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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Mini Review: Digital McLuhan

While Marshall McLuhan is a well known scholar and most people have heard his phrases, “global village” and”the medium is the message” bandied about, I admit that was the extent of my knowledge. After reading our first course module, I decided to learn more. I started with Paul Levinson’s Digitial McLuhan as an updated look at McLuhan’s ideas relate to social media.

I must thank Levinson for introducing more of McLuhan’s concepts to me. Here are a few:

  • McLuhan’s tetrad, his four questions of media:
  1. What does it enhance or amplify in the culture?
  2. What does it obsolesce or push out of prominence?
  3. What does it retrieve from the past, from the realm of the previously obsolesced?
  4. What does the medium reverse or flip into when it reaches the limits of its potential? (p.16)
  • Hot and cool: McLuhan uses hot to describe “loud, bright, clear and fixed” media or subjects (e.g. political candidates) while cool media or subjects are “soft, shadowy, blurred and changeable.” For example, movies seen in a theater are hot, while television is cool; radio is hot, while telephones are cool. Cool media engage us more because there’s more to pour over and consider.In this system, social media with its messiness and interactive possibilities are cool.
  • Discarnate: an interaction that does not involve the body (much*). This notion denotes the disconnect between the body and the message. Our voices are “disconnected” from our voices when we talk on the phone. When a dancer’s performance is uploaded to YouTube we can see the dance has been severed from the dancer in a sense. The term virtual has become the most popular expression for this idea. However, McLuhan’s discarnate seems more powerful to me because it emphasizes the message severing from the person who expressed it.
  • Light-through media: hypnotic media in which animated light comes through the media to the viewer, e.g. stained glass windows, television, computer screens, the sky. Such media hypnotize in a way and have a certain religious intensity.
  • Light-on media: light bounces off the medium so we can perceive it, e.g. books, magazines, paintings. Even the most glossy, vivid, masterfully done images and words don’t produce that little buzz that TV or computers do. It’s always easier to put down even the best book than it is to turn off an iPad that’s got a banal game or message. The iPad’s a light-through, whereas your favorite book is light-on.

These trenchant concepts help me understand my own experience using media. They explain why I can watch TV hour after hour, but can’t read all the books I’d like to in a week. I will use McLuhan’s questions in every reading and media I examine throughout the course.

Related: video interview of Digital McLuhan author, Paul Levinson.

References

Levinson, P. (1999). Digital McLuhan. London, UK: Routledge.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2013 in non-fiction

 

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Digital McLuhan, Part One

While Marshall McLuhan is a well known scholar and most people have heard his phrases, “global village” and”the medium is the message” bandied about, I admit that was the extent of my knowledge. After reading our first course module, I decided to learn more. I started with Paul Levinson’s Digitial McLuhan as an updated look at McLuhan’s ideas relate to social media.

I must thank Levinson for introducing more of McLuhan’s concepts to me. Here are a few:

  • McLuhan’s tetrad, his four questions of media:
  1. What does it enhance or amplify in the culture?
  2. What does it obsolesce or push out of prominence?
  3. What does it retrieve from the past, from the realm of the previously obsolesced?
  4. What does the medium reverse or flip into when it reaches the limits of its potential? (p.16)
  • Hot and cool: McLuhan uses hot to describe “loud, bright, clear and fixed” media or subjects (e.g. political candidates) while cool media or subjects are “soft, shadowy, blurred and changeable.” For example, movies seen in a theater are hot, while television is cool; radio is hot, while telephones are cool. Cool media engage us more because there’s more to pour over and consider.In this system, social media with its messiness and interactive possibilities are cool.
  • Discarnate: an interaction that does not involve the body (much*). This notion denotes the disconnect between the body and the message. Our voices are “disconnected” from our voices when we talk on the phone. When a dancer’s performance is uploaded to YouTube we can see the dance has been severed from the dancer in a sense. The term virtual has become the most popular expression for this idea. However, McLuhan’s discarnate seems more powerful to me because it emphasizes the message severing from the person who expressed it.
  • Light-through media: hypnotic media in which animated light comes through the media to the viewer, e.g. stained glass windows, television, computer screens, the sky. Such media hypnotize in a way and have a certain religious intensity.
  • Light-on media: light bounces off the medium so we can perceive it, e.g. books, magazines, paintings. Even the most glossy, vivid, masterfully done images and words don’t produce that little buzz that TV or computers do. It’s always easier to put down even the best book than it is to turn off an iPad that’s got a banal game or message. The iPad’s a light-through, whereas your favorite book is light-on.

These trenchant concepts help me understand my own experience using media. They explain why I can watch TV hour after hour, but can’t read all the books I’d like to in a week. I will use McLuhan’s questions in every reading and media I examine throughout the course.

Related: Video interview of Digital McLuhan author, Paul Levinson.

References
Levinson, P. (1999). Digital McLuhan. London, UK: Routledge.

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 19, 2013 in Theory

 

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Word of the Week

niminy-piminy, adj.
[‘Mincing, affected; without force, drive, or spirit.’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌnɪmᵻnɪˈpɪmᵻni/, U.S. /ˈnɪmᵻniˈpɪmᵻni/
Forms: 17–18 nimini-pimini, 18 nimeny-pimeny, 18– niminy-piminy.
Etymology:Imitative of affected speech (see quot. 17861 at main sense), perhaps after namby-pamby adj. Compare miminy-piminy adj. and perhaps also mimp n. and adj.
Mincing, affected; without force, drive, or spirit.
Quots. 17861 may show use as an interjection

  • 1786 J. Burgoyne Heiress iii ii. 55 Lady Emily… You have only, when before your glass, to keep pronouncing to yourself nimini-primini. Miss Alscrip. Nimini-pimini-imini, mimini—oh, it’s delightfully enfantine.
  • 1786 G White Let. 25 Mar. in R. Holt-White Life & Lett. G. White (1901) II. 154, I hope you practice every day at your Glass; and that you are by this time perfect mistress of ‘Nimini pimini’.
  • 1801 Monthly Rev. 35 324 With..a smirking countenance, and ‘nimeny pimeny’ lisp.
  • 1822 L. Hunt Indicator No. 23 I. 178 To see her proud, affected, niminy-piminy face in.
  • 1830 J. Jekyll Corr. (1894) 221 She..is an exquisite, her husband a nimini pimini gentleman.
  • 1840 Thackeray in Fraser’s Mag. July 115/2 But was there ever such a niminypiminy subject treated in such a niminypiminy way?
  • a1894 R. L. Stevenson St. Ives (1898) xxv. 190 A niminy-piminy creature, afraid of a petticoat and a bottle.
  • 1945 R. Hargreaves Enemy at Gate 45 That niminy-piminy, shallow, self-conscious intellectualism.
  • 1985 R. Davies What’s bred in Bone (1986) v. 300 Parents are terribly niminy-piminy about telling their children these things.
 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in words

 

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The Hobbit: Film Review

TheHobbit

I enjoyed The Hobbit when I read it for the first time last November. I’m not a fantasy fan normally, but I liked the characters and wit in The Hobbit.

I saw The Hobbit’s 3D IMAX version and it was the first time for me to see a 3D film, which I found kind of cool, but not necessary. In fact as the story progressed, the 3D aspect was rather distracting.

As I watched The Hobbit, I wondered about the frame with some old guy I didn’t know since I haven’t seen The Lord of the Rings going about writing and explaining why he was writing the story of Bilbo Baggins. I’d have cut that as I don’t think Peter Jackson needed this extra link to his first trilogy.

I thought Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage, old “friends” from Sherlock and MI-5 respectively, were good. All the actors were. What I had problems with was the extras stuffed into the film. I didn’t need the high octane fighting scenes and the drawn out CGI effects. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Jackson’s imprint is bold in this film as the tone differs from Tolkien‘s novel. I thought the best parts of the film were Tolkien’s wit and gentle narration. The scene where the mountains and rocks came to life to do battle was just bizarre. I left the theater rather worn down by the clamor and epic, slick action. Again, I often felt I was watching a computer game.

I’m glad I saw The Hobbit, but don’t feel I need to see two more films in this trilogy, that could easily be one film. I think Peter Jackson just wants to milk the story and beef up ticket sales. I agree with Salon writer who thinks “Hollywood” has stripped The Hobbit of its poetry.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2013 in British Lit, Children's Lit

 

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On Reading

One sure window into a person’s soul is his reading list.
– Mary B. W. Tabor

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2013 in book lovers, quotation