Politics of Meaning & Technology - Marshall McLuhan
Insofar as McLuhan theorizes this new global consciousness ie TV internet etc. (the global village/noosphere) as a
consciousness of CULTURAL BORDER-LINES. for innis too the ideas of the margins of empire was important
in thinking about technology and communications.
INTERPRET MCLUHAN: if you construct a story of human history that is a story of major moments in the
centers of empires ie greece to rome to Great Britain to usa, that if that is the line of history and its major
moments, we see both in mcluhan and innis that we must think about historical change in a NON-LINEARWAY.
if it is the case that we move from one high point to yet another high point, then there must be a history of the
margins of those events and places. they want to write history from other points of view, not the victors, but the
losers and the ordinary people. this is counter-environment. think of counter-environments are historically those
processes of subalternization, the ways people become marginalized. they don't disappear from history but persist
in their ways and contribute to the oﬃcial histories in their invisible ways.
idea from music - to hear a melody, there must be a relation in time between two notes or more. as one note is
struck, it fades away as anotehr note is struck. you hear the second note in relation to the ﬁrst note. instead of
being a linear succession of one note after another, you have an ebb and ﬂow relation between one note in time
and another note in time. in gestalt psychology it is yes there is a succession of notes, but your mind turns it into
meaningfull music (as opposed to just sound) by taking the succession and uniting it as a whole.
- this is the idea McLuhan is using to discuss history.
- this is why he calls this television world (unlike print culture) acoustic space because it calls for our brains to be
active in a diﬀerent way.
- the resonating interval of television and new medias, this acoustic space, is a new way for us to actually
experience life, a new way of thinking! compare to Kant on Space and Time as conditions for the possibility of
intuition (transcendental aesthetics).
STUART HALL & ROLAND BARTHES
We will connect the ideas of Myth to the ideas of Ideology.
Truth / Error : Science / Religion : Modern / Primitive : Science / Myth
in relation to this kind of scheme that our ordinary usage of myth as errors etc comes from. but we also have
another common usage of the meaning myth: greek mythology etc like important stories to a culture.
Compare back to Maurice Charland's use of the word myth to describe technological nationalism.
Claude Leví-Strauss - an anthropologist inﬂuenced by linguistic structuralism / semiology (Saussure). He had an
anti-racist argument debunking 19c theories of race, saying that the savage mind is no diﬀerent than the most
industrially advanced engineer because human minds work in terms of binary oppositions universally. the
diﬀerence between the savage mind and the engineer is that they deal with diﬀerent issues and try to solve
diﬀerent problems. the deeper logic of reasoning, however, is the same. In this respect, myth is no longer simply
falsehood or error but the way in which we make the world meaningful.
Barthes creates a theory of ideology discussing myth in the same way as Levi-Strauss discusses myth but with
reference to the contemporary world of spectacle.
Semiotics believes there is a dimension of meaning grounded in matter in some kind of way.
Barthes: If the world of matter, of material production, has a politics of production like marx outlined, then there
is a politics of the production of meaning.
TOWARD A MATERIALISTPOLITICS OF MEANING
present in time, present in space. re-presentation means to repeat that presence. • art
• language, linguistics, literature
• knowledge, science, philosophy
in the domain of art one discusses representation in terms of meaning: what does this work mean? ie nonﬁgural
paintings like malevich's white on white - what does this represent? at this time so much was happening in painting
that there was a crisis of representation. does painting represent or not represent.
with the birth of photography, a technology that can capture mimetically an object with great precision, it is no
longer and aesthetic challenge to paint an apple perfectly. this is when the impressionists emerge and modernism.
music is the thorniest of them all: does music represent anything?
in politics, when it comes to our basic attempts to articulate what we mean by democracy, representation is crucial.
it is governemtn by representation of the people by elected oﬃcials. so unless your interests are represented you
don't have democratic legislation.
- once unions are legalized and you have legalized collective bargaining (this only happens after the Second World
War), you have the representation of labour and capital in bourgeois liberal democracies. both interests are now
lega▯y represented. but what happens when the labour movement sells out women and immigrants and a bunch of
workers, you have a crisis of representation there too.
in media, what kinds of people are represented in the media, how are women represented, marginalized groups,
in terms of knowledge, science, philosophy, after descartes there's a new deﬁnition of knowledge where knowledge
is no longer what is revealed to you in some way but rather knowledge is a representation of an object to a subject.
knowledge has to be of something, it has to represent that something, whether it is an apple or the structure of an
atom, or the anatomy of a human, and has to be represented to a human mind.
the word REPRESENTATION cuts across all these diﬀerent domains of inquiry. the word lets us therefore think
about the relations between all these diﬀerent domains? ie how is art connected to knowledge or media connected
to language etc. since cultural studies looks at rep