And so the world has accelerated to the point that one gets left behind in one’s own life. We’ve learned to play catch-up with our digital shadows. As opposed to forging ahead, more and more we feel ourselves getting carried along. This may occur against our will. The best protest we can manage is to clot the dataflow. But even this is an unwinnable war. — Noah Gataveckas
Last time Noah Gataveckas appeared on NC he was burning books. Here now, with pleasure, is Noah channeling Marshall McLuhan in an excerpt from his Symposium: A Philosophical Mash-up, a work-in-progress Noah describes as “a postmodern textbook/encyclopaedia of philosophy, discussing the issues of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, etc., in a semi-systematic manner. The twist that makes it ‘postmodern’ is that it ‘simulates’ various rhetorical styles of philosophy-writing in doing so (e.g. Platonic dialogues, Thomist theology, Pascalian pensees, the Hegelian System, Nietzschean polemics, Wittgensteinian Tractatus-style lists, etc.). It is an attempt to show the poetry in philosophy. It tries to synthesize research with original composition, but doesn’t use footnotes. Instead, it relies on sections I’ve called ‘Metawords’ that ‘simulate’ conversations between various thinkers over the years, relying on their actual statements, juxtaposed in such a way that it creates a ‘symposium’ of ideas, flowing naturally from one to the next. (I got the idea from the way that DJs are said to ‘mash-up’ multiple songs into a single flow, regardless of source or genre.)”
I wish to speak to you about the nature of media.
How do I intend to do this? Through a medium.
That is: I speak, you read/listen. We meet at the nexus of the text.
That is: a formal structure that conditions where and how me and my message are reproduced and represented. For texts are bundles of codes, systems, formulas, alphabets. None of which you or I have any say in creating—except when we do, which is never. Therefore we speak only in inherited languages, on public phones through community trunks.
You might state: ‘But what difference does it make? Either way the speech gets spoken.’
The point is not what gets spoken, but the way.
That is: if you want to listen to what I have to say, you have no choice but to perceive me in this given fashion. And that means I’m immediately assimilated into your past memories and experiences with this immediate medium.
This, of course, is what you – yes, you, the reader/listener – are undergoing right now as you read/hear me write/speak.
The point is that a series of implicit, unnoticed bodily rituals and unconscious expectations are built in to your perception of me and my message. As such, they can play a distortive role, depending on what you have come to expect from this sort of visual/auditory medium.
Not to mention the medium itself—which, by the way, is my message. Due to the internal apparatus contained within the machine—built into its very fibre—which reconfigures the dimensions of how you and I communicate—which distorts the ratios of how you and I experience language and thought—the bureaucracy of knowledge that is technology—along these lines do me and my message get distorted, too.
Because of this I must necessarily lie. But it also means that I can’t but tell the truth.
This distortion – some of which is a natural result of your personal exposure to the medium, some of which is due strictly to the formal structure of the medium – determines your evaluation of what I say and what it’s worth. Perhaps even more than what I actually say and what it’s actually worth.
If you were to hear me on the radio, see me on TV, read me in a book, and talk to me in person, I would come off alarmist, crazy, cryptic, and intense, respectively. Yet I am all/none of these characteristics.
What I say transcends truth and lies. It exists in a third category. It is elevated above falsity, yet stuck below truth. How is this possible, you ask?
The answer: medium is magic.
But here’s the important question: is this me more real than that me? Where is a message most true: on radio, on TV, in print, or in person? The new world disorder cannot be denied. Truth has become fragmented, fractured, outsourced to automated processes and foreign interests. If you or I are going to make any sense of the situation, we’ll have to extend our theorizing to include those objects that are in the real world which emanate ourselves back to us, like pre-emptive mirrors. Technology acts as if it built us—it pulls us in every direction at once—we are extended ever-so-slightly outside of ourselves…
Media are the extensions of humanity. The psyche has blown up into a multitude of self-regulating information systems. Caught in the skynet of cyberspace, society reorganizes its thoughts and feelings to fit within the virtual schema. It upgrades to Life 2.0. Our public discourse now consist of tweets, txts, bells, beeps, and blue teeth. Everyone is interrupted by the internet. The public mind now hangs in the air like a new dimension, adding social and symbolic depth to the fabric of space-time, distorting humanity’s experience of reality in strange new ways. Idealism coexists simultaneously on top of materialism.
And so the world has accelerated to the point that one gets left behind in one’s own life. We’ve learned to play catch-up with our digital shadows. As opposed to forging ahead, more and more we feel ourselves getting carried along. This may occur against our will. The best protest we can manage is to clot the dataflow. But even this is an unwinnable war. Either tune in or drop out; that is to say, go native, like so many Doomers are planning to do by the time peak oil rolls around. But they will learn that there is no turning off in the age of eternal daylight and twentyfour-hour news broadcasts. Our lives are at the whim of the integrated system.
The new norm for consciousness is distortion. We are always getting blown in one way or another by the prevailing winds of the media landscape. We resist—and we get stretched to new extremes. We seem to have lost our sense of rationality, and now blow tattered in the breeze…
The eyes look through the television, the ears hear through the stereo, the mind thinks through the printed word. All three senses are combined when processed through the computer screen. A new ontological sphere is opened up in this supermedium. All it takes is participation on the part of the audience and, in return, they are taken to another world consisting of its own physics and logic(s). A second life awaits inside the experience machine.
If our senses were outsourced to different media, then what of the mind? Its dissemination goes back to the dawn of civilization. Knowledge was outsourced to libraries, memories to keepsakes and photo albums, character to fashion and accessorizing, anxieties and fears to religions and superstitions, and emotions to the theatre, music, and poetry. Now we are always outside of ourselves. The mind’s little driver has developed schizophrenia.
We live in the age of extended minds. It no longer makes sense to say that the mind is hidden from view. It is now available for public consumption, as advertised on Facebook, MySpace, Youtube, etc. We now enter the noösphere: the mind has projected past our bodies, taking on a material reality that transcends private cognition.
Our technologies do more and more of the thinking for us. Soon enough we won’t have to think for ourselves. This faculty will be outsourced, just like our abilities to sense and feel and know have already been turned into audiovisual technologies and token narratives and online encyclopaedias. Download to the hard drive, register, install, and activate—iThink will manage all cognitions automatically, leaving you free to play solitaire.
The past is trauma. The future is inevitable. The present is all we have, and all we have is a remote control to flip between channels. All flicker and flash. But it doesn’t matter that there’s 57 channels and nothing on—we still watch. (We find the static comforting, like a laugh track.) The rule of the 21st century is that we’re plugged in from birth unto retirement and beyond. ’Til death do we logout…
Dedicated to Marshall McLuhan
Noah was born in Oakville, Ontario, in 1985, and educated at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. After moving to Toronto to work as a DJ in the entertainment district, he rediscovered his love of reading and writing. He is the author of poetry (“Silence”, “The King of the River”), journalism (“Hijacked: The Posthumous Reinscription of a Socialist in Canadian Consciousness,” “Digital Theft in a Digital World”), polemic (“Why Occupy? An Approach to Finance Capital”), theatre (Five Star), and a book-in-progress entitled Symposium: A Philosophical Mash-up. He lives and works in Toronto.