Unreal Nature

August 26, 2016

Our Uttered or Outered Senses

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:31 am

… we can translate more and more of ourselves into other forms of expression that exceed ourselves.

This is from ‘Reversal of the Overheated Medium’ found in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994, 2003):

… When Sputnik had first gone into orbit a schoolteacher asked her second-graders to write some verse on the subject. One child wrote:

The stars are so big,
The earth is so small,
Stay as you are.

With man his knowledge and the process of obtaining knowledge are of equal magnitude. Our ability to apprehend galaxies and subatomic structures, as well, is a movement of faculties that include and transcend them. The second-grader who wrote the words above lives in a world much vaster than any which a scientist today has instruments to measure, or concepts to describe. As W.B. Yeats wrote of this reversal, “The visible world is no longer a reality and the unseen world is no longer a dream.”

Associated with this transformation of the real world into science fiction is the reversal now proceeding apace, by which the Western world is going Eastern, even as the East goes Western.

This next is from ‘Media as Translators’:

… What we call “mechanization” is a translation of nature, and of our own natures, into amplified and specialized forms.

… It is all capsulated in the popular variant on Robert Browning: “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp or what’s a metaphor.” All media are active metaphors in their power to translate experience into new forms. The spoken word was the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way.

[line break added] Words are a kind of information retrieval that can range over the total environment and experience at high speed. Words are complex systems of metaphors and symbols that translate experience into our uttered or outered senses. They are a technology of explicitness. By means of translation of immediate sense experience into vocal symbols the entire world can be evoked and retrieved at any instant.

In this electric age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness. That is what is meant when we say that we daily know more and more about man. We mean that we can translate more and more of ourselves into other forms of expression that exceed ourselves.

My most recent previous post from McLuhan’s book is here.

-Julie

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