Posts Tagged ‘mcluhan’

Understanding PIPA / SOPA

Friday, January 20th, 2012

If you don’t pay attention to any other information out there about PIPA and SOPA you must watch this – and then share it with others – and talk about it amongst your friends and family – and yell in the ear of your elected representatives.

This isn’t just a US issue – it affects ALL of us.

I’m especially pissed at the moment because of the US government twisting the arm of New Zealand to arrest the owners of Megaupload, seizing their property – and then subsequently shutting down the Megaupload site, without the benefit of PIPA/SOPA. The Justice Department claims about “massive copyright infringement” ring hollow when you consider what preceded these actions: Megaupload was poised to become a serious business competitor to the established music industry. Universal Music Group makes a call – badda-bing.

So why should I be so pissed?

Our online video production, Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol was being distributed for download via Megaupload. We, like may other legitimate businesses, have been using Megaupload (and other sites similarly targeted by the large media corporations) as a practical means of distributing our content. It allows us to bypass exorbitant bandwidth costs and negate the need for any usurious deals with established media distributors.

In the coming weeks you will see more heavy-handed legal actions like this – and increasing vitriolic responses from those affected – as big media and corrupt government take off their gloves and masks and come out swinging for open and undisputed control of the internet.

The net is more than a series of tubes, more than just another top-down distribution system and much more than just a thorn in the side of the dying music, film and television business models. The net has become an extension of our nervous system; it is how we hear and see and speak in this world – and it is being forcibly taken over by entrenched powers who don’t like it when we stop listening to them and choose instead to talk amongst ourselves.

Fuck them.

R.E.M.ix “It’s The End Of TV As We Know It”

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Marshall McLuhan – Happy 100th Birthday

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Today marks the 100th birthday of Marshall McLuhan and whilst the world goes to hell in a handbasket of unrelenting greed and destructive paranoid mania let us remember that this good fellow had the wisdom to stand up and say: “Here comes the shit storm, suckers. Good luck!”

Well – okay – he didn’t exactly use those words; but the words he did use continue to inform us of who we were, who we are and who we might be. If we’re also wise enough to use this knowledge.

Happy Birthday, Dr. McLuhan.

NOTE: If you’re having trouble hearing the sound – choose the 240p version from the video menubar. Why? I have no idea.


UPDATE: Actually,this video by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is probably a better evocation of the current media seas within which we all swim. Gonna make this one my ringtone. Yeah.

Lawrence Lessig – America’s Broadband Policy

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

One of a series of four talks just posted by Lawrence Lessig. Here’s how he describes this one:

Talk given at SNW 2010 about three areas of policy — broadband, cybersecurity, and copyright, and about the corruption of the process of policy making affecting each. A mix of my old concerns with one section of the new concerns.

It’s a very good primer on where the U.S. (and consequently Canada and other countries) stands in regards to how the internet is being mishandled. The other talks are equally informative and engaging.

Lessig is to U.S. issues on the internet, copyright law and government corruption as Michael Geist is for Canada. Every time either of them speak out on points of law with respect to how our governments and corporations interact with the extension of our nervous systems (ie. the internet) we should pay heed.


Slitscan Brain Melting Video Mash-Uppery

Friday, February 12th, 2010

The title of this article is as bizarre as the video itself. I found this over on Bruce Sterling’s blog Beyond The Beyond and it is a wondrously brain melting bit of video wizardry that dissects and reassembles the images and sound of the formerly linear presentation of media – much like the Yooouuutube site I blogged about earlier.

That it uses one of my favourites and the best movie musical of all time – “Singin’ In The Rain” – only helps but it also serves to reinforce the ideas behind the technique since it incorporates dance and music. Have a lookey-loo and I’ll rant at ya after you’ve had your head opened up just a little bit.

Now at first blush this might seem like just a weird and trippy gimmick – and it could certainly remain as such. But consider the choices made in the creation of this little gem – it’s not arbitrary work. The repetition of the lyrics, the overlapping layers of the melody, the attendant visuals that are given focus at the requisite moment(s) in time – it’s just fucking brilliant. Check out their otherwork.

And not just as a mashup. The images and sounds drip like rain water upon a pane of glass. This is poetry, folks.

At the risk of hauling out the old adage poetry in motion – it is just that. Regardless of whether the content is repurposed or original, this is a stunning example of where our culture is heading.

I hear you say: “What the fuck are you on about, Robbo?”

Fair enough. Just this:

We are emerging from a culture that has been dominated by visuals – motion visuals. The moving image has become the lingua franca of the past century – it defines us and it defines our world. The power once held by a painted image, a photograph or a sound bite has long ago relinquished its hold upon the minds of our culture – and in its place is the moving image.

Technological and market forces decreed that such images would always come from a combined creative and business elite – a one-way and top-down conversation. The democratization of this technology is allowing the once passive viewer to speak back to those once hierarchal images – to craft a response in a myriad of forms – to redefine our culture by adopting the language of moving pictures and transforming them into poetry. We also get to speak to each other in this way – transforming the culture further by adopting the methods of what was once voices from above to our own voices from within.


Giambattista Vico postulated – back in the early 1700′s – a recurring cycle of three ages of culture: The Poetic, The Mnemotic & The Vulgar. It doesn’t take a great mind to look about and realize what age we are currently wallowing our way through. Vulgar doesn’t even begin to describe it.

But it is a cycle.

The wheel turns – slowly, yes – but it does turn.

And thus we enter an age where the content of our former culture becomes transformed into the poetic. McLuhan oft stated the content of new media was the media of old. This is but one of the reasons why fighting to retain public access to common culture is important. Our voices stem from our ability to speak of what once was by using the voices of that recent time past.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

I easily foresee a culture that speaks like the video above. Songs, stories, music, dance, narrative, marketing, instruction – the whole gamut of human communication – parlayed through what now would be perceived as an incoherent too-well-stirred pot of media.

We shall speak in video.

And this speech will not merely be regarded as art or a sub-culture of hipster dialect, Daddio – it will be how we converse.

Just as easily as I type – and you read – these words.

Welcome to the future.

Say what?


P.S. This reminds me of the work of Graham Smith, who I used to hang out with a bit in the early ’80′s when he was at OCA creating his photography based work Skinned and messing around with early experiments in video and cludgey virtual reality simulations. He’s currently deep into the telepresence and immersive video world but still crafting very compelling images.

Rebecca Saxe – TED Talk – Understanding Other Minds

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Rebecca Saxe is a neuroscientist at MIT’s Saxelab and she is making remarkable discoveries about how our brains function when regarding other minds. While still an undergrad at MIT, Saxe identified a very specific portion of the brain which is wholly devoted to thinking about other people’s minds and thought processes. Her subsequent research has been focusing on the development of this brain region, how humans form moral judgements and how to influence this process.

Be sure to watch the whole thing. Around the 11 minute mark Saxe starts discussing Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation where a magnetic pulse is used to disrupt the functions of that part of the brain, causing it to reorganize itself – sort of like rebooting a computer. To her credit she shows herself first testing the butterfly coil apparatus on her own remarkable cranium.

It’s funny and spooky all at the same time.

As with all things that have the potential to change how people think and behave the Pentagon has expressed interest in her work. I love her at the 14 minute mark where she says: “They’re calling – but I’m not taking the call.” Pentagon wankers will still find a way to play with this shit but it’s important we all pay attention to developments like this and not just from a tin foil hat conspiracy perspective – although one has to wonder if a chapeau d’aluminium would thwart such a device.

Tech like this is worthy of our attention because it affects us directly – for good and for bad – and it behooves us to be aware of the consequences of applying technologies which affect our thinking. The light bulb, automobiles, radio, telephone and television are but a few examples of ubiquitous technologies which have profoundly affected our society, our culture, our economy, our politics and our minds. We’re still discovering all the ways movies and televised information have changed us and continue to shape our world even as we pick up speed with our use of the internet and absorb those media as content within the disruptive frontier of the world wide web.

I wrote earlier about the emerging tech and culture of Augmented Reality and how it will likely change how we see the world, change how we think and change how we behave. Discoveries like those of Rebecca Saxe will also play a role in this merging world of humanity and technology. As we explore ways to extend our senses through our tech we will also find ways to implement these embellishments more directly with our bodies and our minds.

Setting aside thoughts of mind control by some uber-authority (political or corporate) – which is not beyond contemplation and certainly something to be watchful for – it’s just really fucking cool to consider how deep inside our individual minds we will be able to reach as we simultaneously reach out with our minds to each other.

Kevin Kelly’s A New Kind Of Mind seems downright tangible now – and it makes this Nokia promo video, which I found over on Bruce Sterling’s blog seem positively quaint by comparison.

I think the future is coming to us – and out of us – faster and faster and that it will be extremely cool.

What do you think?


Pachube – The Web World Gains Sensation

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

I found this video and a link to a site called Pachube over on Bruce Sterling‘s always mind-wrinkling blog Beyond The Beyond and was overwhelmed by yet another leap forward in the growth of the web as an extension of not just our mind but also our consciousness.

I’ve ranted abut this before but everytime I stumble across another piece in this unfolding evolution of ourselves and our technologies my mind can’t help but start shoot out the top of my skull with the inherent possibilities of it all.

Ray Kurzweil likes to focus on the Singularity, that point in the not so distant future when our technology and ourselves will meet as equals, and Kevin Kelly has spun off in his writing of The Technium to explore the seemingly inevitable rise of the web and its attendant technologies as a real world metaphorical mind. My friend Bryan and I trade related news stories we find on the web alternating between “This is so fucking bizarre and cool all at the same time!” and “OMFG it’s Skynet! We’re all gonna die!”.

The overview of this strange perspective on how the web is putting truth to Marshall McLuhan‘s assertion that our technologies are extensions of ourselves and that media, our communications technologies, are an extension of our senses and if we don’t treat them as such we’re in danger of letting ourselves be controlled – if not by the technology itself then most certainly by those who choose to assume the mantle of power over where we direct our gaze, what sounds we allow to reach our ears and even, ultimately, if Kurzweil is accurate in his predictions, the sensations of touch and taste – perhaps even our emotional responses themselves.

“Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth’s atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.”

- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964

Freaky flaky shit to be sure but when you see the rapid deployment and ubiquity of these emerging technologies – the web itself is now but a mere foundation for what is coming down the pipe – it’s difficult not to nod in assent that we are bearing witness to the growth and development of a massive, collective extension of our senses that dwarfs the telephone, radio, television, and the myriad of other forms of reaching out to see and speak to the world (and the universe) around us.

Dystopian science fiction parables warning of technology developing the capability to think like and then out-think humanity abound. The Terminator franchise, lifted from a couple of Harlan Ellison tales, is but the latest iteration; along with the Matrix trilogy, the completely fucked up version of I, Robot and the deliriously dated but still delightful Colossus: The Forbin Project. I love all those films and I understand how the zeitgeist of fear manifests itself in such stories. Ripping yarns of zombies are the current fashion just as alien dopplegangers, like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, were the narrative fashion in the McCarthy era.

These stories reflect our doubts and fears; they show us allegories and metaphors so we may better come to understand the changes which surround and confront us. But they aren’t an accurate depiction of any real world truths. Yes, during the McCarthy era (and, to a lesser extent, during subsequent political shifts) there was the real threat of imposed conformity. We live in times of torture and try to acclimate ourselves to that reality with entertaining tales of sadism like the Saw franchise. So too do we craft stories that put our evolving technologies in the role of antagonist, that thing we do not understand and so we fear it and so we must defend ourselves by destroying it. An age old narrative as entrenched in our bones as any fairy tale or campfire yarn.

But here’s the thing: aside from the sometimes seemingly vicious wrath of nature our only real antagonist is ourselves. That’s what we’re really afraid of – who we are and who we may become. McLuhan sought to open our perceptions to this so we can move forward on our own evolutionary path alongside our technologies, comforted and confident that they are not some ‘enemy from the outside” but an extension of ourselves.

That is not the hand of another which lays before me ready to strike – it is mine own hand – and I have the means to direct its action for good or evil.

A whole bunch of fucking words to lay out a simple point with all this Pachube stuff: It is real time tracking of sensorial input for the web mind.

Huh? Say what?

Make the leap with me. The web – an extension of our mind – is learning how to sense – and through that evolution, it will learn how to feel.

What the fuck?!

Oh yeah.

Imagine these inputs expanding (and they will) and becoming more detailed and more varied. It won’t remain as an interesting set of data that is collected, collated and displayed in pretty pictures. It will react and feedback upon itself. What kind of pictures will be displayed when the heart rate, breath rate, body temperature and EEG signals of every person on the planet is displayed in such a way? Will that fantasmagoric display of swirling coloured data show us the planet can blush? Or turn blue with collective sorrow? And what happens when those sensorial inputs, feeding back upon themselves, do more than just make pretty pictures but also trigger real world responses, to help or to hurt, to react. Whether it is by prompting people to act themselves to fix or exacerbate a problem – or providing an automated response with robotic intervention that outpaces our collective ability to say: “Wait a second, maybe we should think about this first.”

Good and bad can come from this.

The thing itself is neither good nor bad – because it is us. We will be very much like the image of the foetus hovering space at the end of Clarke & Kubrick‘s film2001: A Space Odyssey, playing with the world, McLuhan’s global theatre. A collective mind capable of collective thought, independent of each person and at the same time an extension of each person, and capable of real world action. It’s going to happen, folks; and in arriving at that point we would do well to make sure our collective young self has the smarts not to fuck everything up.


P. S. This is the kind of meandering shite I dwell on when I give myself a day off. – “Keep the boy busy, Martha, he’s starting to worry me.”

Sixth Sense – Patti Maes TED Talk

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Patti Maes from the MIT Media Labthat nifty place full of really smart people who invent a lot of the future – gave a TED Talk about a new system Pranav Mistry and others have developed to allow us more direct and intuitive interaction with our expanding infoworld. It’s called: Sixth Sense.

This dovetails nicely with what Ray Kurzweil and Kevin Kelly have been going on about – the eventual meshing and merging of ourselves with our technology, becoming ubiquitous users of and used by our toys and tools. Kurzweil speaks of the Singularity. Kelly speaks of the One Mind. I think they’re both right and at some point in our lifetime we”ll get to see just how wrong Azimov‘s robotic vision was, along with the Terminator and the Matrix dystopias.

We aren’t going to get saved or oppressed by the technology of our future – we’re going to become the technology; which only makes sense when you look at it from McLuhan‘s perspective that any tech we create is a mere extension of ourselves.

Will we change? You bet your ass we will. Will it be for the better? Well, looking around at this piss poor excuse for a brutish, nasty, sociopathic monkey world we’ve created I’d have to say – it can’t make it worse.

Will we survive? Ah – there’s the rub.

Let’s see what Susan Blackmore has to say about it in her TED Talk on memes and temes:

And if that doesn’t stoke your imagination – or make you run around screaming – about the future of human beings becoming one with their tech, don’t forget to consider the recent news story on the UK geezer with his bionic eye, the Canadian filmmaker who plans on shooting a documentary with his camera eye and the amazing Aimee Mullins and her talk at TED where she shows off her 12 pairs of staggering (please pardon the pun) prosthetic legs:

Are we going to change?

God, I hope so.

And when we do – we’ll be beautiful.


P. S. I wanted to post about this yesterday but my site was down so all I managed was this Twitter post.