Attention Deficit

““Rational,” of course, has for the West long meant “uniform and continuous and sequential”…Thus in the electric age man seems to the conventional West to become irrational” (15). Technology is not comprehensible through this limited understanding of rationality. Likewise, McLuhan’s arguments are more like the concentric spiral overlays in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Art Museum than your standard play-by-play writing formula. McLuhan’s attention to multitudinous forms of expression – from ballet to physics to political theory – emphasizes the complexity of the world he observes. To focus on a particular medium would introduce purity where it does not exist; “no medium has its meaning or existence alone, but only in constant interplay with other media” (26).

But then again such a broad scope of attention demands too much from the reader, the viewer, the audience, the citizen. As McLuhan concludes, “The price of eternal vigilance is indifference” (30). This resonates with me more than any other part of Understanding Media because I do not just understand it as a concept or a theory, I feel it. My constant battle against the incoming tides of apathy could be the result of “eternal vigilance,” of trying to know and understand too much at once.

Overall, I found McLuhan entertaining enough to hold my brief span of attention.

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