Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Marshall McLuhan

‘the curious fusion of sex, technology, and death’

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io9 has your top ten early robots.

10) W.K. Mashburn, “Sola” (Weird Tales, April 1930). Though he despises women and can’t stand their company, Dr. Franz Dietrich desires them sexually. So he invents a flesh-like substance, which a sculptor helps him shape into a gorgeous female android. Having wired Sola with complex responses — the apparatus is supposed to react in particular ways, immediately upon perceiving his telepathically projected emotions — the mad scientist invites a group of colleagues over to dinner. Growing tipsy, Dietrich flies into an embarrassed fury, because he thinks Sola is unresponsive, and tries to destroy it. But his colleagues — and eventually, the entire town — pitch in to raise his self-esteem by treating Sola as a member of the community. Oh wait, I’m thinking of Lars and the Real Girl. What actually happens is that Sola’s emotion receptors are activated by the professor’s rage, and his own creation crushes him to death. A classic example of what McLuhan — in The Mechanical Bride (1951) — would call “the curious fusion of sex, technology, and death.”

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January 13, 2009 at 1:45 am

Google, Cars, But Not Google and Cars

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Is Google making us stupid? (Via MeFi.) It’s certainly true that in my daily life I find myself using a indexing logic to process most new information, remembering what I’ll need so I can find It again if I need It rather than just remembering the thing itself. Just one example: I recently spent a few weeks aimlessly trying to retrieve the terms studium and punctum. Google searches describing what I remembered of the concepts were completely hopeless; unusual for me, I’d remembered bad keywords. It was only when I somehow dredged up the name of the theorist who coined them (Barthes) that my search became possible—and after that it over in fifteen seconds.

Also in the Atlantic, a classic Canavan hobbyhorse: traffic signs make us less safe.

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June 12, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Memories of Marshall McLuhan

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Memories of Marshall McLuhan.

Like all original thinkers from Blake to Einstein, McLuhan was much misunderstood. He never promoted TV over books as popular accounts gave out. He never expressed a preference for tribal culture over individualism. He never said the patterns of perception imposed by the ear are superior to those of the eye. One small aphorism sticks with me: “When the globe becomes a single electronic web with all its languages and culture recorded on a single tribal drum, the fixed point of view of print culture becomes irrelevant, however precious.” However precious! Those are the operative words, about as far as McLuhan went in taking sides. But they also bring his innermost sympathies to the fore.

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January 25, 2008 at 2:08 pm