following God's Call in a New World | Conversations hosted by the editors of Leadership journal:
Nous -'knack' in scouse? Nous: Greek 'mind' some use? Nous: we -French- oui? Oooh. Life -don't talk to me about life: me with this pain down the diodes in my left side ... Here's not-nearly-random-enough loggings of what feeds my promiscuous curiosity. Your pay-off is some useful[?] links and provocative thoughts but also more insight than you may care on my thought-processes.