The Medium is the Massage

Some quotes from the book The Medium is the Massage that piqued my interest.

mediumP. 63. Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness. “Time” has ceased “space” has vanished. We now live in a global village… a simultaneous happening. We are back in acoustic space. We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling, the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy divorced us.

P. 68, 69. Print technology created the public. Electric technology created the mass. The public consists of separate individuals walking around with separate, fixed points of view. The new technology demands that we abandon the luxury of this posture, this fragmentary outlook.

P. 94, 95. Our official culture is striving to force the new media to do the work of the old. These are difficult times because we are witnessing a clash old cataclysmic proportions between two great technologies. We approach the new with the psychological conditioning and sensory response of the old. This clash naturally occurs in transitional periods. In late medieval art, for instance, we saw the fear of the new print technology expressed in the theme The Dance of Death. Today similar fears are expressed in the Theatre of the Absurd. Both represent a common failure: the attempt to do a job demanded by the new environment with the tools of the old.

P. 110. The ear favours no particular “point of view”. We are enveloped by sound. It forms a seamless web around us. We say, “Music shall fill the air”. We never say, “Music shall fill a particular segment of the air”. We hear sounds from everywhere, without ever having to focus. Sounds come from “above,” from “below,” from in “front” of us, from “behind” us, from our “right,” from our “left.” We cant shut out sound automatically. We simply are not equipped with earlids. Where a visual space is an organised continuum of a uniformed connected kind, the ear world is a world of simultaneous relationships.

P. 124. Science fiction writing today presents situations that enable us to perceive the potential of new technologies. Formerly the problem was to invent new forms of labour saving. Today, the reverse is the problem. Now we have to adjust, not to invent. We have to find the environments in which it will be possible to live with out own inventions.


What I find interesting about some of these quotes, especially the ones that talk about the adjustment to new technologies is that although the book was originally printed in 1967 some of the thinking from the time still frames our contemporary issues. Things like relearning how to live with new technologies, fear of letting go of old technologies and a mistrust in the entirely new are things that I see in contemporary society. The advances in mass media and information sharing reinforce the idea of a global village where the issues of one place affect all and ideas are spread on a global scale. Not only does the Global village spread ideas and technology, it also interconnects us as a species. No longer are isolated pockets of humanity unaware of other communities, or waiting for ‘snail mail’ to arrive by train, ship or more recently plane. Now there is a near instant sharing, “”Time” has ceased “space” has vanished””, the digital network creates for us “allatonceness”,  where despite an individuals’ feeling of separateness, humanity is no longer as fragmented and has the possibility to work together in new and exciting ways, like the way sound works, you cant shut things out automatically, this “world is a world of simultaneous relationships”.


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