McLuhan: Where Did He Come From, Where Did He Disappear?

Ruth Katz, Elihu Katz


Writings by and about McLuhan trace his
interest in the comparative study of media to his literary training
at Cambridge in the 1930s which was occupied with the aesthetics
of sight and sound and the predominance of representational forms
over the content represented. This paper puzzles over the lack
of reference -- by McLuhan, his mentors, and his critics -- to an
earlier group of British thinkers (from Shaftesbury to Adam Smith)
who deliberated over the differences among the arts. Their treatises
on how the mind processes visual and auditory information remarkably
foreshadow McLuhan's assertion that the media constrain how we
think and feel. Present-day debate over the effects of new media
technology, as well as current theories of reception, reflect
McLuhan's stimulating (though exasperating) insights. His footprints
also point to cognitive science and, of course, to globalism.

Les écrits
de McLuhan et ceux sur lui attribuent son intérêt pour l'étude
comparative des médias à sa formation littéraire à Cambridge
dans les années trente, formation portant sur l'esthétique du son
et de la visuelle, et sur la prédominance de formes représentatives
sur le contenu représenté. Cet article s'interroge
sur le manque de références -- tant chez McLuhan que chez ses mentors
et ses critiques -- à un groupe antérieur de penseurs britanniques
(de Shaftesbury à Adam Smith) qui délibérèrent sur les
parmi les arts. Leurs traités sur comment l'esprit
assimile l'information visuelle et auditive présagent de
remarquable l'assertion de McLuhan que les médias forment nos

pensées et nos sentiments. Les débats contemporains
sur les effets de nouvelles technologies médiatiques, ainsi que
les théories de réception courantes, reflètent les idées stimulantes
(quoique exaspérantes) de McLuhan. Sa démarche mène
aussi dans la direction des sciences cognitives et, bien sûr,
du globalisme.

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