Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cameron McEwen Writing to Bob Dobbs

“I’m going to do a couple posts on your reading of MM. Here's a start:

“…the individual private psyche, the human ‘self’, is itself an artifact.”

“Man himself is not merely surrounded by information, he has become himself an information environment. There has been a ‘ripoff’ of the human flesh and bones, as it were, a fantastic ‘hijack’ job performed by electric engineering.”
McLuhan to Fr Lawrence Shook, 20 June 1972

Bob Dobbs has contributed a series of insights and methods which together constitute a kind of preliminary test that McLuhan research must pass before serious work can begin. It is telling (of the age and of the place of the academy within the age) that few, if any, McLuhan researchers have taken this test, let alone passed it.

Notably, Bob has done his homework and has advanced beyond—actually behind—simplistic processing in the RVM [rear view mirror]. These seemingly rudimentary steps to research in any area already distinguish him from the great mass of media researchers who have seldom read more than a fraction of McLuhan's output and have never jettisoned commonplaces concerning the nature of human beings and of space and time and language that McLuhan himself never ceased questioning and certainly never accepted as foundational for, as is frequently vouchsafed, ‘extending’ our noledge.

Doubtless nudged by Toronto sociologist-philosopher John O'Neill's fine Five Bodies (1985), itself nudged by Ernst Kantorowicz's The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology (1957), Bob has rightly seen that the human self is a, even the, question in McLuhan's work—and is certainly not some great I-eye (or even here-ear) whose brilliant impressions can usefully be compiled for scholarly publications, tenure applications and travel grants.

[Footnote: Bob has made no secret of the fact that much McLuhan research, as it is styled, consists of what should be regarded as firable offences. But the situation is even worse than he has bothered to divulge. To cite only one example of all too many, The Gutenberg Galaxy is certainly McLuhan’s most considered and most awarded book. It has now been reprinted by the University of Toronto Press 15 times and counting. The latest reset edition carries the imprimatur of Terrence Gordon and Elena Lamberti (whose ‘introductory’ essay says in its very title that she has not yet considered what the book investigates: “Extending The Gutenberg Galaxy”, as if GG were something “lineal”, like an assembly line or a railroad). Now this latest edition, like all its predecessors, continues to cite from A Short History of Music by—Albert Einstein! Believe it if you can. You have to wonder if editors at the press, or those who are travelling around the world to illuminate GG for us (not on their own dime, it goes without saying), have actually taken the time to read the book. In a word (a Bernie Muller-Thym phrase/mannerism adopted by McLuhan), McLuhan’s legacy has now become merged with the sort of self-serving solemn horseshit that he saw rising around us to flood the world.]

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