GV and TT p22

Take Today page 22 (titled “OFF-Again — ON-Again — FINN-Again”) presents the quintessence of McLuhan’s thought, a distillation of his life’s work.  All the rest of his work may be read as commentary in various modes on this single page. Using some tags from The Global Village, the distillation and its commentary might be called:

the utterer as the etymology (GV 7)


consciousness being the sum interaction between one’s self and the outside world. (GV 52, emphasis added)


 percept instead of (…) prior assumptions. (GV 139)

 Here is TT 22 in a somewhat shortened version:

There are only two basic extreme forms of human organization. They have innumerable variants or “parti-colored” forms. The extreme forms are the civilized and the tribal (eye and ear): the Cromwellian specialist and the Celtic involved. Only the civilized form is fragmented in action, whether in business or in politics or in entertainment. Hence the anarchy of the contemporary world where all these forms coexist.

Dependent upon the materials and hence the technologies available to mankind, the pattern of social organization and management swings violently from stress on the entrepreneur and the virtues of the lonely individualist to the close-knit and emotionally involved group. In the diversified scope of modern business structures, these extremes can express themselves at different levels of the same organization. (…)

By the law of change, whatever has reached its extreme must turn back. (I Ching)

It is explained in the same context of this 4,000-year-old management manual [I Ching] that innovation “does indeed guide all happenings, but it never behaves outwardly as the leader. Thus true strength is that strength which, mobile as it is hidden, concentrates on the work without being outwardly visible.” What is actually visible in new situations is the ghost of old ones. It is the movie that appears on TV. It is the old written word that appears on Telex. The hidden force of change is the new speed that alters all configurations of power. The new speed creates a new hidden ground against which the old ground becomes the figure (…)

All management theories and political ideologies follow an involuntary procedure. The idealists share with the experienced and practical men of their time the infirmity of substituting concepts for percepts. Both concentrate on a clash between past experience and future goals that blacks out the usual but hidden processes of the present. Both ignore the fact that dialogue as a process of creating the new came before, and goes beyond, the exchange of “equivalents” that merely reflect or repeat the old.

The Global Village, like all the rest of McLuhan’s work, may be read as an exegesis of this page.  Reordered and refocused on TT 22, here is an abbreviated version of it:

  • The first humanoid uttering his first intelligible grunt, or “word,” outered himself and set up a dynamic relationship with himself, other creatures, and the world outside his skin (…) a tool to reconstitute nature (…) to translate one form into another. (GV 93)
  • all words are metaphors (GV 30)
  • Structurally speaking, a metaphor is a technique of presenting one situation in terms of another situation. That is to say it is a technique of awareness, of perception. (GV28)
  • language (…) is an attempt to manipulate as well as interpret the world. (GV 130)
  • the media themselves, and the whole cultural ground, are forms of language. (GV 27)
  • all our artifacts are in fact words. All of these things are the outerings and utterings of man. (GV 7)
  • The pre-neolithic art of making stone tools moved man out of the process of evolution and into a world of his own making. (GV 93)
  • The media extensions of man are the hominization of the planet; it is the second phase of the original creation. (GV 93)
  • language as ground biases awareness (GV28)
  • We are all trapped in an assumption about the nature of reality (GV 77)
  • The dominance of the left hemisphere (analytic and quantitative) — and by dominant we mean the ability of the left brain to lead the right brain in the context of Western culture — entails the submission or suppression of the right hemisphere…(GV 62)
  • dominance [means] controlling the principal problem-solving of the brain at any one time (GV 55)
  • the power to function asymmetrically (GV 50)
  • the utterer as the etymology (GV 7) (…) the user as ground (GV 10)
  • Final cause (that which is the end or purpose of a process), inherent in a thing from the outset, came to be misinterpreted in left-hemisphere terms only as the end point of a whole series of efficient causes. (GV 78)
  • In the left hemisphere, formal cause is translated into a kind of Platonic abstract ideal form that is never perfectly realized in any material. (GV 78)
  • Angelism, sometimes called discarnatism (…) floats in the abstract clouds, without any relation to ground, or environment — the besetting sin of academic hypothesis. (GV 12)
  • Angelism is being chained to a fixed point of view, without ground.
  • Angelism (…) ensures a rigidity of point of view which is largely a consequence of linear and visual logic. It is best characterized as promoting confrontation and fragmentation, some of the chief elements in the illusion of objectivity. One emphasizes the eye over the ear. (GV 69)
  • The idea of the role was gradually lost sight of — that is, the multiple holding of partial jobs signifying one’s authority over a household. The specialist can always be seen to have one salient characteristic: he is quite willing to trade his freedom of action for the security and the stability of a closed system. (GV 96)
  • Whenever two cultures, or two events, or two ideas are set in proximity to one another, an interplay takes place, a sort of magical change. The more unlike the interface, the greater the tension of the interchange. (GV 4)
  • At this stage of greatest intensity of development, there will be an unanticipated reversal: the simultaneous will emerge from the sequential, the mythic from the historic, acoustic from visual space. The old ground rules of point-to-point logic will break down. And holism will then emerge as a dominant form of thinking,.. (GV 107)
  • “what may well be the most important distinction between the left and right hemisphere modes is the extent to which a linear concept of time participates in the ordering of thought”. (GV 74, citing “The Other Side of the Brain” by Joseph Bogen)
  • time considered as sequential (left hemisphere) is figure and time considered as simultaneous (right hemisphere) is ground. (GV 10)
  • approaching letters and words from many points of view simultaneously (…) minus the assumption that any one way is solely correct. (GV 64)
  • the ability to be equally empathetic in many areas at once. (GV 57)
  • The left hemisphere of the brain is figure against the ground of the right brain in Western culture and the opposite for the Oriental. (GV 71)
  • All individuals, their desires and satisfactions, are co-present in the age of communication. (GV 94)
  • the utterer as the etymology (GV 7) (…) consciousness being the sum interaction between one’s self and the outside world. (GV 52, emphasis added)
  • For use in the electronic age, a right-hemisphere model of communication is necessary, both because our culture has nearly completed the process of shifting its cognitive modes from the left to the right hemisphere, and because the electronic media themselves are right-hemisphere in their patterns and operation. The problem is to discover such a model that yet is congenial to our culture and its residua of left-hemisphere orientation. Such a model would have to take into account the apposition of both figure and ground (left and right hemispheres working together and independently when necessary) instead of an abstract sequence or movement isolated from ground. (GV 80)
  • Electric man loses touch with the concept of a ruling center (…) based on interconnection. (GV 93)
  • We must teach ourselves to abandon the tendency to view the environment in a hierarchical and totally connective way, to center ourselves instead in the arena of interplay between the two modes of perception and analysis, which is comprehensive awareness. (GV 47)
  • The resonant interval may be considered an invisible borderline between visual and acoustic space  (GV 4)
  • Connections are visual: there is actually no connection between figure and ground but only interface. (GV 21)
  • A border is not a connection but an interval of resonance (GV 149)
  • the alignment of two actions without interconnection performs a kind of magical change in the interacting components. (GV 164)
  • there is no continuity or connection in the figure-ground relationship. Instead, there is an interface of a transforming kind (…) metaphorical positioning. (GV 23)
  • we should focus on the relationship between the cortical hemispheres (GV 52)
  • the relationship between the cortical hemispheres (…) is the projection of consciousness [obj gen!], consciousness being the sum interaction between one’s self and the outside world. (GV 52)
  • Consciousness (…) may be thought of as a projection to the outside of an inner synesthesia, corresponding generally with the ancient definition of common sense. Common sense is that peculiar human power of translating one kind of experience of one sense into all other senses and presenting the result as a unified image of the mind. Erasmus and More said that a unified ratio among the senses was a mark of rationality. (GV 94)
  • the utterer as the etymology (GV 7) (…) consciousness being the sum interaction between one’s self and the outside world. (GV 52, emphasis added) 
  • Anyone who has been involved in gestalt [psychology], or studied primitive societies — once he or she gets over the impulse to measure these societies with Western templates — is aware that either/or is not the only possibility. Both/and can also exist. (..) the “uncivilized,” can easily entertain two diametric[ally opposed] possibilities at once. (GV 39)
  • “yes” and “no”, the essence of the excluded middle (…) allows no consideration of opposites of equal power… (GV 107)
  • either-or [vs] both-and (…) matching [vs] making (…) logic and dialectic [vs] poiesis (…) concept [vs] percept (GV 31)
  • Acoustic and visual space structures may be seen as incommensurable, like history and eternity, yet, at the same time, as complementary…a foot, as it were, in both visual and acoustic space…(GV 45)
  • In our desire to illumine the differences between visual and acoustic space, we have undoubtedly given a false impression: and that is that the normal brain, in its everyday functioning, cannot reconcile the apparently contradictory perceptions of both sides of the mind. (GV 48)
  • every artifact of man mirrors the shift between these two modes. (GV x)
  • within each of man’s inventions (extensions of himself) left- and right-hemisphere modes of thought struggle for dominance (GV 102)
  • No matter how extreme the dominance of either hemisphere in a particular culture, there is always some degree of interplay between the hemispheres… (GV 62)
  • visual and acoustic space are always present in any human situation, even if Western civilization has (…) tamped down our awareness of the acoustic. The latter is the invisible counter-environment that forms the background against which the civilization of the written word is seen. (GV 55)
  • The task confronting contemporary man is to live with the hidden ground of his activities as familiarly as our predecessors lived with the figure-minus-ground. (GV 26)
  • The archetype, which depends on an overarching comprehension of the past (the mythic milieu), is retrieved awareness or consciousness. It is consequently a retrieved combination of clichés — an old cliché brought back by a new cliché. (GV 16)

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