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Harold Adams Innis and Marshall McLuhan Author(s): James W. Carey Source: The Antioch Review, Vol.

27, No. 1 (Spring, 1967), pp. 5-39 Published by: Antioch Review Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4610816 . Accessed: 17/07/2011 09:55
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Harold

Adams

Innis

and

Marshall

McLuhan
By JAMES W. CAREY

U Commentingon the abstruseand controversial of scholarship HaroldInnis and Marshall McLuhan a ratheraudacious peris and haps impertinent undertaking. is also a thanklesstask.McLuhan It has often arguedthat the attemptto analyze,classify,and criticize scholarship-theintentof my paper-is not only illegitimate;it also I represents dead hand of an obsoletetraditionof scholarship. the am sensitiveto treadingforbiddenwatersin this paper.But I am contentto let historyor somethingelse be the judge of what is the properor only methodof scholarship, I at leastam uncomfortable as pronouncingon such weighty matters. Despite the dangers in scrutinizingthe work of Innis and McLuhan,I think studentsof the historyof mass communication mustassumethe risksof analysis. Innisand McLuhan, aloneamong studentsof human society,make the history of the mass media centralto the historyof civilization large.Both see the medianot at merelyas technicalappurtenances societybut as crucialdetermito nants of the socialfabric.For them, the historyof the mass media is not just anotheravenueof historical research;ratherit is another way of writing the history of Western civilization. Innis and McLuhando not so much describehistoryas presenta theory of history lessgrandiloquendy, theoryof socialchangein the West. or, a in It is a theorywhich anchorssocialchangein the transformations
JAMES

W. CAREYis an AssistantProfessorof Journalism and also a Research AssistantProfessorin the Institute of Communications Researchat the University of Illinois. His researchand writing concern propaganda,television, and popularculture. 5

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the media of communication which this civilizationhas been on progressively dependent.Therefore,an assessment the meaning of and reasonableness the positionsthey representseems to me to of be a principal for students the history masscommunication. of task of In this paper,I would like to suggestan interpretation Innis of and McLuhan to compare kindsof arguments and the they offeron the role of the massmediain socialchange.Second,I want to offer directedat the a criticalcommentary their positions,principally of marelativemeritsof their argumentsin organizingthe historical terial in question.Finally, I want to recommenda directionfor futureresearch the roleof the mediain socialchangeand to offer on some reflections the socialmeaningof the scholarship Harold on of Innis and Marshall McLuhan. HaroldAdams Innis was a Canadian economistand historian who devotedmost of his scholarlylife to producingmarvelously detailedstudies of Canadianindustries-the fur trading industry, the cod fisheries, Canadian for the PacificRailway, example.During an the last decadeof his life (Innis died in 1952), he undertook extensiveanalysis all formsof humancommunication produced and of and two majorworks-The Bias of Communication Empire and Communications-and two important collectionsof essays,Changing Concepts Time andPoliticalEconomyand the ModernState. of of His interestin communications not, however,independent was his concernsfor economichistory.Rather,the formergrew out of the latter.In his studiesof the economichistoryof Canada,Innis was confrontedby two importantquestions: (I) What are the definedbroadly underlyingcausesof changein socialorganization, to include both cultureand social institutions?(2) What are the conditions which promotestability any society? Stability in here is in definedas both the capacity adaptto changingrealities politics to and the economyand also as the capacityto preserve integrity the of culture,the continuityof attitude,sentiment,and moralityupon which civilizationis based.Further,Innis wanted to answerthose questionsin a mannerthat would capturenot only the majorcurrents of history in the West but also the eddies and tributaries, and streams backwaters socialchange.1 of
1The literarystyle adoptedby Innis to convey the complexityof social change

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Innis felt that the answerto his first question-the questionof innothe sourceof socialchange-was to be found in technological though determinist, a vation.He was, like McLuhan, technological agree Innisand McLuhan a unlikeMcLuhan rathersoft determinist. industrial, kindsof technology-military, thatwhile therearevarious were not equal in their impact technologies administrative-these of status.For Innis,the technology on societyor in theirontological was centralto all other technology.He does not communication make at all clearwhy this shouldbe so. However,let me make this of two There are presumably reasonsfor the centrality suggestion. technology-one logical, one historical.Innis ascommunications to sumes that man standsin a unique, symbioticrelationship his an is technology literally extension phrase, technology. McLuhan's In of of man, as the ax is an extension the hand,the wheel of the foot. a are Most instruments attemptsto extend man'sphysicalcapacity, on technology, sharedwith otheranimals.Communications capacity of of the otherhand,is an extension thought,of consciousness, man's media, broadly Thus communication capacities. unique perceptual are used to include all modes of symbolicrepresentation, literally extensions mind. of breakthroughs fundamental Innis also suggeststhat historically The of in technology firstappliedto the process communication. are was usheredin by the printingpress,the age of age of mechanics fact for electronics the telegraph. The explanation this historical by a model of of Innis derivedfrom a conception societybasedupon
of is a principalbarrierto any adequateunderstanding his work. He amasses on each page such an enormousbody of fact, fact rarelysummarizedor generalized, that one becomesquickly lost in the thicketof data. Further,Innis disdains the conventionsof written book scholarship; indeed, he attempts to break out of what he takes to be these limiting conventionsby presentingan He of disconnected kaleidoscope fact and observation. avoids arguapparently of ing in a precise,serial order and instead,like the proprietor a psychedelic in flashesonto the page historicevents widely separated spaceand delicatessen, time. With such a method, he attemptsto capture both the complexitiesof change. Nowhere does he presentan social existenceand its multidimensional orderly,systematicargument (except perhapsin the first and last chaptersof dependingratheron the readerto imposeorder, Empireand Communications) to capturenot merelythe fact of historybut a vision of the dynamicsof historic change.

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competition appropriated from economics extendedto all social and And in this competitivemodel, competitionfor new institutions. means of communication was a principalaxis of the competitive struggle.Innis arguedthat the availablemedia of communication influencevery strongly the forms of social organizationthat are possible. The mediathus influencethe kinds of humanassociations that can developin any period.Because thesepatterns association of are not independent the knowledgemen have of themselves of and is others-indeed, consciousness built on these associations-control of communications and impliescontrolof both consciousness social and organization. a Thus,whenever mediumof communication the groupswhich controlthe mediahave a hegemonyin society,Innis will be the searchfor assumesthat a principalaxis of competition competingmedia of communication. New media are designedto undercutexistingcentersof powerand to facilitatethe creationof of new patternsof association and the articulation new forms of knowledge.I will returnto this point later.Let me only note now thatInnisassumed disenfranchised that groupsin societywould lead the searchfor new forms of technologyin seekingto competefor someform of socialpower. The bulk of Innis'work was devotedto analyzingthe kinds of controlinherentin communications as media.He considered, near as one can tell, all forms of communication from speechthrough printing,includingwhat he took to be the four dominantpre-printing media-clay, papyrus, parchment, paper.With eachof these and mediahe also considered typesof scriptemployedand the kinds the of writing instrumentsused. Innis argued that variousstages of Westerncivilizationcould be characterized the dominanceof by a particular mediumof communication. mediumhad a deterThe mnate influenceon the form of social organization typicalof the stage of societyand on the character the cultureof that stage. of of Further,the succession stagesin Westerncivilizationcould be seen in terms of a competitionbetweenmedia of communication for dominance. The resultsof this competitionamong media prothe of gressivelytransformed character social institutionsand the natureof culture. I thinkit important note Innis'emphasis bothcultureand to on social organization. was concernednot only with the ways in He which cultureand institutions were interrelated also the sense but

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in which they were both epiphenomena communications of technology.Usuallythe socialhistoryof the West takeseitherthe route of August Comte, emphasizingthe progressive transformation of culturefrom the theologicalto the metaphysical the positivistic, to or the routetakenby LewisMumford, the emphasizing transformadionsin socialorganization from the tribe to the town to the city. Innis,however, attempts marrythesetwo traditions a unified to into view of socialchange.Moreover, attaches he changesin both social organization cultureto changesin the technology communiand of cation.The generalityof Innis' argumentis seldom recognized,I think, because a failureto appreciate meaningof the phrase of the "thebiasof communication" the dualsensein which he defines and his two principal variables, spaceand time. Innisarguesthatany given mediumof communication biased is in termsof the controlof time or space.Mediawhich are durable and difficultto transport-parchment, clay, and stone-are timebindingor time-biased. Mediawhich are light and less durableare or space-binding spatiallybiased.For example,paperand papyrus are space-binding, they are light, easily transportable, be for can moved acrossspacewith reasonable and speed and great accuracy, they thusfavoradministration vastdistance. over for Any givenmediumwill biassocialorganization, it will favor the growth of certainkinds of interestsand institutions the exat a penseof othersand will also imposeon theseinstitutions form of Mediawhich are space-binding facilitateand encourorganization. a and age the growthof empire,encourage concernwith expansion with the present,and thus favor the hegemonyof secularpolitical media encourage growth of the state, the authority. Space-binding the military,and decentralized expansionist institutions. Timeand have little bindingmediafosterconcernwith historyand tradition, for capacity expansion secular of and authority, thusfavorthe growth of religion,of hierarchical instiand organization, of contractionist tutions.The hegemonyof eitherreligionor the stateimposesa characteristic and pattern all secondary on suchas education, institutions, modes of commualso leads to a searchfor competing,alternative nicationto undercutthis hegemony.Thus, the dynamicof social formsof communication changeresidedin the search alternative for the alternately supporting kingdomof God or man. At the level of socialstructure, time bias meantan emphasis a

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upon religion, heirarchy,and contraction,whereas a space bias and meantan emphasis upon the state,decentralization, expansion. also But the terms"time"and "space" had a culturalmeaning. the In culturalterms,time meantthe sacred, moral,the historical; spacethe presentand the future,the technicaland the secular. As mediaof communication favoredthe growthof certainkinds of of institutions, also assuredthe domination the culturecharacterit contrast isticof thoseinstitutions. the culturallevel,his principal On was betweenthe oral and writtentraditions. me try to develop Let the contrast. in Although speechis not the only means of communication traditional it societies, certainlyis the principalmeans.Traditional societies organized termsof, or areat leastseverely constrained in are by, certainfeaturesof speech.For example,spoken languagecan shortdistances withoutbeing alteredand distraverse only relatively torted,giving rise to dialects.Speechnot only movesover shortdistancesbut travelsslowly compared with other meansof communifor cation.Speechalso has a low capacity storage; there is no way information of preserving exceptby storingit in the memoriesof individualsor by symbolizingit in some materialform. Life in traditionalsocietiesmust be collective,communal,and celebrative as the mediumof communication requiresit to be. of the Innisarguesthatspeechencourages development a society with a strongtemporal bias,a societywhich focuseson the pastand and which emphasizes to whichattempts conserve preserve tradition, the existingstockof knowledgeand values.Such societies likely are restricted the to to have limited conceptions space,conceptions of area currently occupiedby the tribe.Space village or geographical frequently being the beyondthat is investedwith magicalqualities, home of the gods; for example,cargo cults. While the mind of of extraordinary reaches time, it is radiprimitiveman can traverse space.The hegemonyof speechis likely cally limitedin traversing to also lead to magical beliefs in language.Words becomeicons, things. The care, things,they are themselves they do not represent and preservation languageis likely to occupymuch colof nurture, lectiveenergyof the society. Oral cultures,then, are time-binding cultures.They have consequentlya limited capacityfor technicalchange.The imbalance towardtimerootedin the available meansof communication empha-

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sizes the cohesionof peoplein the presentby their "remembrances tradition, of thingspast." With mediasuchas speech,Innisassociated of the sacred, and the institutionalization magic and religion. gave rise to Speechas the dominantmode of communication but an oral tradition,a traditionthat Innis not only described admired.By an oraltradition Innismeanta "selection from the history definedas signifiof a peopleof a seriesof relatedevents,culturally The from generationto generation." cant, and their transmission recitationof artisticworks within the oral traditionwas a social their ceremonywhich linked audiencesto the past and celebrated would socialcohesionin the present.While individualperformers in modify an oral traditionto make it more servicable presentcircumstances, they began with the traditionand thus becameindissolublylinked to it. the oral traditionwas flexible and persistent. Furthermore, Linked as it was to the collectiveand communallife of a people, built into their linguistichabitsand modes of symbolicexpression, to the oraltradition difficult destroy. was Throughendlessrepetition and lasting moral an oral tradition"created recognizedstandards and social institutions;it built up the soul of social organization and maintained their continuity...." Oraltraditions time-binding and medialed to the growth of a cultureorientedtoward a sacredtradition,which built consensus on the sharingof mutuallyaffirmedand celebrated attitudesand at values,and placed moralsand metaphysics the centerof civilization. Written traditions,in general,led to quite differentcultures. and They wereusuallyspace-binding favoredthe growthof political to and and authority secularinstitutions a cultureappropriate them. Let me warn you that Innis did not admireoral culturesand derogate writtenones.Someof his languagecouldeasilylead one to that not conclusion, as I hopeto show,thatwas decidedly the case. but, Writtentraditions theirappropriate and culture groundrelations but to amongmen not on tradition on attachment secularauthority. Rather than emphasizingthe temporalrelationsamong kinship, writtentraditionemphasizes spatialrelations.Ratherthan emphaand the sizing the past,it emphasizes present the future,particularly the futureof empire.Ratherthanemphasizing knowledgegrounded in moral order, it emphasizesthe technicalorder and favorsthe

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growth of scienceand technicalknowledge.Whereasthe character of storageand receptionof the oral traditionfavor continuityover in favorsdiscontinuity time though contime, the writtentradition tinuity over space. What Innisrecognizedwas the hostilitythat seemedinevitably The to developbetweenthe writtenandthe oraltradition. innovation of writing would first lead to a recordingof the oral tradition.It generations to wouldthusfreezeit andmakeit of interest subsequent afterits initial The reasons. writtentradition, largelyfor antiquarian contactwith the oral,would go its own way. It would favorchange fromthe pastas a residue attenuation and andinnovation progressive of knowledge,values,and sentiment.The hostilitybetween these media genand traditions betweentime-binding space-binding and of erallyled to the creation a monopolyof knowledge.He used the economicsense.Very simply, term monopolyin a straightforward Innis contendedthat the cultureof the favoredinstitutionwould infiltrateeveryaspectof sociallife and ultimatelydriveout, define as illegitimate,or radicallytransformcompetingtraditions.Only to knowledgethat conformed the concernsand culturalpredisposiIn tionsof the dominantmediumwould persist. a writtentradition, for knowledgemust be technical,secular,and future-oriented it to be definedas legitimateor recognizedas valid. By now it should be obviousthat Innis definedas the central which problemof socialscienceand socialchangethe sameproblem was the focus of Max Weber'swork: the problemof authority. the Innis wantedto know what, in general,determines locationof ultimateauthority a societyandwhatwill be recognizdas authoriin tativeknowledge.His answerwas this: That media of communiand of cation,dependingon theirbias,confermonopolies authority knowledgeon the state, the technicalorder, and civil law or on religion,the sacredorder,and morallaw.2
2lnnis was interestedin all forms of monopoliesof knowledge. In his teaching he was interestedin the tendencyof social science researchto become focused aroundone man-a Keynes,Marx,or Freud-or one narrowattitudeof speculation.He himself preferredan open and vigorous competitionof viewpoints and felt that the reliance of Western educationon the book severely reduced the possibilityof vigorous debate and discourse in education. See Donald Creighton,Harold Adams Innis, Portraitof a Scholar(Toronto: Uni-

Press,I957). of versity Toronto

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or Innis believed that an overemphasis monopoly of either time or space,religionor the state,the moralor the technical,was dynamicof the riseandfall of empire.Time and space the principal in were thus relatedas conjugantvariables which the progressive of absence the other.The bias presence one led to the progressive of in instability society.A stablesociety towardtime or spaceproduced that prewas possibleonly with the developmentof mechanisms compeand that servedbothtemporal spatialorientations, preserved independtition betweenreligionand the state,and that preserved In ence and tensionbetweenthe moraland the technical. The Bias Innis commentedthat of Communication
of in westerncivilizationa stablesociety is dependenton an appreciation a properbalancebetweenthe conceptsof spaceand time. We are concerned with controlover vast areas of space but also over vast stretchesof time. and in relationto We must appraisecivilizationin relationto its territory its duration. The characterof the medium of communicationtends to on createa bias in civilizationfavorableto an overemphasis the time concept or on the spaceconceptand only at rareintervalsare the biasesoffset by the influenceof anothermedium and stabilityachieved.

Classical Greecewas such a rareinterval.The relativeisolation of Greecefrom the older civilizations Egypt and the Near East of The writtentraditionwas enabledher to developan oral tradition. but into Greecefrom theseneighboringcultures, slowly introduced it did not destroythe oral tradition.The traditionwas committed to For to writing,but the oraltradition continued flourish. example, and the dialogue instrument Greekculture, of remained principal the The an oral literature the constituted commonmoralconsciousness. the written traditionwith its spatialemphasisencouraged growth and allowedGreeceto deal with problemsof of politicalauthority administration. writing triumphedover the oral tradiEventually, tion in the latterpartof the fifth centryB.C., andthe spatialbiasgave rise to a divisiveindividualism. Generalizingfrom the experienceof classicalGreece, Innis arguedthat a healthysocietyrequirescompetitionnot only in the and Typically, but marketplace also in ideas,traditions, institutions. mediafavorthe development culturaland institutional of monopotralies. Unlessmediafavoringtime and spaceexist as independent ditionsoffsettingand checkingthe biasesof one another, society the

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will be dominatedby a narrowmonopoly.In such biased states, or politicsbecomessacralized religion secularized;sciencedestroys givesway to the science; tradition moralityor moralityemasculates tradition. or notionof progress chronicchangeobliterates The historyof the modernWest, Innis argues,is the historyof and a bias of communication a monopolyof knowledgefounded Innis characterized on print.In one of his most quotedstatements, modernWesternhistoryas beginningwith temporalorganization of The introduction printing and ending with spatialorganization. attackedthe temporalmonopolyof the medievalchurch.Printing and empire; it favoredthe exfosteredthe growth of nationalism the tensionof societyin space.It encouraged growthof bureaucracy and militarism,science and secularauthority.Printing infiltrated all institutions, being the majorforce in creatingwhat is currently as Not only did print destroythe celebrated "the secularsociety." the also droveunderground principalconcerns oral traditionbut it While print of the oral tradition-morals,values,and metaphysics. transform did not destroy religion,it did, as Max Weberhas argued, the religionto meet the needsof the stateand economy.Ultimately, obsession with space,with the nation,with the moment,exposedthe in relativity all valuesand led Westerncivilization, Innis'eyes,to of the the brinkof nihilism.The deathof the oral tradition, demiseof from the concernwith time,not only shiftedthe sourceof authority church to the state and of ultimate knowledge from religion to and of on science;it alsoinsisted a transformation religiousconcerns and to languagefromthe theological sacred the politicaland secular. Innis viewed the rampaging nationalismof the twentieth not centurywith angerand anguish,attitudes untypicalof contemwriting should not poraryintellectuals.But his emotion-charged effectof changesin comobscure centralargument. primary his The that munication mediais on the form of socialorganization can be culture supported.Social organizationproduces a characteristic the of The centrality which constitutes predispositions individuals. of communication mediato both cultureand socialstructure implies that the principal of change,of the rise and fall of empire,will axis be alternations the technologies communcation in upon which of reliant. societyis principally

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There are many similarities betweenthe thought of Innis and that of MarshallMcLuhan.Although I do not intend to obscure I those similarities, would like to emphasize,at least in this paper, The questionI am asking is some significantpoints of difference. this: What is absolutely centralto Innis' argumentand how does it compare with the centralnotion in McLuhan's work? Although his McLuhanhas occasionally characterized work as an extension of Innis', I want to suggest that McLuhanhas taken a relatively minor but recurring theme of Innis'work (perhapsonly a suggestion) and made it central to his entire argument. Conversely, McLuhan neglected ignoredthe principal has or argument developed by Innis. Both Innis and McLuhanagree that historically"the things on which words were written down count more than the words themselves"; that is, the mediumis the message.Startingfrom this proposition, engagein quitedifferent kindsof intellectual they bookkeeping,however,and are seizedby quite differentkinds of implications. Both McLuhanand Innis assumethe centrality communicaof kindsof effects tion technology;wheretheydifferis in the principal WhereasInnis seescommuthey see derivingfrom this technology. nication technologyprincipallyaffecting social organizationand culture,McLuhansees its principaleffect on sensoryorganization and thought. McLuhanhas much to say about perceptionand thoughtbut little to say aboutinstitutions;Innis says much about institutions little aboutperception thought. and and While McLuhan intellectually is linked to Innis,I think he can be more clearlyand usefullytied to a line of speculation socioin linguistics usuallyreferred as the Sapir-Whorf to hypothesis. The Sapir-Whorfhypothesisproposes that the language a of speakeruses has a determininginfluenceon the character his thought. While it is a truism that men think with and through language,EdwardSapir and BenjaminLee Whorf proposedthat the very structure reality-if I may use that grandiose and overof workedphrase-is presented individuals When to throughlanguage. a personacquires languagehe not only acquiresa way of talking a but also a way of seeing,a way of organizingexperience, way of a the discriminating real world.Language,so the argumentgoes, has

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built into its grammarand lexiconthe very structure perception. of Individuals discriminate objects eventsin termsof the vocabulary and provided language. by Further, individuals derivetheirsenseof time, theirpatterns classifications, categories persons, of their for theirperin termsof the tenses,the genders,the pronouns, ceptionof action, the pluralizations arepossible theirlanguage.This argument, that in then, largelyreducesthe structure perception thoughtto the of and structure language. of McLuhanadoptsthe form of argument providedby the SapirWhorfhypothesis with two important modifications. First,he adopts a quite unorthodox characterization the grammarof a language. of Second,he extendsthe "grammatical analysis" modesof commuto nicationsuchas printand television which are normallynot treated as typesof languages. McLuhandoesnot view the grammar a mediumin termsof of the formalproperties language, partsof speechor morphemes, of the normallyutilized in such an analysis.Instead,he arguesthat the grammarof a mediumderivesfrom the particular mixtureof the sensesthat an individualcharacteristically in the utilizationof uses the medium.For example,language-or better,speech-is the first of the massmedia.It is a devicefor externalizing thoughtand for fixing and sharing perceptions.As a means of communicaton, orchestration the sense.While speech of speechelicits a particular is an oralphenomenon givesriseto "ear-oriented and cultures" (culturesin which peoplemoreeasilybelievewhat they hearthan what or they see), oral communication synthesizes bringsinto play other men are awarenot sensualfaculties.For example,in conversation of only of the soundof wordsbut also of the visualproperties the speaker the settingof the tactle qualitiesof variouselementsof and the setting,and even certainolfactoryproperties the personand of the situation.These variousfacultiesconstituteparalleland simulconcludes that taneous modesof communication, thusMcLuhan and oral culturessynthesizethese variousmodalities,elicit them all or bring them all into play in a situationutilizing all the sensory Oralcultures, of apparatus the person. then,involvethe simultaneous interplayof sight, sound, touch, and smell and thus produce,in McLuhan's view, a depth of involvementin life as the principal communicationsmedium-oral speech-simultaneously activates

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facultiesthroughwhich men acquire all the sensory knowledgeand sharefeeling. However, speech is not the only mass medium, nor must it be adnecessarily the dominantmass medium. In technologically vanced societies,print, broadcasting, film can replacespeech and as the dominantmode throughwhich knowledgeand feeling are communicated. such societiesspeechdoes not disappear, it In but assumesthe characteristics the dominantmedium.For example, of in literatecommunitiesoral traditionsdisappearand the content of spokencommunication the writtentradition. is Speechno longer followsits own laws.Ratherit is governed the laws of the written by This meansnot only that the "content" speechis what tradition. of has previouslybeen written but that the cadenceand imagery of everyday speechis the cadenceand imageryof writing. In literate men have difficulty communities, believingthat the rich, muscular, graphic,almostmultidimensional speechof OscarLewis' illiterate Mexicanpeasants was producedby such "culturally deprived" persons. But for McLuhanspeechas an oral tradition,simultaneously is the utilizing many modes of communication, almostexclusively of province the illiterate. starts fromthe biological McLuhan of modes availability parallel for the production receptionof messages. and These modes-sight, touch,sound,and smell-do not exist independently are interbut dependentwith one another.Thus, to alter the capacityof one of the modes changesthe total relationsamong the sensesand thus alters the way in which individualsorganize experienceand fix All perception. this is clear enough. To removeone sense from a of personleads frequentlyto the strengthening the discriminatory powersof the othersensesand thus to a rearrangement not only of the sensesbut of the kind of experience personhas.Blindness a leads reliance and increasing to an increasing on powerof smelland touch as well as hearingas modesof awareness. Loss of hearingparticularly increasesone's relianceon sight. But, McLuhanargues,the ratiosbetweenthe sensesand the powerof the sensesis affectedby more than physicalimpairmentor, to use his term, amputation. Mediaof communication lead to the amputation the senses. also of Media of communication also encouragethe over-reliance one on sensefacultyto the impairment disuseof others.And thus,media or

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of communlcation impartto personsa particular of organizing way experience a particular of knowingand understanding and way the world in which they travel. Modesof communication, including speech,are, then, devices for fixing perception and organizingexperience. Print,by its technologicalnature,has built into it a grammar organizingexperifor ence, and its grammaris found in the particular ratio of sensory qualitiesit elicitsin its users.All communications mediaare, therefore,extensions man,or, better,areextensions somemix of the of of sensorycapacities man. Speechis such an extensionand thus the of firstmassmedium.As an extensionof man, it castsindividuals a in unique,symbiotic relationto the dominantmode of communication in a culture. is to This symbiosis not restricted speechbut extendsto dominates culture.This exwhatevermediumof communication a tensionis by way of projecting certainsensory of capacities the individual.As I havementioned, speechinvolvesan extension develand opmentof all the senses.Othermedia,however,are morepartialin theirappealto the senses. of communiThe exploitation a particular cationstechnologyfixes particular sensoryrelationsin membersof it worldview; a society. fixingsucha relation, determines society's By a It that is, it stipulates characteristic of organizingexperience. way thus determines formsof knowledge, structure perception, the the of and the sensory equipmentattunedto absorb reality. are Media of communication, consequently, vast social metaphors that not only transmitinformationbut determinewhat is knowledge; that not only orientus to the world but tell us what kind of worldexists; thatnot only exciteand delightour sensebut, by alteringthe ratio of sensoryequipmentthat we use, actually changeour character. This is, I think,the coreof McLuhan's It argument. can be most viewedas an attempt,albeita creative imaginative and conveniently to attempt,to extendthe Sapir-Whorf hypothesis includeall forms of socialcommunication. Let me attempt to illustrate this abstruseargument with McLuhan's of meansof communianalysis print.Print,the dominant cationin the West, dependson phoneticwriting.Phoneticwriting the translated oral into the visual; that is, it took soundsand translated them into visual symbols.Printingenormously extendedand

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speededup this processof translation, turning societieshistorically dependentupon the ear as the principalsourceof knowledgeinto are societies in dependent uponthe eye.Printcultures cultures which are into in seeingis believing, whichoraltraditions translated written form, in which men have difficulty believingor remembering oral speech-names, stories,legends-unless they first see it written.In short, in print culturesknowledge is acquiredand experienceis confirmed sight: as theysay,by seeingit in writing.Menconfirm by theirimpressions Saturday's of footballgame by readingaboutit in Sundaymorning's paper. on Besides makingus dependent the eye,printingimposesa parPrintorganizes ticularlogic on the organization visualexperience. of reality into discrete,uniform, harmonious,causal relations.The model visualarrangement the printedpage becomesa perceptual of by which all realityis organized. The mentalset of print-the desire to breakthings down into elementary units (words), the tendency to seerealityin discrete and units,to find causalrelations linearserial order (left to right arrangement the page), to find orderlystrucof ture in nature(the orderlygeometryof the printedpage)-is transferredto all other social activities. Thus, scienceand government, artand architecture, work and education in becomeorganized terms of the implicitassumption into the dominantmediumof combuilt
munication.

To individualism specialization. and Moreover, printencourages live in an oralculture, acquires one knowledgeonly in contactwith other people, in terms of communalactivities.Printing,however, to allowsindividuals withdraw, contemplate meditateoutside to and of communal activities.Print thus encouragesprivatization, the lonely scholar,and the developmentof private,individualpoints of view. McLuhanthus concludesthat printingdetribalizes man. It removeshim from the necessity participating a tightly knit oral in of culture.In a notion apparently taken from T. S. Eliot, McLuhan contendsthat print disassociates senses,separatingsight from the a and existence;andsupports sound; encourages private withdrawn the growthof specialization. Aboveall, printleadsto nationalism, it allowsfor the visual for of apprehension the mothertongueand throughmapsa visualappre-

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to hensionof the nation.Printingallowsthe vernacular be standardized and the mothertongue to be universalized througheducation. such While the book usheredin the age of print,developments the have only intensified implications as newspapers magazines and of print: extreme visualnationalism, specalisttechnology occuand of view. pations,individualism and privatepoints insiststhat the meaningand effect McLuhan By suchargument is of anycommunications innovation to be foundin the way it strucsurturesthoughtand perception. The excitement which currently from his extension this argument the of roundsMcLuhan derives to and newermediaof communication, particularly television, the effect traditionof print and on thesenewermediahave on the venerated man. the mentallife of contemporary the basedon printis dead.A science For McLuhan, civilization for encourbasedon its assumptions, which searches causalrelations, fostersthe specialization ages orderly,non-contradictory argument, and compartmentalization knowledge, is obsolete. Education of whichrelieson the bookand the lecture-itself merelyreadingfrom written script-and the traditionalmodes of sciencesis likewise obsolete. Print culturewas doomed,so McLuhanargues,by the innovathe tion of telegraphy, first of the electronicmedia. Radio further the undercut hegemonyof print,but the triumphof electronic communication over print awaitedthe permeation the entiresociety of McLuhanconcludes, first We the by television. are now observing, generation weanedon televisionfor whom the book and printing kinds of media.It is not only aresecondary, remote,and ephemeral has as that television, StormJameson recendyargued,leadsto a deof valuation the writtenword.Televisionis not only anothermeans for transmitting new way of organinformation;it is alsoa radically izing experience. Unlike print, televisionis not merelyan eye medium but utilizesa much broader That rangeof sensory equipment. televisionmarriessight and sound is obvious; but McLuhanalso arguesthat televisionis a tactilemedium as well. Television,as a resultof the scanning is of systemon which it operates, capable conof veying or eliciting a sense of touch. Thus, in the apprehension not television only the eye but the earand the handarebroughtinto the play. Televisionre-orchestrates senses; it engages,if you will, the whole man,the entirerangeof sensory qualitiesof the person.

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inimitablephrases, televisonis, in one of McLuhan's Moreover, a cool medium.By this McLuhanmeans only that television,like the cartoonand line drawing, is low in information.You don't merelywatch a televisionscreen.You engage it; you are forcedto The capacity the screen of addinformation completethe message. to to transmitinformationis determinedby the numberof lines in the scanningsystem.In Americantelevisionthe scanningsystemis particularly 525 lines, and thus the mediumis low in informalow, tion relativeto say, movies. Thus the viewer must get involved; he must fill in auditory, visual,and tactilecues for the messageon
the screento be completed. Becausetelevision appealsto all the senses,

mediumin frontof which because is a coolor active, it participational a viewercannotremainpassive,a culturein which televisionis the dominantmediumwill producea personcharacteristically different than will a culturebasedon print. in McLuhan we observes are now witnessimg maturitythe first generation who were suckledon television,who acquiredthe conventions television of long beforeit acquired traditional printliteracy. the The generational we now observe contrasting withdrawn, gap by studentof the fifties with the active,involved, private,specializing generaliststudentof the sixtiesMcLuhanrestsat the door of television. For the characteristic differencesin these generationsare betweenprint and televisionas devices paralleled the differences by of communication. desireof students involvement parThe and for for ticipation, talkingratherthan reading,for seminars ratherthan in lectures,for actionratherthan reflection, short for participation and involvement ratherthanwithdrawal observation ascribes and he to the re-orchestration the sensesprovokedby television. of The conflict betweengenerations whichwe arenow so acutely of awareis ultimately conflictbetweena generation a bredon the book and a generationbred on the tube and relatedforms of electronic communication. The generational gap involves much more than politics and education,of course.In every area of life McLuhan observesyouth assertingforms of behavior,demandingkinds of which engagethe total self. Danceand dress,musicand experience, hair styles,must not only have a "look"; they must also have a and "sound" aboveall a "touch." They must appealto all the senses It simultaneously. is not only that youthwantsexperience;it wants that unifiesratherthan dissociates senses.Moreover, experience the

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in the new stylesof literature which destroyall the conventions of print,in the new argotswhich destroyall the conventions tradiof tionalgrammar, the new stylesof politicalactionwhich demean in the traditionally radicalforms of ideologyand organization, the in demands changein education, music,in art,in dance,in dress, for in him to the inteMcLuhansees the re-tribalization man restoring of gratedconditionof the oral cultureim which the sensualcapacities of men are againmade whole. involvesthe extensionin space This re-tribalization presumably of the entirenervous system.Sight,hearing,and tactilityderivefrom a nervoussystemoriginallycontainedwithin the skin. Each of the mediahas in turn extendedthese mechanisms, these aspectsof the nervoussystem,beyondthe skin.They haveexternalized them.The book and cameraextendthe eye, radioand the listeningdeviceextend the ear,television extendsnot only the eye and the earbut also in the hand.Electriccircuitry generalrepresents extensionof the an entire nervoussystem.Think, for example,of the imageryof the with its networkof wiresand nodeslinkedto a television computer mediaareextensystem.This is the sensein which communications sions of man-extending with the aid of the computerthe entire sensoryand neurological systemof the personin space,heightening the capacity the organism receiveand digestinformation, of literto into now extended his technology an inforallyturningthe person by mationprocessing system. It is throughsuch an analysisthat McLuhanarrivesat or exhis presses centralpoint: everymediumof communication possesses a logic or grammar which constitutes set of devicesfor organizing a The of experience. logic or grammar eachmediumwhich dominates an age impresses itself on the usersof the medium,thus dictating what is defined as truth and knowledge.Communication media, then, determinenot only what one thinks aboutbut literallyhow one thinks. In the exposition this notionMcLuhan, course, of of treatsmore than printand television. in These are merelythe endpoints an exon positionthat includescommentary films, radio, cartoons,light and bulbs,politicalcandidates, virtuallyeveryother techniqueand folly of man.Butin eachcasehe attempts determine grammar to the inherentin the technologyof the medium.While McLuhannor-

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mally definesthe grammar a mediumin termsof the senseratios of it elicits, he frequentlyresortsto the more simplifiedmethod of designatingmedia as "hot"or "cold."A hot medium is one that presents lot of information one sense; it bombards receiver a the in with information in another or, favoritephrase, in high definition. is A cool medium,or one in low definition, a mediumthat presents is relatively little information;the receiver must completethe image, mustaddvaluesto whatis presented him and is thusmoreinvolvto ing or participational. halftonephoto in four colorsis visually The hot; the cartoonis visuallycool. Printis a hot medium,television a cool medium. The quality of having temperature applies also to persons cultures, and danceanddress, autosandsports. Temperature, then, is anotherway of designatinggrammar.However,it is the This is least satisfactory all McLuhan's of conceptsand arguments. unfortunate, because most criticsit is the terms"hot"and "cool" for which aretakento be McLuhan's to principal contribution the study of media,and a lot of unanswerable criticalfire can be heapedon McLuhanat this point. The terms"hot"and "cool"are appliedin very haphazard ways. Media that are hot one minute seem to be coolanother. is impossible tell if temperature a absolute It to is propertyof a mediumor whethera mediumis hot or cool relatve only to some other medium.And the classification media into these of categories seemsto be alwaysquitearbitrary. McLuhan's argumentdoes not, however,stand or fall on the and usageof the terms"hot" "cool." One can simplyagreethatwhile and mediado possess inherent an the grammar, exactstructure logic of this grammar not, as yet, been particularly workedout. has well Somelatitudeshouldbe allowedMcLuhan this pointanyway.He at obviously doing a good deal of experimenting is with the classification of media.There is little resemblance betweenthe classification one findsin the "firstedition" Understanding of Media (a reportto the UnitedStates Office Education, of i96o) andthatin the McGrawHill edition currentlyin circulation. argumentmust, I think, His be assessed termsof its most generalpoint: men standin a symin bioticrelationto all media,and consequently dominantmode of the communication dictatesthe characterof perceptionand through the perception structure mind. of

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At this point I would like to make some criticalnotes on the in My that have been presented. only reluctance doing arguments targetsfor so is that Innis and McLuhanpresentratherconvenient Also, are theirarguments so unconventional. if criticism only because is be reminded, easy.It is still harderto writenovels let criticism, us of not than to writereviews.Further, only the structure McLuhan's invistandas an incautious popularity but argument alsohis current tation to criticismand thus most criticalfire that I might muster is, McLuhan after Marshall be would inevitably aimedat McLuhan. all, not only a socialanalyst; he is also a prophet,a phenomenon, His a happening, socialmovement. workhasgivenriseto an ideola ogy-mcluhanisme-and a mass movement producing seminars, in clubs,art exhibits,and conferences his name. Besides,I'm convincedthat a technicalcritiqueof McLuhan If is a ratheruselessundertaking. RobertMertoncannot dent his in armorby pointingout inconsistencies his argumentand lacunae I'm in his observations, quite sure that my own lesserintellectual I luminosityshallhavelittle effecton McLuhanor his devotees. am as thinkinghere of such inconsistencies the fact that while he is a his seriouscritic of traditionallogic and rationality, argumentis of built upon linear causality,and illustrative all the mechanistic, deficiencies this type of analysis.His terminologyis ill-defined of he usedand maddeningly obtuse.Moreseriously, and inconsistently has a view of mind, directlyadoptedfrom the tabularasaof John by but Locke, that is not only simple-minded contradicted much of the work currentlybeing done in linguistics,psychology,and But psychotherapy. I sensethat such criticismis analogousto critiin by cizing Christianity pointingout contradictions the Bible. McLuhanis beyondcriticismnot only becausehe definessuch his but activityas illegitimate alsobecause work doesnot lend itself It to criticalcommentary. is a mixtureof whimsy,pun, and innuendo. These things are all right in themselves,but unfortunately one cannottell what he is seriousaboutand what is mere whimsy. but, in his own His sentencesare not observations assertions or a Unfortunately, probeis a neutralinstrument language,"probes." its aboutwhich one can saynothingbut congratulate inquisitiveness. One may resisthis probesor yield to their delights,but to quarrel with them is ratherbesidethe point.

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remains.I a enterprise Despite these disclaimers, manageable would like to judge McLuhan's argumentnot in absoluteor universaltermsbut only in relationto the work of Innis.If we can for on the momentgrantthe centralassumption the role of communius cationstechnologyin socialchange,who has presented with the morepowerfuland usefulargument?This is a questionboth manageableand germaneto the paper.Lessgermanebut at least of imI question wouldlike to raise: what portance me is the concluding to prophetof our times? I is it that makes McLuhanan acceptable think the answer to this questionwill also shed some important light on the argumentof Innis. I have suggestedthat Innis arguedthat the most visible and importanteffectsof media technologywere on social organization and through social organizationon culture.Radio and television, I assumeInnis would argue,are light mediathat quicklyand easily electronic signals, Moreover, transmit largeamountsof information. while highly perishable, difficultto control.Unlike print, elecare as tronicmediado not recognizenationalboundaries, the Canadians mediais to extend havediscovered. Thus,the effectof the electronic the spatialbias of print,to make new forms of human association one's senseof time. As spatiallybiased possible,and to foreshorten evenwhen usedby religiousinstitutions, media,radioand television, and to contribute the growinghegemonyof secularauthority to the extensionof politicalinfluence space.Further,they have contribin of uted to the weakeningof traditionand to the secularization religion. Or so Innismight haveit. effectof the media-the effect McLuhan treatsquite a different of the medianot on socialorganization on sensory but organization. Innis and McLuhando treatboth As I have previously mentioned, is organization a kindsof effects.The effectof the mediaon sensory McLuhanalso treats minorbut persistent themein Innis'writings.3
3Here are some examples culled at random from Innis' writings: "Scholars were concernedwith letters ratherthan sounds and linguistic instructionemphasized eye philology ratherthan ear philology."(Empire and Communications, p. I59) "The discoveryof printing in the middle of the I5th century implied the beginning of a return to a type of civilization dominatedby the p. eye ratherthan the ear." (The Bias of Communication, 138) "Introduction of the alphabetmeanta concernwith sound ratherthan with sight or with the

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the effectsof mediaon socialorganization, the previous as discussion of nationalism,specialization,science, and education illustrated. However,the majordirectionand thus the implicationof the two argumentsis quite different.Moreover, McLuhan,deliberately or otherwise, confusesthese two quite differenteffectsof media technology.Much of his evidenceis not directedat nor does it support his analysisof the sensorybias of media. Ratherit supportsInnis' bias claim for the institutional organizational of media.For exor ample,xerography, processwhich very much interests a McLuhan, is an important in While the innovation innovation communication. is basedupon discoveries electronic in technology, usualproduct its is lineartype of the printedpage.The effect nonetheless the orderly, is of xerography not on sensory organization. However, increasing by can and the rateof speedat which information be transmitted reproof duced,by allowingfor the rapidrecombination printedmaterials, xerography does encouragethe creationof novel vehiclesof communicationand novel groups of readers.That is, xerography encouragesor at least permits certain structuralreorganizations of socialgroups.Developments offsetprintinghave a similareffect. in My argumentis simplythat the most visibleeffectsof commuand nicationstechnologyare on socialorganization not on sensory Much of McLuhan's evidencecan be more plausibly, organization. directly,and productively used in supportof the form of argument offeredby Innis. I will subsequently return to this point. Here I much want to suggestthat Innisprovidesa moreplausible accountin ing of the principal phenomena questionand is of greaterusefulness to studentsof the historyof mass communication. preferMy encesfor Innis are partlyaesthetic;they stem partlyfrom a simple aversionto much of what McLuhanrepresents. additionI feel In that Innis'argumentwill be ultimatelyproductive more signifiof cant scholarship. Finally,I feel that McLuhan's positionawaitsthe samefate as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which it is so closelytied. to The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, while it is a perfectly plausible notion,
ear rather than the eye." (The Bias of Communication, pp. 40-4I) "In oral intercoursethe eye, ear and brain acted together in busy co-operationand rivalryeach eliciting, stimulatingand supplementing other."(The Bias of the Communication, p. io6) "The ear and the concernwith time began to haveits influenceon the arts concernedwith eye and space."(The Bias of Communication, p. II0)

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of has never turnedout to be productive much insight or research advancedthe study of language and peror to have particularly ception. I The samefate awaitsMcLuhan, fear,and stemsfrom an argubetweenthe positions.For McLuhanstateshis mentativesimilarity caseon verygeneralgroundsand defendsit on verynarrowgrounds. actingon the Because views the effectof the mediaas principally he senses,his entireargumentultimatelyrestson the narrowgrounds This is, I think, a very weak founof the psychology perception. of This dationto support sucha vastsuperstructure. is not only because are of many of his commentson the psychology perception highly but given what we know aboutthe comquestionable, also because how such a vast range it plexityof behavior, is hard to understand When McLuhan of socialphenomena to be so simplyexplained. are is writing aboutthe oral traditionand aboutprint, areaswhere he is backedby the extensivescholarship Innis, his work has a coof of and to gency and integration is sensitive the complexity the problems at hand (for example,in large portionsof The Gutenberg Galaxy). When he probesbeyond these shoresinto the world of the televisionand the computer, watergets very muddyindeed,for society here he attemptsto explain every twitch in contemporary on the basis of the sensoryreorganization brought about by the media. I do not have the time, nor the knowledge, to examine However, a couple of problems McLuhan's theory of perception. of should be pointedout.4The phenomenon sensoryclosureupon which McLuhan'stheory is built is a very primitiveperceptual on mechanism. is foundin all experiments perception, It thoughnot the ways.Moreover, gestaltmovementin psyalwaysin predictable chologywas basedupon the operationof this mechanism,though it was largely limited to the study of visual closure.An obvious argumentis his isolationof this primitive strengthof McLuhan's of and importantperceptual phenomenonand his generalization the phenomenonbeyond visual closure to include the relations that the patternof among all the senses.However,the assumption of sensoryclosureis dictatedby the structure the mediaseemsto be and an unnecessary unwarranted oversimplification.
4HereI am indebtedto Sidney Robinovitch the Universityof Illinois. of

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the For example,McLuhanseverelyoverestimates inflexibility an While any given mediumconfronts of mediaof communication. media still allow wide latiartistwith certaininherentconstraints, McLuhandoes not tude for innovationand artisticmanipulation. thatanymediumcanbe used,in anyhistorical consider, example, for Speechand writing, or period,either discursively presentationally. can presentation, also be while they have a bias towarddiscursive used presentationally. is difficultto imaginewhy McLuhandoes It and discursive not utilize the distinctionbetween presentational theory.5 in of forms,a distinction someimportance modernaesthetic form have no individuated meaning Elementsin a presentational but take on meaningonly in relationto the whole. Elementsin a discursive form have individuated meaning and the elementscan be combined formalrules.Ordinary languageis highlydiscursive, by And but it can be used presentationally. "thisis the distinguishing of markof poetry.The significance a poeticsymbolcan be appreciated only in the contextof the entirepoem." The samecan be said of otherforms.A given mediumof comor municationmay favor discursivepresentation the presentation in but of perceptual gestalts, they can be and aremanipulated either forces: they limit genre. These media are, of course,constraining of capacities men. But and controlto some degree the expressive the to the historyof theseformsis the historyof attempts overcome to inherent mediaof communication, make in deficiencies seemingly the media bend to thought and imaginationratherthan allowing to by thoughtand imagination be imprisoned them.Thus,metaphor and and simile, incongruityand hyperbole,personification irony, and productive devices,for overcoming are all devices,imaginative of while print, the formalconstraints speechand writing.Similarly, conradio and television,and movies have inherenttechnological straints,artistswithin these media have constantlystruggled to overcomethe limitationsof the form through invention of new Think only of the historyof film modesof symbolic representation. editing. While McLuhanfrequentlyexcludesartistsfrom the laws of
5Susanne K. Langer, Philosophyin a New Key (Harvard University Press, '957).

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perceptual determinism, does not excludeaudiences. he However,I want to suggestthat devicessuchas metaphor, simile,and personificationareusednot only by artists arepartof the linguisticreperbut toire of every five-year-old child. They are devicesthroughwhich of all of us attemptto overcomethe inherentconstraints speech. Thereis, I suspect, and muchmorefreedomin perception invention in everyday than McLuhanis willing to admit.To communication proposethe audienceas an empty vessel,a black box, that has no significantautonomous existencebut is, instead,filled or wired up by sources exclusively external the self is not only to denyan enorto dismissa sigmousamountof everyday evidence also to casually but The empty nificantamountof reasonably soundscientificevidence. but organismview of the self is, I think, not only pernicious also unsupportable from the evidenceat hand on perception. But the most importantcriticismto make of McLuhanis that much of the argumenthe wants to make and most of the contemporaryphenomenahe wants to explain-particularlythe conflict betweengenerations-can be more effectivelyhandled within the frameworkprovidedby Innis. Furthermore, utilizationof the the perspective Innis opensup, I think, a numberof importantand of researchable questionsand puts the argumentonce more in a historicalcontext. In this final sectionlet me tentativelyattemptto bring Innis' it argument todate;thatis,toextend fromtheearly up I950's, where he left it, into the I96o's. You will remember that Innis arguedthat Westernhistorybegan with temporalbias and was ending with spatialbias.I want to suggestthatcontemporary developments the in electronic mediahave intensified spatialbias.Electronic this media, with particularly the innovation satellite of broadcasting, increasingly transcendall nationalboundaries, therebyweakeningnationalism or at leasttendingto undercutthe parochial limitations national of identifications. Further,suchmediaare a potentforcein generating a more universal, world-wideculturewhich is urban,secular,and, in Innis'terms,unstable. Let me put it this way. Among primitivesocieties in earlier and stagesof Westernhistory,relativelysmall discontinuities space in led to vast differences culture and social organization. in Tribal societies separated a hundredmiles could have entirelydifferent by

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formsof economic, political,and religiouslife and grosslydissimilar systemsof expressive symbolism, myth, and ritual.However,within thesesocieties therewas a greatcontinuity cultureand socialstrucof ture over generations. Formsof life changedslowly,of course,and the attitudes, hopes,fears,and aspirations a boy of fourteenand of a man of sixty were remarkably similar.This does not mean there wereno conflicts betweenage groupsin suchsocieties. Suchconflicts are probably inevitable only because biologicalchangesaccomif of panyingaging. However,the conflictoccurredwithin a systemof shared attitudes valuesandwithina systemof mutualdependenand cies acrossage groups.Suchsocieties were basedon an oraltradition with a strong temporalbias. The continuityof culturewas maintainedby a shared,collectivesystemof ritualand by the continuity of passage ritesmarkingoff the entrance individuals various of into stagesof the life cycle. In such a world, then, there were vast differencesbetweensocieties relatively but little variation betweengenerationswithin a given society. In Innis' terms, temporalmedia in producevast continuityin time and great discontinuity space. The spatial of modernmedia,initiated printbutradically bias by extendedby film and the electronic media,has reversed relations the betweentime and space.Spacein the modernworld progressively factor.As spacebecomesmore condisappears a differentiating as in become tinuous,regionalvariations cultureand social structure ground down. Further,as I have alreadysuggestedand as other modernwritershave persuasively argued,the rise of a world-wide of urbancivilizationbuilt upon the speed and extensiveness travel and electronicmedia have progressively diminished-though they variahave come nowherenear eliminating-spatial,transnational It tion in cultureand social structure. is this fact which has led to keen of the anthroClaudeLevi-Strauss re-echothe traditional that primitivesocietiesmust be intensivelystudied now pologist becausethey are rapidlydisappearing. If in fact the spatialbiasof contemporary media does lead to a within nationsand transreduction regionalvariation of progressive nationalvariation betweennations,one mustnot assumethat differas ences between groups are being obliterated some mass society As of the process homogenization. Levi-Strauss theorists characterize builtinto the species of hasargued, theremaybe a principle diversity

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of or, from our standpoint, built into the organization man'scommunication. am suggestingthat the axis of diversityshifts from I a spatialor structural dimensionto a temporalor generational dimension. If in primitive societies time is contnuous and space dis-

continuous, modernsocietiesas space becomescontinuoustime in becomesdiscontinuous. what seems like an ironic twist of lanIn biased guage,spatially biased mediaobliterate spacewhile temporally mediaobliterate time.The spatialbiasof modernmedia,which have in eliminatedmany spatialvariations cultureand social structure, have simultaneously intensifiedthe differences betweengenerations in within the samesociety.The differences modernsocietybetween a boy of fourteenand a man of sixty-differencesin languageand values,symbolsand meanings-are enormous. is modernsocieties It It thatface the problem generations. is not only thatconflictacross of but betweengenage groupscontinues therearegrossdiscontinuities erationsin culture and symbols,perhapsbest symbolizedby the This inversion the relaphrase,"Don'ttrustanyoneoverthirty."6 in tion of time and spacein contemporary societyseemsto me a logical The inversiondependson the obserextensionof Innis'argument. vationthat spatiallybiasedmediaobliterate spaceand lead men to live in a non-spatial world. Simultaneously, such media fragment time and make it progressively discontinuous. Temporalmedia,on the otherhand, obliterate time, lead men to live in a non-temporal world,but fragmentspace. I thinkit is important remember Innisarguedthatmedia to that a towardtime or space.He was possessed bias or a predisposition not arguingfor some simple mono-causality. Thus, if generations in have becomean increasingly axis important of diversity, modern society,the causesincludefactorsotherthan the mediabut to which I the mediaare linkedin a syndrome. cannot,of course,attemptto trace out all such factorshere, but a couple should be mentioned
60f course, generationaldiscontinuityis a universal of history. Normally, these discontinuities explainedby the periodicand randomshocksto a sysare tem caused by relatively unsystematicvariables such as wars, depressions, no famines,etc. I am suggestingthat generational discontinuity longer depends on these randomshocksto the systembut that generationaldiscontinuities are now endogenous factors,built into the normaloperationof the systemand very much "caused" the bias of contemporary communication. by

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and of value.The importance generations if only for theirsuggestive is discontinuity linked most directly of the phenomena generational societiesthat to the rateof technicalchange.In traditional societies, as changevery slowly,the old are likely to be venerated the reposias toriesof the oral traditionand, consequently, the storagebanks of tribalwisdom. In societiessuch as ours, where knowledgeand techniquechangeveryrapidly,the old are not likely to be so venerand of ated.It is the young,the bearers the new techniques knowlAs edge,thatarelikely to haveboth the powerand the prestige. the system,it is in transmission this knowledgeis in the educational of are discontinuities likely to become this institution that generational knowledge rapidlychangingtechnical most apparent. Also, because to beyondschool,the old arelikely to be continuis difficult acquire ally threatenedby competitionfrom the young, to be subjectto bearing and fairly earlyobsolescence, conflictsbetweengenerations valuesare likely to becomea fact different knowledgeand different of life in all institutions. by This conflictis mutedand disguisedsomewhat the reorganiof zation of the age composition society.Some 4o per cent of the populationis now under twenty, and within the year 50 per cent With the rapidexpanof the population will be undertwenty-five. the such as education, young sion of the economyand institutions and thusthe intenoverwhelm oldergeneratonsmerelyby numbers, sity of the conflictis freqentlymaskedby the ease of the political solutions. One thus mustnot discountthe sheerfact of largernumof in bersin youngergenerations heighteningour awareness generaThe of tionaldiscontinuity. proportion youthin the totalpopulation lengtheningof adolescence; is also intensifiedby the progressive that is, one is young much longer todaythan in previouscenturies. causednot only by the media of Finally,the weakening tradition dominance but alsoby the paceof technicalchangeand progressive processintensifies,I of the educational systemin the socialization I discontinuity. am led to this argumentby the think, generational elementsin the societyare less able to provide belief that structural useful and stableidentity patternsto youth. Religious,ethnic, reare gional, and classidentifications weakening,and they are identiand As in fications whicharenot temporal character. religious ethnic more important identity becomes traditionsweaken, generational

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as a meansof placingoneselfand organizingone'sown self-conception. This is truenot only in the societyat largebut also in all subof identityis enordinateinstitutions. The importance generational hanced by the decline of ritual and passagerites which formerly structural identity. servedas devicesfor confirming symbolizing and In addition,thesestructural simplycomeinto conflict with identities led one another, they counterpoint, the young arefrequently to and in rejectall pastidentitiesand seize upon membership a generation is happeningto them. This is a as the key to understanding what phenomenonErik Eriksonhas usefully analyzedunder the label the "totalism" youth. of I am suggestingthat generations becomingmore important are sourcesof solidaritythan other social groups in spite of Harold that being a memberof an age group is Rosenberg's observation the lowest form of solidarity. The spreadof a world-wideurban civilization meansof communication builtuponrapidandephemeral ultimatelymeans that individualsof the same age in Warsaw, in Moscow,Tokyo, and New York sensea membership a common age group and feel they have more in commonwith one another than with individuals olderand youngerwithin theirown societies. When Innis This is a phenomenon which Innis did not anticipate. spoke of competitionto establisha monopoly of knowledge, he or coming from institutions normallywas thinkingof competition or structural groups: competitionfrom the clergy,politicians, the middle classes.Similarly,when other scholarshave spoken of the role of groupsin socialchange,theyhavenormallythoughtof structuralgroupssuch as the burghers, aristocracy, the Jews.The the or implicationof my suggestionis that the bearersof social change are increasingly age groups or generationsrather than structural individuals all agesbound of groups.Insteadof groupsrepresenting such characteristic as religion,race, togetherby a commonstructural or occupation, most important the groupsof the futurewill be those A of a common age who are structurally variegated. generational in groupfindsits solidarity a commonage even though some of its membersare Catholic,some Jewish,some Protestant, some northsome middle class, some working class. erners,some southerners, If this is correct, then politicalconflict,to choosejust one example, which we have normallythoughtof in structural terms as conflict

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between regions, classes, and religions becomes focused instead aroundgenerations. I correctly If interpretthe behaviorof Robert he Kennedy, is awareof the phenomenon. Now, unfortunately, things are neitheras neat,as simple,or as true as I have paintedthem in these pages. There are still strong differences within generations. One must speak of generations of musicians and novelists,physicists and sociologists, northerners and southerners, Catholics Jews.Obviously, has to pay attention and one to the intersection structural of such as class and generavariables tionalvariables the entireanalysis or quicklyslidesinto a tautology. But I do think that in modern society generationsbecomemore important all spheres life. Thereis a competition namegenin of to erations, symbolize to them,to characterize meaningof a generthe ation. There is a competitionwithin and between generations to choosethe cultureby which the generation shallbe known.Further, there is competitionto impose the cultureof a generationon the entiresociety. And this,of course, what Innismeantby a monopoly is of knowledge.It was only a few yearsago that David Riesmanwas suggestingthat the media, particularly television,were devicesfor imposingthe cultureof the middleclasson the entiresociety. me Let merely suggest that the media, particularly television,are devices by which the cultureof youth is imposedon the entire society.In the competition determine to whose cultureshall be the officialculture and whose valuesthe officialnorms,the axis of conflictis between generations. These perhapsover-longnotes on the sociologyof generations I illustrate, hope, Innis'centralpoint: the principal effectof media technologyis on socialorganization. The capacity-ofInnis to deal with suchphenomena a reasonably in directand clearway leadsme to preferhis characterization mediaeffectsto that of McLuhan. of However,this does not mean that Innis will ever have the social impact or perhapseven the intellectualimpact of McLuhan,for McLuhan's appealand his meaningresidenot in the technical quality of his argumentbut in his capacity be an acceptable to prophet of our times.It is with an analysis the basisof McLuhan's of social appealthat I wish to close this paper. the Perhaps mostinteresting thing aboutMcLuhan the degree is

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of of success has enjoyed.Criticism his positionusuallystartsout, he by as doesthispaper,with the admission the criticthathe mayreprethat McLuhanmay be right in claiming sent an obsoletetradition, of that most scholars merely"prisoners print."Criticism, are suchas it is, usuallygives away the game beforethe playersare out of the dugout.No useful criticismcan be made of McLuhan,I am now Thereis no way of applyingstandconvinced, technical on grounds. to The only critiardsof verisimilitude verification his analysis. and cism of McLuhanthat can hope to be effectiveis one that admits to the possibility a systemof valuesand meaningspreferable those of work. implicitin McLuhan's I It is unfortunate, think, that someof the daringand exquisite processare largely insightsMcLuhanhas into the communication his vitiatedby his style of presentation, manner,and his method. but The meaningof McLuhanis not in his message,his sentences, in his persona as a socialactor,in himselfas a vesselof socialmeaning. The meaningof McLuhanis, I want to argue,mythicaland utopian.Consequently, cannotask whetherhe is correctabout one the effectsof communication for technology, this is a questionirrelevant to his message.One can only determinehow one feels about towardlife implicitin his utopianprojections. the attitudes Unlike the traditional scholar,McLuhandealswith realitynot it an by trying to understand but by prescribing attitudeto take is His a towardit. McLuhan a poet of technology. work represents secularprayerto technology,a magical incantationof the gods, designedto quell one's fears that, after all, the machinesmay be it up takingover.Like any prayer, is designedto sharpen the pointless and to blunt the too sharplypointed.7 is designedto sharpen It up the mindlessand mundaneworld of popularculturewhich consumesso muchof our livesand to bluntdown the influence modof ern technologyon our personalexistence.The social function of of grossrealities existence, prayer I suppose, numbus to certain is, to realitiestoo painful to contemplate, complex to resolve.Ulttoo mately,McLuhanhimself is a mediumand that is his message.As a medium, he tells us we need no longer ask the imperishable truthsaboutthe questionsaboutexistenceor face the imperishable
7KennethBurke, A Grammar of Motives, N.Y.: Prentice Hall,
I945,

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of humancondition.The fundamental problems existenceare to be solved automatically and irreversibly the subliminaloperaion by of the machineson our psychiclife. McLuhanrepresents apocaan aboutthe futurethat can lyptic vision,an eschatological prediction quell our frequentlyambivalentfeelings about ourselvesand our inventons. He represents this guise the ultimatetriumphof the in technicalover the moral,for he tells us that concernsfor morals and values and meaningsin the age of electriccircuitryare unnecessary. HaroldInniswantedto preserve oraltradition and its charthe acteristic concern valuesand meaningin the face of a rampaging for technologyfavoringthe demandsof space.The oral traditionand moral orderwere importanteven if contemporary media did not supportsuch concerns.For McLuhan,on the other hand, modern technologyobviatesthe necessityof raisingmoralproblemsand of strugglingwith moral dilemmas.When asked if one can make moraljudgmentsabouttechnology,McLuhananswers:"Does one ask a surgeonin the middleof an operation surgeryis ultimately if good or bad?"I supposenot. But thereare dayson which the proprietyof surgery mustbe questioned. we had raisedthesequestions If some time ago we might have avoided a generationof frontal lobotomies. Letme be clearon the utopianandmythical of aspects McLuhan. While McLuhaninsiststhat he is not attackingprint and he is not an enemyof books,his publicmeaningis unmistakably follows: as printinggave rise to the Age of Reason,to scientificlogic, and to the liberaltradition. The liberaltraditionarguedthat human freedom is solely the result of man's rationality. McLuhancontends, the overemphasis reasonin the liberaltradition on however,that has resultedin man'salienation from himself,from othermen, and fromnatureitself.This is an important point,of course. is a theme It commonto many criticsof our civilization,is centralto the argumentof Innis,andis expressed muchmorecogentlyand persuasively in Norman0. Brown'sLife AgainstDeath. McLuhan's relevance stemsfrom the fact that he goes beyond this critiqueand arguesthatthe reunification man,the end of his of the of alienation, restoration the "wholeman"will resultfromautonomousdevelopments communications in All technology. individuals

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have to do to be put backin touch with their essential natureis to detachthemselves from traditionand submitto the sensorypowers >ofthe electronic media. We are being saved again! This time, however,the salvation does not entaila determined of will, the endurance suffering, act of the selflessness sacrifice, tormentof anxiety,but only the autoof the matic operation technology.I won't bore you by piling up quoof tationsin which McLuhanarguesthat the effect of the media on sensoryorganizationis automatic,without resistance, subliminal. Its operationis independentof the will and the wish of men. McLuhanthus represents speciesof a secularized, a religiousdeterminism,a modernCalvinismwhich says,"Everything gonna be is all right, baby." But is it? And shouldwe take it seriously?The only thing of which we can all be sureis that even in the age of electriccircuitry men arebornaloneandindividually attached natureandto society to by an umbilicalcord which all too quicklywithersaway.The fact of the terrible lonelinessand isolationof existence what has motiis vated much of the great art producedin any period of history. We should not need Eugene O'Neill to remind us in the face of McLuhan's onslaughts "manis bornbroken; he livesby mendthat ing; the graceof God is glue." Humancommunication, languageand everyothertechnique, by is the fragilemeansby which men attemptto overcome isolation the of existenceand wed themselvesto other men. Under the best of circumstances, communication rarelysuccessful, alwayshalting, is is is alwaystentative tenuous."Stammering the nativeeloquence and is of we fog people."But the act of communication, O'Neill and as Camusamong other modernartistsremindus, is the only source of joy and tragedyhumanshave. One can all too easilyforget that the word "communication" sharesits root with "communion" and and "community," it is the attemptto establish communion this that theoriesof communication, vulgar as they are in presentform, attempt to capture. McLuhan's relevanceand meaning residesin our attemptsto dealwith the dilemmaof communion. an age when men aremore In than ever dividedfrom the basisof an authenticcommunionwith one another,when men's relationswith machinesand technology

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seem more durableand importantthan their relationto one another,McLuhanfinds man'ssalvationin the technologyitself. For McLuhan(and I must admitfor Innis also), the vision of the oral traditionand the tribalsocietyis a substitute Eden, a romanticbut unsupportable vision of the past. What McLuhanis constructing, then, is a modernmyth, and like all mythsit attempts adjustus to to the uncomfortable The realities existence. Icemancomethagain of but this time in the cloak of the scientist.But even this shouldn't surprise for scienceis the only legitimate one, sourceof mythsin the modern world. Scienceis, of course,the unquestionedsource of authoritative knowledgein the modernworld.Scientific mythsenjoy the claim of beingfactuallytrue even if they are in no way demonstrable, even if they must be takenon faith, even if they attemptto Scientificmyths answerwhat are,afterall, unanswerable questions. havethe greatadvantage this self-conscious in societyof not appearing as myths at all but as truths,verifiedby or capableof being verifiedby the inscrutable methodsof the scientist. McLuhan's parableon the restorative powersof the media in is one more myth, one more of expandingthe consciousness man illusionby which men can organizetheirlives. Unlike most of the utopiasof the modernworld-I984, BraveNew World, The Rise and of the Meritocracy, even B. F. Skinner'sWaldenTwo-it celebratesnot the evils of technologybut its glories,not its inhumanity but its terrible Erosand not Thanatos.In a humanity; it celebrates whereelectric like it or not, a realityof existence world technology is, that shall not passaway,it attemptsto offer a justification optiof mism. McLuhan's vision quite closelyparallelsthe specification of modernmythsthat Emersonofferedin I848. For modernmythsto be effectivethey will have to be mechanical, scientific,democratic, and communal(socialistic). Whatfinallyis one to thinkaboutthis myth,thisNew Jerusalem the media are creating? One cannothelp being overwhelmed by its awful vulgarity,by its disconnection from whateversourcesof and tragedyremainin this world. Scott Fitzgerald joy, happiness, was right: Modernmen would invent gods suitableonly to seventeen-year-old Gatsbysand then would be about their Father's Jay business: service a vast,vulgar,and meretricious "the of beauty." One need not be againstmyths. Men live by illusions; only

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gods and devilsare withoutthem, and it is our illusionsultimately conthatmakeus human.But it is the qualityof moralimagination myth that is disquieting; it is as if it were tained in McLuhan's offeredas a scientific footnoteto Yeats'"TheSecondComing." himselfis the ultimateverifiFinally,let me note thatMcLuhan cationof the more propheticaspectsof Innis'work. For centralto that the spatialbias of comHaroldInnis'visionwas the certainty municationand the monopolyof knowledge forged in its name The divorce wouldleadto the triumph the secular overthe sacred. of of the writtenfrom the oral tradition now complete; the hegemis ony of scienceover religion,of technicalauthorityover moral auIf thority,has been accomplished. McLuhanis the prophetof the it collapseof all tradition, is fitting,I suppose,that it shouldbe eviIt dencedby a concernwith the media of communication. is also who views ironic that it should come from a studentof literature art as a vehicleof communication. as Allen Tate has reminded For an represents unas us, the veryconceptof literature communication overthe humanspirit."Our examined victoryof modernsecularism he as unexamined theoryof literature communication," saysin The in ForlornDemon, "couldnot have appeared an age in which commajorityof persons. munion was still possiblefor any appreciable The worldcommunication presupposes victoryof the secularized the society,of meanswithoutends." than I am. The death McLuhan, then,is no morerevolutionary of values he represents not some twentieth-century revolution. is It is the end point of a positivistic revolutionagainstmeaningand should And thus it is no surprise that his utopianism metaphysics. be basedon the sanctityof scienceand the fact. that But let me remindyou that it was precisely revolution this that he HaroldInnis triedto resist; it was preciselythis revolution in of saw as endingthe possibility a stablecivilization the West.For representative man'sconcernwith history of Innis,the oraltradition and metaphysics, if moralsand meaningshad to be preserved we werenot to fall victimto a sacred science.It politicsand a sanctified is an ironyand an uncomfortable that the prophecy borneout is fact by one who has identifiedhimselfas a disciple.But such is the frequentresultof discipleship.