According to McLuhan, the most important elements in shaping human society, culture, and even consciousness, are the technologies which have been created. Having the greatest impact are the “media,” a term which McLuhan uses to include more than the traditional methods of conveying information such as speech, print, or the visual arts. For McLuhan, a medium is any extension of a human sense or faculty: Thus, the wheel is an extension of the foot, while clothing is an extension of the skin.
The important point about media as extensions of human senses is that the introduction and development of such media will alter what McLuhan terms the “ratios” between the senses. In other words, a medium such as print, which favors the eye, will shift the ratios in favor of the visual sense, thus producing in human beings a perception of the world which is visually oriented, perhaps to the point of distortion. McLuhan sums up the process early in The Gutenberg Galaxy:If a technology is introduced either from within or from without a culture, and if it gives new stress or ascendancy to one or another of our senses, the ratio among all of our senses is altered. We no longer feel the same, nor do our eyes and ears and other senses remain the same. The interplay among our senses is perpetual save in a condition of anesthesia. But any sense when stepped up to high intensity can act as an anesthetic for other senses.
This shift from a balance of...
(The entire section is 1454 words.)
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