Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The McLuhan DEW-LINE 1.5 (1968 November)


The McLuhan DEW-LINE
A startling, shocking Early Warning System for our era of instant change!
Through the Vanishing Point
Reversal Through Speed-Up


VOLUME 1, NUMBER 5 NOVEMBER 1968

When Oswald Spengler published his gloomy Decline of the West in 1918, he noted with despair the encroachment of "irrational numbers" on the previously "rational" Western mathematics.

In fact, however, this was only one of the numerous and decisive innovations that had inherently the power to transform the "rational" Western world into an "irrational" Oriental one.

As only one example: 1844 was the year of the first commercial telegraph. It was also the year that Soren Kierkegaard published his Concept of Dread.

ANY SPEED-UP OF INFORMATION OR
OF HARDWARE ALTERS THE INTERVALS
OF TIME AND SPACE BETWEEN
PEOPLE AND EVENTS


It is this world of the
interval, and not the
world of the "connection"
that is decisive in all
matters of change.


What is the underlying dynamic between these technological advances, and the terror they inspire in the greatest minds of their time? It is this:

For twenty-five centuries the Western world had controlled the interval by the convention of the alphabetic or pictorial bond.

The nineteenth century had considered the chemical bond as a connection, and represented it by "a line drawn between the symbols of two chemical elements . . ."

But in 1939, Linus Pauling opened his classic The Nature of the Chemical Bond with the heading, "Resonance and the Chemical Bond". Thus, quantum mechanics ended the lineal bond, and "introduced into chemical theory a new concept: that of 'resonance'".

This basic shift from connection to interval - from the continuum of visual space to the interval of acoustic space -- is a take-over that has affected every form of human organization, inner and outer, individual and corporate.

After 2500 years of alphabetic and typographic culture, it is not easy for us to adjust suddenly to the non-visual, inner space of the interval and to the ferment of the "interface".

To make the transition from the "outer trip" of the visually-oriented man to the "inner trip" of the audile-tactile world, is to shift from West to East.

"Backward" and non-literate cultures and individuals take readily to non-visual or electric technology, which is the world of the new quantum mechanics or of the resonating chemical bond.

In a later NEWSLETTER, we can look at the new consortium and the new conglomerates of our business world as the end of private goals (visual) in business in favor of a "chemical bond" (resonance).

THE CONGLOMERATE IS THE ACHIEVED
IMAGE OF THE RE-TRIBALIZATION
OF THE BUSINESS WORLD


A conglomerate
has no
goal.


Whereas individual businesses with their individual goals were homogeneous "private enterprises", the new conglomerates are extremely diverse and surprising in their discontinuities and their gaps or intervals.

Management is undergoing the same revolution, today, as the world of mechanical hardware technology underwent yesterday, when it was invaded by electric information and software configurations.

The theme of this letter is contained in Through the Vanishing Point: Space in Poetry and Painting (Marshall McLuhan and Harley Parker, World Perspectives Serices, Harper & Row, 1968).

The vanishing point is a perspective made possible by a fixed view on a fixed target.

TODAY NOBODY CAN OCCUPY A FIXED POSITION OR FIND A FIXED OR STATIONARY TARGET. Electric technology excludes both possibilities.

Most people can still remember the time when fixed positions and fixed targets were taken for granted: the Establishment is still a nineteenth-century affair, entirely related to such assumptions. Our social, political and educational arrangements still assume goals and objectives as normal possibilities and aspirations.

In fact, however, a young doctor is as obsolete on the day he graduates as is any engineer.

Both have spent years acquiring long-packaged information data, while living in a total-field of world of information mosaics that are moving at high speed.

A TOTAL FIELD IS AN AREA OF MULTIPLE CONGLOMERATES AND INTERVALS WHOSE INTERFACES CREATE A VAST FERMENT OF RAPIDLY CHANGING PATTERNS.

The psychic and social influences of the Orient will take over the West much more rapidly than we have intruded upon them.* Our TV generation has gone inner and Oriental already.

In our nineteenth-century hearts, we say: "We are holding back the rising tide of Communism in the world."

In fact, our electric service environment is already a trivial commune-ist form exceeding anything known to any tribal society of the past.

ALL MEMBERS OF OUR SOCIETY HAVE FREE ACCESS TO COMMUNAL SERVICES OF ELECTRIC INFORMATION THAT FAR EXCEED THE DREAMS OF PRIVATE WEALTH TO INVENT OR PROVIDE FOR ITSELF.

Our accelerated effort to teach the Orient our Western skills and procedures will succeed even as we ourselves abandon our own Western culture via the electric route.

The N.A.S.A scientist who imagines that he is pushing onward into the twentieth century is actively engaged in a retrograde Newtonian exploration of outer space.

The twentieth century is not the era of outer but of inner space. Ours is the era of the inner trip and D.N.A. The outer trip is for tourists only and for the cultivators of the old hardware.

No physical or geographic frontiers remain to be crossed: this has already been accomplished electrically.

(Even the psychic "frontier" or gap between the conscious and the sub-conscious has been bridged by the young. They are ORIENTAL. . . ELECTRIC. . . TRIBAL.)

The inability to perceive the "Emperor's New Clothes" technological environments created by major policy decisions needs no more illustration than Sputnik.

From the first moment of the satellite, the earth ceased to be the human "environment".

Satellites automatically enclose the old Darwinian "Nature" environment by putting the planet inside a man-made environment. They are just as much an extension of the planet as is clothing an extension of the skin.

Satellites are equivalent to enclosing the Earth in a Bucky Fuller "dome" of acoustic space.

The consequent process of archetypal-ization of Nature ensure that the Earth is now an old "booster-stage". . . a quaint form of Camp. . . a sort of archaeological museum affording immediate access to all past cultures simultaneously on a classified-information basis.

THE SATELLITE DECIDES FOR US THAT OUR FUTURE RELATION TO THE PLANET IS ONE OF "PROGRAM".

The satellite is also the shift from the planet as a homogeneous continuum or visual space, to the planet as a "chemical bond" or mosaic of resonating components.

Thus, the Earth has become a "national" or tribal park. It is already a teaching machine, a universal playground for advertisers and teenagers.

In his Runaway World, E. R. Leach notes that a major change had occurred in family and society as a result of nineteenth-century transportation.

With the coming of the railway and steamboat, uncles, cousins, aunts and grandparents were free to roam the earth and settle in different places.

The result was that, for the first time in human history, the small family core of parents and children was isolated from the large family clan or tribe. Children and parents began to form ever tighter intensity and involvement sufficiently marked by the advent of Dr. Freud.

The same isolation of the family caused by modern travel by steam and rail, brought about the dense congregations of metropolitan scope which destroyed family and social life altogether by the elimination of neighborhoods.

ACCESS TO CHEAP AND RAPID MOBILITY MAKES THE STEADY NEIGHBORHOOD RELATIONSHIP PATTERNS IMPOSSIBLE.

EVERY PROCESS, PUSHED TO ITS LIMITS, REVERSES ALL OF ITS INITIAL CHARACTERISTICS.


The mini-skirt is non-erotic.

The high-rise apartment, lacking in all "human" qualities whatever, takes on the monolithic dignity of a prehistoric pyramid.

The paradox of the apartment as a non-human pyramid was matched earlier by the grain elevators of Western prairies. These primitive, monolithic sculptures rose at the behest of advancing railway lines. The railway is antithetic to this: a perfect example of visual, lineal, civilized space -- created the "wild west", and the non-visual world of oral values, where the ballad reigned supreme once more:

Bury me not on the lone prairie!

Thus, the civilized continuum, when pushed to an extreme by rows of cast steel, returned us, as Joyce punned, to the barbaric values of the folk and the Rose of Castille:

"The punman
and the penman
meet, in pure
oppugnancy."


*As indicated in the October, 1968 issue of the McLuhan Dew-Line, at the present time, the educational budget of the U.S. for Westernizing the Orient (we refer to it as the Vietnam War) far exceeds anything we would consider reasonable to spend on our own backward members of society.

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