“McLuhan foresaw that electronic media gave humans the quality of a disembodied, angel-like spirit, which happens to us right now when we literally resettle to social media or video games and operate our digital selves.”
Mike Hodgkinson published in Post magazine (the weekend supplement for the South China Morning Post) a brilliant short essay on the relevance of Marshall McLuhan for understanding our today’s digital landscapes. The title is “How the world caught up with media visionary Marshall McLuhan.” By the way, well-informed people say McLuhan grows in popularity in China. The enquiries to the Estate of Marshall McLuhan for Chinese translations have been on the rise recently.
The essay presents not only well-known one-liners but the real depth of McLuhan’s legacy, which is much broader than M=M (“The medium is the message”) and gives fertile ground for explorations, in a range from media effects on democracy or autocracy to speculations about transcending biology by the human mind… Also, the essay makes a good mix of comments on McLuhan by today’s scholars with historical anecdotes of McLuhan’s interactions with pop-cult, art, and TV personalities of his time.
I was honored to make a small contribution with my comments, in a good company of such McLuhanists as Andrew McLuhan (a grandson, “actual McLuhan since 1978,” as he sometimes says), Derrick de Kerckhove, Peter Zhang and Mark Stahlman.
Below goes an excerpt where I share my take on the relevance of McLuhan for understanding humans’ resettling to the digital.
…the effects of media still in their infancy are likely to be momentous…
McLuhan may turn out to be indispensable as we try to figure out how these effects will manifest themselves. He was perhaps nudging us in the right direction with his idea that electronic media leave us in a discarnate state, “without a body”.
“McLuhan foresaw that electronic media gave humans the quality of a disembodied, angel-like spirit, which happens to us right now when we literally resettle to social media or video games and operate our digital selves,” says Andrey Miroshnichenko, a Canada-based McLuhan scholar.
“Electronic media cancelled the physical time and space limitation for humans to be present at events. Digital media advanced this new quality of human beings even more, they make time elastic, which is impossible in physical reality. In video games, a player can slow down, stop, reverse, repeat time. Resurrection becomes everyday routine for video game players, who save and restart their digital selves, and for social media users, who can delete and restore their profiles.”
Future media and technologies – including what happens when virtual reality and augmented reality, for example, are combined with accelerated computational power – could amplify this angelic tendency, says Miroshnichenko, and bring about a new kind of “augmented humanity”. “Now we are about to totally live inside our latest medium. Almost all our activities are already there. Humankind is resettling from biological bodies into the digital body.”