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Marshall McLuhan: Is the Book Dead?

Marshall McLuhan: Is the Book Dead?

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Published by Sapere Aude

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Published by: Sapere Aude on May 21, 2011
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09/05/2013

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INSTRUCTIONAL
MEDIA
IS
BOOK
DEAD?
The bookshowedMan thatspacehadcontinuity,which resulted indetribalizingtheindividual.But whathappensto book-andMan-inthecenturyofcircuitry?
ByMARSHALL McLUHANThe bookreallyisameans ofcreatingavisualenvironment formankind.Becausena-tivesocieties don't live in a visualworld,theyliveprimarilyin an earworld,theydon't usetheireyesthewaywedo,and so with the com-ingof the forms ofalphabeticwritingand thebook,especiallywithprint,thewhole of man-kind wasgivenan environment-or rather theliteratepartofmankindwasgivenanenviron-ment-that didstrange thingsto their outlookandinlook.With thecomingof visualspace,orwithlit-eracy,manbeganto livein a worldinwhichthespacearoundhimnwasa continuum of con-necteduniformpattern.In theMiddleAgestherewas nospacetoMedieval man that was uniformor connectedor continuous. Hedidnot thinkofthespacebetween him andthenextman,orbetweenhimand thecathedralas acontinuum. Thishasbeenthoroughly investigatedin our timebyvarious art historians.Theyareamazed to dis-coverthat aslate as the15th Century, peopledid notimaginethatspacehadanycontinuityor connectedness.Youhave heard ofHieronymusBosch andhishorror,"TheTemptationsofSt.Anthony."ThetemptationofSt.Anthonyis a horrorcreatedbyputtingtwo kinds ofspace together.Bosch takes theoldmedievalspaces,the oldicons,andtheoldimagesin theirownseparatespacebubbles,and hejuxtaposesthem withthenewthree-dimensionalpictorialperspectivespaceoftheRenaissance,which was a brandDr. MarshallMcLuhan, communicationtheoristandauthor,iscurrentlyon leaveofabsencefromthe Center for Culture and Technology at theUniversityofTormontoo hold an AlbertSchweitzerChairinthe humanitiesatFordhamUniversity.The articlepresented hereisadapted fromaspeechbeforeMcGraw-HillCompanyeditors.ReprintedfromCollegeandUniversity Business, December967,CopyrightMcGraw-Hi.l,Inc. All rights re-served.--R.A.W.newdiscovery,andbyputtingthetwothingstogetherhe createsyourhorror.EricHavelock in hiswonderful bookcalled"Prefaceto Plato"describesthis contrastorthisconflictas itoccurredinthe Greekworld.Withtherise ofpictorialspaceandliteracy,thedi-vision ofthe world ofSocrates,theold oralworldorauditoryworld,andthe new visualworldbecame acute.Itwas adivision betweenthecorporatemanandtheprivateindividualman,thedetribalized man.Withliteracycomesdetribalizingof theindividual.Bythe sametoken,withcircuitrycomesretribalizing,theendof theindividual.Underelectronicconditions,allthefrag-mentedspecialistformsof workmergeintoroles.Withxerography,the readerbecomespublisher.Intheolder,slightlyolder,periodthetypewriterenabled thewriter,theauthor,tobecomepublisher.Anythinghetypedwas ina sensepublished.It didchangethe forms ofwriting.It had aneffect ontheshortstoryandonpoetryand onliteraturegenerally,andithadaprofoundeffect ontheoriganizationofbusinessenergies.Butxerography, by enablingtheordinarywriter topublishorreproduceanythingatall,canadda soundtrack toanybookonechoosestophotograph.He canaddanypartofanybooktoanyotherbook,doinga kind ofAndyWorhalmontage.Thepossibilitiesinterms offlexibilityareverymuchlike thoseoftheancient scribe. Inthe ancientworld,the scribe waspublisherandauthor and reader. Allthosefunctions weremerged.Theyweren'tspecialized.Thescribeperformedhistasksforthe bene-fits ofimmediatepatronsandthe littlecircle offriendswhoneeded aparticularservice. Withxerography,the bookbecomes,by tendency,aservice forindividuals,a tailor-made custom-built servicerather than auniformmanufac-turedpackage.This isthetendencyofxerog-
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